Monday, November 5, 2007

I don't know what is wrong with me, but I seem to have brain lesions ...

... Like I don't have enough holes in my head already

I should probably start this whole thing off by explaining why I am beginning this blog. It is my second -- my first I started sometime last year to share about my travels with my friend Rowan, a Scottish woman that I met online.

That sounds kinda funny -- but suffice it to say that I made a friend on the Internetz, and went to visit her in lovely Scotland, and decided to blog about it, rather than sending innumerable emails filled with pictures that people would have to download and then clutter up their hard drives. It was great fun, and it was also great to have people that I love comment on our travels. A good time was had by all.

It has been about a year (almost exactly) since that wonderful trip and I have had the usual life events -- family, work, rushing around like a maniac. About four months ago, I started stumbling every so often, and I was having some, what we in the business, call "mild word finding difficulties." I have written that about a thousand times, most likely over the years. It means that I fumble for words, as we all do from time to time, but mine were getting a little worse. And I was having dizzy spells -- mild ones, but nothing to get excited about.

(remind me to tell you about why I am blogging about this ... because I will prolly forget)

But, I would have to say that this all started at the end of September, in reality. As I said, I have been having problems with word finding. It is a weird sensation, because I can see a picture of the thing that I want to say, but I can't get it out. For example, there is a pink plastic envelope in my back seat and I want to ask my son to hand it to me. I say "Hand me the .... the .... um .... the .... (Aaargh! Crap!) ... the ... (waving my hand at the back seat) ... um ... Envelope! Envelope! The pink one!"

So I have been having mild word finding difficulties for a couple of years. I have to pause sometimes and wait for my brain to scrabble around and get the proper word. Sometimes when I want to say "table", it comes out "chair". When I want to say "month", it comes out "week". Hilarity ensues. My daughter said maybe I have a brain cyst.

But about six weeks ago, I found that I was having increased difficulty speaking. It would be like my train of thought would be chugging along merrily and then a word would jump off the track and all of the little words would derail too and I would have to re-order them and begin speaking again. I also was reading something that I have read literally hundreds of times and lost my place and could not find it. And I was stammering.

I wondered if I was having a stroke, but I didn't have a headache and no weakness, but there was definitely something wrong with me. So I called my physician and asked for an appointment. Along the way, I talked to a nurse, because I wanted to know when I should start to worry.

I probably took it more seriously than I would have because my husband's cousin had just had an Arterio-Venous Malformation rupture and was in a coma. That was a little scary and I thought that I would be really mad at myself if it turned out that there was something really wrong and I had not had it looked at. So I sat on hold for twenty minutes to talk to a nurse and ended up asking in an apologetic sort of way what I should look for if there was something that actually needed attention.

The nurse told me to go the emergency room.

Which was not really what I was expecting.

So, after I finished work on a Thursday evening in late September, I went to the emergency room. What a great experience this is! There are like a million people in there -- I would have gone to the Urgent Care, but I was told that they would not have the equipment for the test that I would need and I would be sent to an ER anyway. So, here I am, sitting in the sub-zero temperatures, shivering and reading my book. I have just started it, so I am feeling okay.

After an hour and a half has passed, and I have not been triaged. So I go back up to the front and say that if I am having a stroke that I believe that quick treatment will prevent further brain damage.

The nurse says that I will be next. I go back to my seat and wait, wondering if I really am having a cerebral hemorrhage. A young man comes in and sits next to me. He says that he is having a panic attack and that he hopes that he can get his medication refilled. He says that he is staying in a 20,000 dollar a month condo and that the limo has just driven away. I tell him that panic attacks are not fatal. I do not say this in a mean way, but in a matter of fact way, because they really are not fatal. You feel like you are going to die, but generally you don't. I am probably not very sympathetic, because I think that he is both psychotic and drug-seeking. He presents an impressive litany of drugs that he has been on -- mostly benzodiazepines. He looks like he is on speed ... He looks taken aback by my matter-of-fact assertion that he is not going to die from anxiety.

I get triaged and when the nurse asks my weight, she has me thirty pounds lighter than I am, but I can't get the proper weight out. I almost burst into tears, because now it feels more real. I can see the numbers in my head, but they don't come out.

I go back out and wait for another half an hour. I go in and wait a few minutes for the ER doc. She comes in, slightly built, with blond hair in a messy bun. She looks pale and tired and I feel stupid. I tell her about my symptoms. I tell her that I am exhausted. I tell her that I can't talk. She says that I should have a CT scan and has me put on a hospital gown. I tell her that I think that I will just go home and have my physician see me. She says, "better safe than sorry" and she is right, but I am feeling exposed and stupid and like a big hypochondriac. Honestly, so what? Word finding difficulties? ...

I get an IV -- for just in case. Just in case of what?! That gives me the serious heebie-jeebies. I get another blanket, because I am cold. I finally crawl out of the bed and call my husband to tell him what is going on. I tell him to stay with the kids and I will be fine.

Anyway some hours later (and half-way through my book) I get wheeled down the hall to get the CT scan. The machine looks like it was made by RubberMaid. Or Fisher-Price. It is big and made of molded plastic. It is called something like a GE Zapp-O-Matic. The test is not too bad. I wonder if it is like an Exer-Saucer for adults. There should be such a thing ...

I get wheeled back into my room and give my husband another call. I wonder how selfish it would be to tell him I am almost done with my book and can he bring another. I decide that will be a bit much, and lie and say I am just fine.

Another couple of hours later, the test results come back. I don't have any tumors or stroke. Whoo hoo! But the physician says that she wants me to have an MRI, just to be safe. I say, are we sure? and she says that she thinks it best. So I wait for another hour or so and almost finish my book. I am getting a little worried, because I only have another couple of chapters left. I again debate about whether I should have my husband come out and freeze with me. I decide no.

And I am thirsty and hungry.

The man in the next bed over has had a heart attack and I listen with half an ear to the goings on. At eleven pm, I go in for the MRI.

I have to say that it is pretty scary. This machine is much more high tech looking. It kind of looks like part of a submarine. They put a cage over your face and headphones on you. I am offered drugs and I decline. When the headphones are put on me, I ask if it is so I can listen to something or to protect my hearing, and the tech says, "both". He tells me 17 minutes and I get fed into the tube. I began to count.

It is loud, which I wasn't expecting. You can feel the magnetic field moving over your skin, causing little whishes and ripples. It is almost a physical touch. The machine clatters and I almost jump out of my skin. They are piping in some classical/soft hits music and I am grateful for "Memories" which is a long song. Other than that, I am forced to listen to Frank Sinatra, which I do not enjoy nearly as much.

46, 47, 48, 49, 50 ....

Whew! I am slowly moved out. The tech says that he is going to inject something into me to provide contrast. I ask if we have to, and he says that it is a good idea to do so, as long as we are here. I grudgingly agree, but am not at all happy about the re-entry into the magnetic tube. I begin to count again, feeling little spurts of anxiety that I am trying to relax through.

Finally, it is over. I go back to the waiting room and finish my book. I doze off for a little bit. I get moved over to a much busier part of the ER. There is a man screaming "help me! help me!" He sounds a bit crazy. I finally ask a nurse if anyone has checked on him and she thanks me for my concern and says that he has been looked at.

I am done reading, and I am bored and tired. I watch the goings on through my open door. People bustle past, carefully not making eye-contact. I guess that they are trying to make sure that no one asks them a question. It is a fairly cheerless place, I would have to say. We are in better spirits at the mental hospital that I work at. We are waiting for the radiologist to send back the report. I am a bit angry at my husband for not being there, even though I assured him that he should stay home.

It is coming up on two in the morning and I want to go home. I ask if someone will please take out my IV so I can leave. They can call me with the test results. I have to go to work in the morning. They say no, they won't take out the IV. I examine it, because in about a minute or two more, I am taking the damned thing out.

I see my physician come in the room and watch her in the nurses station. She finally comes in and says that, although the CT scan is normal, the MRI shows some abnormalities. It shows that I have several scattered lesions in the white matter in my brain. I know vaguely what this means, because I am a psychologist for crying in the sink. She says that it is not definitive, but it appears that I most likely have multiple sclerosis. She says that it is very important that I see a neurologist in the next two to three days. I say okay.


I don't know what to think. My first thought is, "thank heavens I don't have a stroke or tumor or cancer or something." The second thought is ... can I go home now? I ask for a copy of the radiology report.

A half an hour later, I finally get out and can leave. It is almost three in the morning. I come into the house, and my husband, who has fallen asleep, hunched over his cell phone, jerks awake. I n a clipped tone, I say that I am fine, but I might have MS and I don't want to talk about it and fall into bed.


Rowan said...

Oh, Bob...What a day, evening and night, and into the next day, that was for you. A really draining Emergency Room marathon. You are a real trouper, ye ken. Am glad you had a book. What was it, btw? I don’t know why I want to know this, but I do. It kept you going through that nightmarish ER maelstrom. You were very brave.

The scans sound pretty scary, especially the MRI. The descriptions of the Fisher Price diagnostic machines is very apt - you feel so small and so very vulnerable next to their electronic mysteries, and yet they look so outwardly utilitarian and chunky.

Thank you for sharing this with your haverers. Your blethering celtic buddy will stravaig along with you, send you books and cookies, and aye be in yer corner from afar.

Dr. Bob said...

Hey -- thanks for showing up. The book was some really fluff scifi. I could not even tell you what it was. I think the hero was a female ...

Melissa said...

I don't know if you were brave or goofy to go to the ER with brain malfunctioning by yourself! I am going to land on goofy....

As an FYI--taking out an IV is no big deal. Call me (or better yet, Cynd) next time. Happy to walk you through it. LOL!! ACK!!!!

Dr. Bob said...

I shoulda called one of youse. I was pretty ready to just yank it out, which just tells you how a person feels at that time of the morning.