Dog brings hope to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome sufferer

Meredith ButenhoffTo look at 16-year-old Meredith Butenhoff, one would think that she’s the picture of health. The pretty blonde high school student from Greenville has a ready smile and speaks with a soft melodic voice that belies the fact she suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDH), a condition that causes chronic fatigue, dizziness, and joint pain.

Meredith was diagnosed with EDH at the age of 11 and she, along with her family, have been courageously battling the syndrome and endeavoring to lead as normal a life as possible ever since. About three years ago, a ray of hope came into their lives in the shape of a dog.

While the family was attending a medical conference, they learned about Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services or PAALS, a South Carolina based organization that trains and places assistant service dogs with individuals such as Meredith who need help with daily tasks that the average person takes for granted.

“Most people don’t think twice about things like turning on a light switch or opening a door, but these are things that are a real challenge to our clients,” said Jennifer Rogers, PAALS executive director. “We train our dogs to do up to 70 behaviors that can assist people with a variety of disabilities so they can live more independent and enriched lives.”

Read More: The Columbia Star

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How I live with Hypermobility Syndrome

yogaHypermobility Syndrome (HMS or Ehlers Danlos Syndrome- Hypermobility Type) is a condition that affects 10-20% of the population. Some people who fit the diagnostic criteria for HMS will have no apparent negative effects as a result, for others it is a debilitating condition that can seriously impair their mobility and manifest with symptoms as diverse as joint dislocations, fatigue and heart murmurs.

I am somewhere in the middle of this scale. I have chronic joint pain, and frequent joint subluxations (partial dislocations). Without appropriate care, joints become unstable, I fall frequently causing damage to my joint surfaces and ligaments. Having lived with this condition for 20 years, I have found ways to manage it, and am able to maintain good mobility within my own boundaries – a far better outcome than my original prognosis. Here are some of the tips that have helped me manage my Hypermobility Syndrome:

Use it or lose it – keep active.

I know I am not going to be running any marathons, but that does not mean I have to submit to the sofa completely. I choose ways to keep active that within my capabilities.

Can you swim? Maybe breaststroke is too much for your hips, so how about crawl? How about some gentle yoga? Learning to maintain your alignment whilst gently building strength in your posture is really beneficial. Be aware that I am not advocating stretching for flexibility here, but strong yoga postures to stabilise the joints. Can’t stand? How about chair yoga ?

Even if all you can do today is sit up in bed for a bit, challenging your body in a sympathetic manner will not only help you maintain your physical ability, but will also make you feel good.

Make your plans as flexible as you are.

Some days I wake up feeling spritely and good, some days I wake up creaky, aching and tired. Sometimes I get better as the day progresses, sometimes worse. I have to be prepared to adjust my plans accordingly because I have learned that there is no point putting more strain on myself unnecessarily

Hormonal changes and pregnancy can seriously impact the state of your ligaments, so always be mindful, and non-judgmental, of your capabilities at this moment.

Read More: Yahoo Lifestyle