July 30, 2015
In 2011, Tammy Stadt knew there was something very wrong when she was standing at her desk at work and had severe back pain, which caused her to black out. She had difficult medical issues in the past, and had been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), but never experienced this level of debilitating numbness and pain. EDS is a genetic disorder that affects connective tissues that support the skin, bones, blood vessels, and other organs. Defects in connective tissues cause the signs and symptoms of EDS, which vary from loose joints to life-threatening complications. As part of this condition, Tammy also has severe, life-threatening allergies and asthma.
Following a cascade of circumstances, Tammy found herself seeking a new family doctor. “I hit a wall with all these issues. Because of the complicated and rare nature of my condition, and because I am a subset group of people who have extreme allergic reactions, managing my care can be very challenging for any physician. I was feeling frustrated and didn’t know where to turn.”
Prior to 2011, Tammy had never met anyone with EDS, but since then, has met a number of people from Ontario with the same condition. She realized that she needed to find a doctor who was willing to take the steps necessary to manage her rare condition and felt comfortable managing her difficult needs, including her severe allergies and coordination with her many specialists.
THE CHIGAMIK EXPERIENCE
At Tammy’s first appointment at Chigamik, she knew she was in the hands of the right care. “At my intake appointment I knew that Dr. MacSween and I could work together to improve my health,” said Stadt. “Because there are no specialist in Canada for this condition, we are often left to our own devices. Dr. MacSween was willing to help me on my journey to better health.”
Managing Tammy’s pain and preventing further injury are the keys to managing her health. “Dr. MacSween helps me with the preventative piece, as she understands how important it is to my condition,” says Stadt. Preventative care for Tammy includes wearing braces on her ankles and finger splints to prevent dislocation, arthritis exercises in a therapy pool, physiotherapy, monthly injections to manage her allergic reactions and mindfulness meditation.
2011 was a turning point for Tammy. She was in such bad shape, with a number of medical providers in her care, she was losing hope. Chigamik has many programs and services that can be of assistance to her, and she was encouraged to try Traditional Healing as a method of dealing with her pain. When she attended her first session, she had no idea what to expect. “The session was wonderful. It provided me with such peace and calmness, something I hadn’t felt in a very long time,” said Stadt. The Healer pointed out where Tammy’s pain was and gave her ointment for her knees and tea to help her sleep better at night. “I didn’t realize I wasn’t getting the proper sleep until I drank the tea and woke up feeling very refreshed,” she added. “After the session I felt a sensation of tingling through my neck and relief of pain. It was amazing. My energy was blocked and the Healer cleared it.”
During one of the Traditional Healing sessions, the Healer diagnosed what was causing Tammy so much pain at the time. A joint in Tammy’s lower back was partially dislocated, causing debilitating pain. “I had the first relief of pain in six months, I was so thankful,” said Stadt. The next day, Tammy told her physiotherapist who confirmed the diagnosis. “I was prescribed a brace to help support my back and I’ve been wearing it every day for the past three years. It has helped so much with the pain.”
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Today, Tammy’s health is stable. She doesn’t need to see as many medical providers and comes to Chigamik once every three months. “Looking at my condition in a very holistic way and having an action plan is key to managing EDS,” says Stadt. “The self-care component is supported at Chigamik and the team is there when I need them. Chigamik’s approach to health care is very holistic. It combines the physical, emotional and spiritual healing. It provides a sense of belonging and inclusiveness. I can access most of my medical team at Chigamik. And, when there is an acute issue, I feel like I’m able to go to Dr. MacSween and she will provide me with right guidance and reassurance that I’m getting the proper care,” said Stadt.
Today, Tammy uses her volunteer work as a means of dealing with her pain. “I want to be involved in my community and help open doors for others who are facing barriers with their health care. There are 97 people in Simcoe/Muskoka with EDS and one of my children is starting to show signs of the genetic condition. I need to do what I can to make the journey better for the next person,” she added.
Tammy has started a support group with others in the area for those suffering with EDS. “The support has been very helpful and access to the right medical team is so important. I’m one of the lucky ones, I’ve got the support and the medical team right here at Chigamik,” said Stadt.
*Tammy became involved with the CSC Chigamik CHC steering committee in 2010 and is currently the president of the Board of Directors.