Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We are Overlooked Assets! #Marfan #EDS #LDS

Sometimes we as a nation can't see the trees for the forest.  When people make fun of those with disabilities, that jesting can foster cultural underestimations of talent values.
Connective Tissue Challenged Persons.  We are assets!

In the last week I've been declined for life insurance and jeered at while driving along with the other typical situations someone with a health challenge encounters daily.  Our van has a disability tag and I purposely drive the speed limit.  Other drivers often gun their engines to pass me by, blowing their horns loudly and usually flipping fingers my direction.  This week a man about my age rolled his windows down while flying by and twisted up his hands and face as if he were having a seizure then laughed as he sped on into the traffic ahead.

Today I take it all with a grain of salt assuming these people are probably having a really stressful day, pumped up on coffee and probably dealing with dangerously high blood pressure.  I am very happy with who I am, health challenges and all.  In fact I think my health challenges make me special.

Not everyone I encounter treats me this way.  Many are courteous, notice I am walking with a cane and treat me with kindness.  My doctors and nurses and their staff seem to really care and for this I am grateful. But our alpha nation, in its fast paced bootstrap mentality often treats those of us with pronounced health challenges as a discardable class.

Attitudes of disregard for the disabled can even be found in our governments.  Since my dissection in 2011 I've had my drivers license medically revoked and I've even been handcuffed, threatened and put on the ground by Flagler County Florida sheriff's department, hands on their guns and tasers as I walked to the grocery store one afternoon with my cane, a limping man that was an obvious threat to society.

Inevitably within the business community my resumes are politely returned, with a thank you but not interested response once my dissection issues surface.  Some say don't disclose the issue but I believe in transparency and it is hard to otherwise explain away the hospitalization time gap.

The 'forest' of mis-information and unfounded assumptions surrounding people with disabilities masks an amazing pool of talent though.

Over the past five years I've come to know others living with connective tissue challenges, aneurysms and dissections, scoliosis and pumphead, chairi and other conditions.

They are some of the most ingenious, brilliant, kind, enthusiastic and talented people I have ever known.

They are also surprisingly some of the healthiest persons I know, despite walking a fine line between life and death in many cases.

And they are certainly some of the most shrewdest and analytical persons on the planet.

Our communities, our nation and our world would be so much better off taping into this talent pool instead of pushing us to the side.

When living with a life threatening issue one realizes that time is truly borrowed and holds great value.  We can be better time managers than the most productive wall street executive for we know the value not only of each moment but of each breath.

And in spite of our challenges, many of us are more healthy than most.  Our diets are focused on  non-processed foods while we avoid inflammatory, artery clogging junk.  Our CT scans may reveal a dissection flap but they also reveal clean arterial pathways and healthy organs.

Yes, we may have physical or mental limitations but we've learned to adapt a better way and work around those issues.  Adaptation is a key component of long term evolution and survival.

Our awareness allows us to deal with and address our limitations - giving us an advantage over many of those who like the ostrich with its head in the sand, don't know what their arteries look like or haven't been to the doctor in a long time.

Besides, as someone recently reminded me, all of us are dying.  Those of us with diagnosed health challenges are just more keenly aware of this fact.  We are some say, better prepared than most when an incident occurs and in the meanwhile make the most of our allowed time.

Because of our focused efforts on our health I would suggest that we are a better class of individuals to issue life insurance policies for, rather than being rejected time after time for 'heart conditions' or other generic but unsubstantiated factors.  Yes we've disclosed these limitations on our applications.  They may sound 'un-insurable' at first take. Yet I still contend those of us with health challenges may be a better insurance wish than those in the population who appear healthy but may be walking time bombs themselves.

Over the years I've met some of the greatest artists, poets and well read intellectuals who each battle with serious or debilitating health issues.  There is an amazing pool of knowledge and creativity waiting to be tapped by a society willing to embrace differences.

And we would make the very best of employees.

All we need is a chance.

But the life insurance rejection letters, the returned job applications, the brush-offs, dismissals and cold shoulders, exhaust smoke and fingers still keep coming.

Fortunately, we are a resilient group.  We don't give up easily.

Many of us describe ourselves as 'survivors' or 'warriors', a fitting description for a group who have experienced trauma and difficulties most can not even imagine, and come through to the other side with strong fortitude and unspoken yet perfected resilience.

The world would be so much better off if this pool of talent was brought into the fold instead of being pushed to the side.

We truly are an overlooked worldwide asset.

And so we ask the world to take note of what we can offer.  We ask all the support organizations out there that provide us with wonderful resources on our afflictions to also advocate for our acceptance into mainstream society.

Those willing to take a risk on us will be rewarded far beyond their expectations.

Living a life challenged by connective tissue issues, cardiovascular and skeletal, vision and other maladies is the best training ground for human creativity and enlightenment.

All the world has to do is to ask for our help.

And if they don't then they'll be missing out.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Some Good Days Some Bad Days but they are all Marfan Days

Some days are better than others.  This principle applies to all but may be especially relevant to those of us with chronic illnesses.
#IknowMarfan Become Involved! February is Marfan Awareness Month 

Others may see my smile, glossy nature photos on social media, and long walks as a sign that all is good.

But  I know the real truth.  Yes some days are better than others.  But every day is a Marfan day.

Most days I try and portray an upbeat attitude, usually answering a 'how are you?' question with 'everyday is a good day' answer.

And much of the time my positive answers and attitude convince even myself that connective tissue disorder life is not really that bad after all.  Especially on those days that are better than others.

Unfortunately, as I've said before, even the better days are still Marfan days.  This truth applies to all other connective tissue syndromes too; Loeys-Dietz (LDS), Ehlers Danlos (EDS) and so many others.

Even the best connective tissue disorder days are still connective tissue disorder days.

Amazingly a good Marfan day can instantly change and become a day some days are better than.  A wrong step, a bump against the door frame, a twist of the neck in the wrong direction, and even a hard sneeze can turn a 'better than other day' into the start of a painful, hurting week.
#IKnowMarfan Coumadin plays into Marfan days for many.  Here is my arm today - internal bleeding and hematoma 

Unless the torn tendon or ligament bleeds enough for a huge hematoma to form, or an arm or leg subluxes to where crutches are needed just to move, most others never even know how bad those with chronic connective tissue challenges may hurt.

Many of us look really fit, trim and healthy and we often hear the stinging compliment, "you look so good - so how can you be sick?!"

But even on those good days when we glow, smile and laugh the chronic monster of painful potential hovers just over our heads, ready to pounce at the first unexpected chance.

The concept of 'I may look somewhat ok' and 'this may be a better day than others but expect the unexpected' can really wear us down.

A Marfan day is a challenge, even if it may be one of the best of the better than other days.

Marfan can manifest in a number of ways including scoliosis, retinal detachment, muscle and joint disfunction and as in my case, mouth and teeth malformation to where I required braces, multiple hernias and worse - aortic dissection.

Today I live with a dissected descending aorta.  My ascending arch and aortic valve are mechanical and Dacron but my descending aorta is torn and blocked by about 70%.  Unfortunately I was unaware  of my connective tissue challenges until the night I dissected.  Had I known I could have potentially avoided my traumatic emergency surgery and subsequent surgery for graft infection.

Awareness is critically important.  And so we must share.  The Marfan Foundation provides educational and support resources concerning aortic dissection and other connective tissue challenges. To learn more about dissected aortas be sure to read the helpful information shared through the John Ritter Foundation website.

February is Marfan Awareness month.  So be sure to check out the #IknowMarfan hashtag across social media platforms and read more about Marfan Syndrome here.

Finally, many times a Marfan day will include more than just one connective tissue challenge.

For me the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from two open heart aortic surgeries always looms just below the surface of daily activities.  Many days my upbeat approach to life masks the PTSD, other days something small or seemingly insignificant may trigger a rush of fear, dread and worry .  Some days are better than others but all Marfan days take their toll.

Most people in the world don't go through life aware their aorta is dilating every day, expanding and enlarging to the point where like a ballon, it may burst.  Living with the dread of imminent aorta replacement surgery is really stressful.  Even on the best of days the dread is hard to cope with.  But the aorta surgery worry is real and a part of most Marfan Days just as scoliosis, retinal detachment and other health challenges too manifest themselves most Marfan days.

Yes those of us challenged with Marfan Syndrome and other connective tissue disorders try mostly to 'get on with life' and 'keep on keeping on' or 'hanging in there'.  We try.

And many days that is just what we do and we are good at masking or hiding the hurt.

Then there are those less than better Marfan days where all the challenges just seem piled up way too high for us to deal with.  We want to let out a big sigh but our chest hurts way too much to let the sigh out.

No one understands so it seems.  Some days I feel like we are up the creek without a paddle, all alone, all by ourselves.

Social media support groups really do help but we long for an understanding touch, a personal hug from someone who does more than feel sorry from us.  We need someone who understands; really understands.

This is why becoming involved with The Marfan Foundation with local, but also national and worldwide efforts is so very important.

Each one of has so much to share and teach and receive from others.

We've been through those Marfan days.  We live them each and every day of our lives.

We've 'been there done that'.  Some of us have 'been there done that' for years now.

Whether it be retinal, muscular, cardiovascular or skeletal we all have some words of understanding to offer others.

Read through The Marfan Foundation's Get Involved website.  Become involved.  We have so much to share.  We need each other. Its all about awareness and sharing.