Rheumatoid Awareness Day – Celebrating a lifesaving, neck surgery! My interview with Bridget Seritt.

Bridget Seritt’s doctor told her that she had three to four months to live without corrective neck surgery. It was extremely damaged due to rheumatoid arthritis. Bridget had the operation (the same type my Mother needed), and is back to doing the things she loved! Here’s her story:

How long have you had RA?                                                                                

bridget-with-grandchildjpg
Bridget with her grandson Silas.

 

After spending my first year in a NYC, ICU, I had undifferentiated autoimmune issues. At 14, I was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis because my deformity was too much to ignore. Despite positive blood tests, most doctors would not diagnose me because I was too young. I also have lupus, Sjogren’s, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (which is the likely culprit for my neck since my bones were not dissolved). My RA is severe and dissolves bone and tissue like Coke syrup on car paint. The AAI surgery was #8 for me. In addition to the bone and tissue issues, I have autoimmune lung, heart, and kidney problems.

Tell us about the recent cervical collar operation you had and about how you were diagnosed. Was your doctor surprised the damage was from RA? Did he say that your condition was fatal? How was the recovery process?

In October of 2017, I was diagnosed with atlantoaxial instability and myelomalacia. Prior to that date, I’d had mild neck pain – the kind you get after sleeping on your neck wrong, but nothing serious. Thankfully, my friend shared a review of Death by Rheumatoid Arthritis. The first several times I saw the review, I never clicked the article. My incorrect assumption was that the article had to do with heart issues. Eventually, I read the article and later the book. That simple act was the only reason I thought about my neck this past October. (Below – Actual x-rays after Bridget’s surgery.)

Over 6 years ago, I started having arm and hand neuropathy that was diagnosed as either lupus or RA. I believed that diagnosis until I started having Multiple Sclerosis like symptoms summer of 2016. All of a sudden, I had:

  • Extreme weakness in hands and arms
  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • Balance issues
  • Trouble forming thoughts and sentences
  • Shortness of breath
  • Incontinence
  • Neck bones consistently “slipping” or subluxing

I asked my rheumatologist for x-rays in October. That poor man. I feel so bad for him. He prescribed PT thinking my neck was just going to have some inflammation and made a quip about “knowing what he was going to find”. At that point, I already knew what he was going to find! Needless to say, the X-rays were done late Thursday night and by 10 am Friday my rheumatologist called me panicked. There was a stat MRI ordered, and by the next Monday, I had my first appointment with a surgeon. My rheumatologist mentioned that I was the first person he had ever seen with AAI. My C1-2 was subluxing a full 10mm, and the spinal cord ended up being compressed/damaged at a .49 ratio, a .4 is paralysis and death. The longest any surgeon said I had before paralysis/death was 3-4 months, so we just caught this in time. Had I been rear ended or fell, I could have instantly passed away, and I was told it could randomly happen in my sleep at any time before surgery. I finally decided on the 12th surgeon I saw and had a C1-3 fusion/decompression done December 6th, 2016.

So far, my recovery has been phenomenal. These surgeries aren’t meant to make someone brand new, but to stop the person from further damage and death. I was expecting much worse, and am pleasantly surprised at how easy of a surgery this was. My knee replacement was much harder to deal with. So far, my fusion looks good and the incision has healed quite uneventfully. It will take the fusion roughly 6 more months to take, so the recovery is a slow one. The hardest long-term parts to this surgery are:

  • Learning to talk, breathe, and swallow
  • Spasms
  • Gaining strength after atrophy
  • Figuring out how to use your neck and head in situations like driving

I was back at work part-time 2 weeks after surgery and full-time within 4 weeks. None of my jobs are terribly physical.

Post-op: symptoms are significantly improving. My MS-like days are getting fewer and farther between and life is returning to normal! Some of the cord damage is likely permanent, but I used 10mg/kg of cannabis for 30 days prior to the surgery. I still have arm neuropathy, but not as bad. My forminial openings are also damaged, and I will have neuropathy for life. To control pain and stimulate healing, I used phytocannabinoids. After 1.5 weeks, I was off all pharmaceuticals for pain and spasms and healing ahead of schedule. My surgeon is actually very surprised at how well I am healing.

What helps you the most with managing your RA symptoms?

  • Family. I have an amazing support system with my husband and children. Without them, I’m not sure how I would get by!
  • Community. We have a strong patient community here, and everyone works to help each other out. At any given point, someone from our community is asking “what do you need” and that always provides inspiration to keep going.
  • Cannabis. I’m on my second to last biologic, and this one didn’t work until I added in cannabis. Once I added 5mg/kg base, my RA went into remission until I lost access to my dose due to state over-regulation. I’m off 9 prescriptions and lost 60 pounds because I can actually walk again!

What’s your advice for those newly diagnosed with RA?

Connect with patients and stay positive. These diseases don’t pick who they afflict and are not personal. It is possible to be in pain 24/7 and still enjoy life. The more you connect with other patients, you realize that no one is alone in autoimmune disease. Don’t get so wrapped up in what you’ve lost that you don’t LIVE your life. Enjoy the small things and often. Smile at flowers, laugh at life and maintain that humor.

You also realize very quickly that the doctors don’t have all the answers, and you have to be your own advocate. I know of rheumatologists that refuse to acknowledge that RA can damage a neck or that it can be a fatal disease. It is OKAY to fire doctors that don’t listen.

I know you’re a tremendous advocate for those with RD and those with pain management challenges. What are you upcoming advocacy goals?

I’m all about raising awareness for autoimmune arthritis diseases and medical cannabis! In addition to sharing my story, I have been encouraging everyone I know to get their necks checked. So far, 10 of my friends have gone for the cervical x-ray series just since getting diagnosed myself. This year, my patient based non-profit, Canna-Patient Resource Connection, is putting together a mobile resource center to bring holistic therapies and education to patients throughout Colorado. I specialize in phytocannabinoid therapy education specific to autoimmuners, and have a group of roughly 2500 that seek advice from all over the world. My blog, Ganga for Autoimmune Arthritis chronicles my journey since 2014 with autoimmune arthritis and cannabis. http://gangaautoimmuner.blogwritr.com/

Bridget Seritt is a mother of 3, and grandmother of 2. She started cannabinoid therapy in 2014 for 3 major autoimmune diseases after difficulty finding pharmacies that could fill her prescriptions. By 2015, Mrs. Seritt was off 9 prescriptions and had lost 60 pounds. As a result, Mrs. Seritt founded Ganga for Autoimmune Arthritis and wrote The Ganja Guide to Autoimmune Diseases: Getting Started with Medical Marijuana http://amzn.to/2k5pPQH. Over the years, she has mentored hundreds of autoimmune patients through the first stages of learning about cannabinoid therapy. Mrs. Seritt went into a controlled remission for a short period of time on high dose cannabis. Understanding the costs involved with cannabinoid dosing schedules, it became clear that preserving grow rights for patients was the only way to promote affordable and compassionate access.

After Colorado started talking about legislation against patients, Bridget connected with the cannabis community to unite its citizens. During that journey, she met Aisha Sawyer and helped to form Canna Patient Resource Connection.  Together, they have worked hard to make sure that patients are aware of how their local municipalities can affect their affordable access to cannabinoid therapy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Rheumatoid Awareness Day – Febuary 2, 2013

Finally the Rheumatoid Disease is planned for February 2, 2012. Yes, the same day  as Groundhog Day. Why another,”awareness” day for a disease that most of us know about? Wait, do most or even a few people truly know even one fact about RA? Here’s a couple quick ones for you:

What is RA?

An unpredictable, destructive, autoimmune disease. A person’s immune system attacks his or her own body tissues.

Who can get the disease? 

Anyone can get RA. This includes children. Women have a higher chance than any other people group. Seventy percent of those with RA are women. One percent First Rheumatoid Awareness Day Groundhogof the worlds’ population has RA.

What’s the cause of RA?

It’s may be due to genes, environment and hormones.

What are a few of the symptoms of RA?

Joint inflammation / stiffness – Any joint can be effected, however hands and feet are traditionally the first to show symptoms.

fatigue, swelling and extreme pain in ones joints. This commonly begins in the hands, feet, back, elbow and or knees.) Joint pain is usually seen in a symmetric pattern, effecting both sides of the body, although this is not always the case.

fevers

What’s the cure for rheumatoid arthritis?

There is none. Medications to treat RA include painkillers, steroids, disease-modifying / anti-rheumatic drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and biologics, such as Enbrel and Humira.

As the disease progresses it can lead to complicated and sometimes fatal conditions:

Dry Eye (sclertis) / uventis – The pain could be severe. And if it’s not taken care of, scleritis could create a hole in the eyeball. One form of uveitis, called, “posterior uveitis”, could cause permanent vision loss. Other complications from uveitis include glaucoma and cataracts.

Heart disease / inflamed lining of the heart. Both linked to sudden heart attacks.

Lung pluralism – Inflammation of the lung lining. Painful breathing

Erosion of the spine, which can lead to the deterioration of the cervical collar.  This condition can lead to spinal cord syndrome, which is fatal. (This is how my dear Mother died from this serious disease.)

The sooner one gets diagnosed with this disease, the better. Often, joint damage occurs within the one to two years of the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential, in efforts to prevent extensive joint damage.

For more extensive information on The First Rheumatoid Awareness Day, on the disease and on how you can help those with RA,  please contact Kelly Young at the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. The only charity just for Rheumatoid Arthritis! http://rheum4us.org/press-release-rheumatoid-arthritis-awareness-day/

Thank you for a few minutes of your time. Oh, and thank you Phil for the free promo for a extremely important cause!

 

Independent Book Reviewer Nicole Galloway – Miller

Meet Nicole Galloway – Miller. Nicole is an independent, online, book reviewer.

So what initially interested you in doing book reviews? How long have you been a reviewer?

I started my book review blog as an assignment for my Master’s in Fine Arts Program at Seton Hill UniversityNichole Gallawayy. It is a low-residency program. In place of class discussions, students are required to write a review blog post. In addition, students comment on the blog entries. I’ve only been reviewing books since last January, but I’ve been reading and writing my entire life.   

When conducting a review, what elements stand out for you?

Every book is different, so my reviews tend to evaluate a wide variety of writing techniques. I love experimental formats and creative figurative language. I also enjoy books that present the world in new and different ways.

What’s the most recent book that you’ve reviewed? Did you find it interesting?

My most recent review was historical fiction, Like Mayflies in a Stream by Shauna Roberts. I loved it. It’s part of the archeology series published by Hadley Rille Books. http://www.hadleyrillebooks.com/archseries.html I highly recommend them.

What type of books do you read for personal enjoyment?

Anything I can get my hands on. I am big believer in reading a wide variety of different genres, styles and authors. I read several books at a time. Currently, I am reading Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Railsea by China Miéville and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.Nichole Gallaway.jpg II

When reading reviews of a book that you’ve already rated, what‘s your reaction if the reviewer gives an opposite take from yours?

I love to read reviews expressing different opinions. Different reviewers tend to notice different things and every reader brings their personal experiences to their interpretation. I’m not a big fan of particularly negative reviews. It’s good to strike a balance between the good and the bad. Criticism can be helpful when it is presented in a respectful and professional manner.

I’ve read your reviews and you have a nice command of the English language. Tell us a bit about your background.  Do you feel as though schooling or hands –on learning benefited you the most?

I’ve always loved words and language. When I come across a new word during my reading, I have to look it up. I have two dictionary/thesaurus apps on my i Pad and smart-phone. These are the greatest inventions and save a lot of time.

I have an autism spectrum disorder and communication is challenging for me. Writing is how I express myself and how I learn about the world. I use a person’s word choice during conversation as replacement for nonverbal cues, since I cannot process things like body language and facial expressions. The words a person chooses and how he or she constructs phrases, and sentences is more than an objective statement about what is going on – they communicate intention, personality and emotion. This carries over into how I read. I’m a slow reader, who reads one word at a time.

Have you ever had a confrontation from someone, who disagreed with one of your reviews? What positive input have you had?

Authors tend to appreciate my reviews. I strive for a balance between positive and negative criticism while being objective and fair. Several people have expressed that my reviews teach them a lot about different writing techniques. I wish I could say that everyone loves my reviews, but that isn’t the case. I’ve been accused of being dishonest when writing reviews, because I choose to keep personal emotions out of my reviews. If I don’t care for a book, I maintain a professional attitude, state specific examples and reasons. I would never disrespect an author.

If a reader would like to have their book reviewed, what advice can you give them on finding individuals to help them?

Some social networks are a great place to find people to review your novels. There are some great Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups. It never hurts to ask someone. Don’t be afraid to contact a blogger who you respect. I love hearing from authors who would like me to review their books. It makes me feel like I’m posting quality work.

When you’re not reviewing, what does your life look like?

I read and write. Even if I wasn’t a reviewer or pursuing a degree, I would still read and write every chance I got. Video games are too stimulating for me, and I can’t stand commercials, so I watch shows, movies and documentaries on Hulu and Netflix from time to time. This weekend, I just finished watching the second season of The Walking Dead (originally aired on AMC). I love listening to music and walking through cemeteries – I find them peaceful.  

I appreciate you joining us today, Nicole! You’ve giving us a bit of insight, into the mind of a book reviewer. I wish you all the very best.

If you are interested in getting your book reviewed, please visit Nicole’s website where you can read her book review policy:  http://nrgalloway24.wordpress.com/book-review-policy/

Email: gallowaymiller@gmail.com

Twitter: @GallowayMill

LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/nicole-galloway-miller/47/397/638 

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/NicoleReneeGalloway

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Nicole-Galloway-Miller/100000217063148

Book Review blog: http://nrgalloway24.wordpress.com/

An Autistic Blogs about Autism: http://nrgallowaymiller24.wordpress.com/

A Steak and Cheese is NOT a Cheesesteak by Brian Piaquadio

Enjoy reading this amusing cheesesteak assessment. My friend shares his thoughts on cheesesteaks across the U.S.  Thank you Brian, for allowing me to share your story!

One thing I learned quickly leaving Southeastern Pennsylvania, when I joined the Marines, is that I was leaving the home of the cheesesteak.  These sandwiches, are a staple growing up in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My favorite style of cheesesteak is the “Weber”. This sandwich consists of a cheesesteak with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Traveling from place to place, I could still watch my Eagles and Phillies on TV but I hadn’t realized that I could no longer buy an authentic cheesesteak.

My first experience was while in Los Angeles, California. While dining out, I saw a menu item called a, “Philly Steak and Cheese.”  Excitedly, I ordered it in a hurry. When it arrived it wasn’t served on Amoroso bread and it was not marinated or chopped. The phony had no tomato-based sauce.  To make matters worse, the cheese was not American or Cheese Whiz but dare I say, cheddar cheese. It failed the last and final test – There was no dripping grease on my plate. Lying in front of me was the most pathetic excuse of cheesesteakness I had ever seen.   It couldn’t have even passed for a Weber. Nope, it was covered with a solid piece of lettuce, not the shredded kind used when preparing the real deal. Another tell-tale sign of this counterfeit was that the bun was cut in half.  To me, this was sacrilege!

Since that first time, of being duped, I’ve been across this country, and occasionally I will get sucked into some advertisement, stating that the eater makes, “Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks”.  After succumbing to my curiosity, I consistently find their claims to be fraudulent.  In North Carolina there is one with brown gravy and mushrooms, Ewwww.  In Tennessee, I actually was served one with green peppers. The owner convincing assured me – “That is the way they make ‘em up in Philly.’’ Even though I told him that was not the case, he did not want to listen. Just for the record, no, Steakums are not cheesesteaks either. My spellcheck is even trying to tell me I have spelled it wrong! Cheesesteak is one word not two. Doesn’t anyone get it? John Kerry didn’t get it, for he asked for one with Swiss cheese and was met with laughs while visiting Philadelphia during the 2004 election. Maybe that is why he didn’t get elected.

Everyone in Pennsylvania has their favorite cheesesteak place, mine is Frank’s just north of Philadelphia in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. I have been going in there since I was nine.  Back then I couldn’t even see over the restaurant’s’ red brick and slate counter-top. Thirty years later I am still going to Frank’s every chance I get.

The Italian voices of the owners have given way to their Spanish-speaking Guatemalan employees but, the food still tastes the same. From the outside, it’s nothing special to look at, and the inside would never make the grade for a restaurant guide.  We as Pennsylvanian’s come here for the cheesesteaks and to us the atmosphere is home. I live in Maryland now and close enough to make that three-hour trip for my cheesesteak cravings.

If you want a cheesesteak, you gotta go to Philadelphia or the Philly suburbs, you simply cannot get it anywhere else. Going anywhere else for a cheesesteak is like going to Taco Bell for Mexican food.

A few establishments like Pat’s and Geno’s have become famous places for tourists to visit and get a taste of Philadelphia.

The History of the First Cheesesteak:

During the 1930s Italian immigrants Harry and Pat Olivieri sold hot dogs and sandwiches on the streets of Philadelphia.Tired of hotdogs everyday for lunch, Pat told Harry to go to the store and buy some beef.  When he returned they chopped up the steak and grilled it with some onions. The brothers piled it on rolls and were about to dig in when a cab driver smelled the meat and onions and demanded one of the sandwiches. The cab driver asked how much and Pat never got to eat his. He didn’t know what to charge the cabby so he sold it for a nickel.  The cab driver said, “Hey… forget about those hotdogs, you should sell these.” It was not until 20 years later that cheese was added to the sandwich by a longtime employee Joe Lorenzo, who was tired of the same old sandwich. http://www.patskingofsteaks.com/history.html

Considered by most as anti-health food, the cheesesteak is a staple of most Philadelphians diet.

The inventor of the cheesesteak Pat Olivieri (right) Posing with Tony Bennett. Pat would go on to open “Pat’s           
King of Steaks”, a Philadelphia landmark.

(Photo courtesy of Pat’s Kind of Steaks

Let’s see what the other reviewers are saying. (Courtesy of Trip Adviser.)

FRANKS- “Best Cheesesteaks in the Universe!” – 5-stars

I have been eating Franks cheesesteaks for 41 years. Frank and Ale knew my father who was on the police force at the time. We could not wait for my father to arrive home with dinner. Franks cheesesteaks with fried unions, sauce, and hot peppers. A large plain pizza. Before I cold drive, I would walk there from Quakertown high school. While attending PSU, we would take road trips back to Quakertown to pick up cheesesteaks. I just called my wife and asked my her to pick me up one on her way back from Allentown. I frequent Pats, Joes and have tried all the others. Hands down, FRANKS makes the best cheesesteaks. Never change.

“Best Pizza and Cheese Steaks north of Philly” 5-stars

30 years, always the best pizza, steak sandwiches made with real sliced beef not processed garbage. Not much for sitting down, just a few tables but awesome take out. Can’t eat cheese steaks anywhere else in the area, and the pizza and pasta is very, very good

“Incomparable steak sandwiches and the best Pizza in Quakertown” 5-stars

We have been patronizing Franks for over 25 years and have never been disappointed. The Pizza seem to be a multi cheese blend with a medium thin crust baked to perfection on every occasion. As stated previously, there are only a few tables so it is not much of a dining experience so take-out is the main option. The steak sandwich is second to none and we have tried most of the big Philadelphia name establishments. Just had the Stromboli on our last visit and that too was excellent. Quick service and John always remembers his customers.

About the Author:

Brian Piaquadio is a graphic designer and freelance writer living in La Plata,             Maryland. Even though he holds a graduate degree in publication design, his personal passion is Civil War history.

The father of five children, is an avid motocross racer, and War between the States aficionado. Regardless of how mundane, he enjoys writing about his personal experiences growing up in Pennsylvania and of the times he spent serving in the Marine Corps. Brian is presently working on his first book about black code laws before, during and after the Civil War.

I wish you all the best in your writings Brian and thank you again for the informative article!

Yet one last review….

“The Very Best Cheesesteaks in the History of the World. ” 5-stars

I’ve been to all the big name cheesesteak eateries in Philly and to lesser known suburbia establishments to get my fill, of my favorite sandwich. Franks serves  the,”Rolls Royce” of steaks. Tender, thin slices of savory, rich ribeye and onions thoughtfully, are encapsulated in lengthy Italian roll.  Perfect cheesesteaks + friendly service = My number one pick. – C.J.

My interview with Kirsten Walters

Who is Kirsten Walters? A dynamic advocate and patient of Still’s Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis. She kindly invited me to hang out at her blog for a day. If you’re interested…

http://www.notstandingstillsdisease.com/2012/04/interview-with-carla-jones-author-of.html

Carla Jones

As a child, I just liked waving the palms high over my head while singing with the rest of the kids that once a year song, “There’s a Palm”.   Some of you may recognize the lyrics: “There’s a palm, there’s a palm, there’s a palm for you and me hallelujah…”   These  plants were just great to play with.  Tapping your pew neighbor on the head with a palm, was a requirement to get the full holiday experience.

On Palm Sunday (some refer to it as “Passion Sunday”), starts the beginning of Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday.  Christians celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection.

Joyful crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches.  The onlookers also covered the path before him with palm branches.  Some were mistakenly viewing him as a leader who would overthrow the Roman government.  In many denominations globally…

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