Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My brain hurts...

Here’s a thing (and also explains why I’ve not been around for a while).

Consider, if you will, the basic function of linguistic facility. The plain old ability to form words, string them together into sentences, read signs and books and generally jot and scribble ones thoughts down in a coherent form.

It’s an easy one to take for granted. It’s also terrifying to have it taken away from you.

A week or so ago, while enjoying a hearty pile of food for the evening repast and watching the telly with the usual levels of scorn and derision, I felt compelled to voice to my g/f my concerns that the news item on the box was, in some way, unsatisfactorily reported. So, I muttered something in her direction, to which she absent-mindedly nodded back.

The worrying thing was, I hadn’t understood a single word I’d just said. More quietly, I ventured another comment. This was also plainly gibberish. Unsettled, I trotted upstairs to grab a pen and paper and write down a note to my girlfriend that, for some reason, I couldn’t speak properly. Surely I wouldn’t have lost the ability to write?

I felt I’d made a fair fist of a note, even though reading it back seemed a little hard, and hurried back downstairs. As my other half looked uncomprehendingly at the note and then back at me, I suddenly felt very frightened. In fact, “Scared” was the only word I could get out after much trying.

An ambulance-ride later, and with much testing at the hospital (with occasional bursts of near-lucidity), the most unearthly headache hit me, and I had to cover my eyes as any light was incredibly painful. I was admitted, and my poor other half had to go home in a cab.

Consultants buzzed round in the morning, by which time I was back to my normal self, aside from the remnants of the headache. A bit of conjecture here and there and it was decided that it ‘probably wasn’t an aneurysm’. Well, that’s good then. Much more detailed chats with the ward nurses during the day came up with some other contenders - a migraine, a stoppage of bloodflow to the brain or a thing known as a Transient Ischaemic Attack.

The mystery ‘stoppage’ would have to be tracked down, but it was considered an unlikely cause due to the recovery rate. It was generally thought that it would have taken several days if not weeks to settle down after something like that. Plus, finding out what caused it would be tricky (if you can’t diagnose, it’s likely to take quite a bit of testing and tweaking to find out the root cause).

Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIAs) are stoppages of bloodflow within the brain, usually caused by a small blood clot getting stuck in a narrow blood vessel. A part of the brain is starved of oxygen for a few minutes, then recovers (either the clot breaks up, or other vessels compensate). It seems that the blood clots are generated by atheromas in blood vessels - small fatty deposits on the artery walls. Hmm, guess I’m not the Olympian athlete I thought I was - ahem... The symptoms of a TIA are similar to a stroke (which is what I thought I was having). The nurses called them ‘warnings that a stroke is coming unless you do something about it’. Cheery stuff, eh?The migraine theory rested on a period of tingling and numbness I’d had in my arms previously that evening. Anyone normal should have questioned the tingling thing but, as I had spinal surgery eight years ago and kinda get more than the odd trapped nerve on a regular basis, I just left it to run its course. It also had a lot to do with the recovery rate and a huge blind spot I’d developed before the headache began. And a whole bunch of stuff to do with shining lights into my eyes and asking me the same question over and over again. WTF?

Bear in mind that at this moment I was nowhere near the internet, so couldn’t do any rummaging myself (which would have helped enormously, as it turns out) and trying not to think that some kind of tumour had erupted in my head and I was going to die. I was told a consultant neurologist would be round later to see me and judge whether I needed to be kept in for an immediate scan or treated as an outpatient. Well, my other half came by, having taken the day off work, and stayed at the hospital well into the evening with the neurologist being a no-show. How ridiculous is that? Based at another hospital, sometimes he just ‘didn’t make it round’. Thank fuck I wasn’t having an aneurysm and bleeding out of my eyes then. The dick. Ever heard of the “telephone”, you ass?

During the night, as I was in the Medical Admissions Unit (short stays only and no cabaret or massage), a couple of new people were noisily brought in. One of whom had to use a commode. After much huffing, puffing and moaning. Then her floodgates opened and I decided to try sleeping on a chair down the corridor. It doesn’t take long for you to feel like you’re trapped in an institution...

Still, the next day, eventually, a different neurologist arrived, had a chat with me (by this time, I’m not in the pyjamas any more - I’m back in my own clothes and wanting to go the fuck home) and decided within fifteen minutes that the migraine theory was way out in front and I’d be best treated as an outpatient. This means a three-month waiting-list for a brain-scan (I wonder if they’ll find one?) then whatever follow-up they remember to do.

I must just say that the nurses and junior doctors there were a great laugh and working stupid hours didn’t seem to dull their edge much. Then again, they are all terribly young... ;-) They even put up with me stalking the corridors, muttering that, if this consultant that didn’t show had been an employee of mine, he would have been fired long ago. Bless ’em! And they’d all watched Green Wing, so there was much in-joke hilarity going on at the expense of all the other patients. Hey, I never said I’d become a saint...

Back home I pretty much immediately Googled “migraine speech loss” and “migraine dysphasia”, which immediately took a weight off my mind. Apparently, dysphasia is one of the top five common aura symptoms preceding a migraine, ie. if you’re one of the migraine sufferers who gets an aura, losing the ability to tell anyone that you’ve got a migraine coming is quite high on the list. Handy. You won’t even be able to ask where the painkillers are. Still, a goodly amount of research helped ease what I laughingly call my mind. Though I spent the next week deliberately being calm and sedate, thinking that, if I got a bit angry about something, my head might explode, I gave up in the end.

The pain of not being able to yell abuse at the TV was worse than the headache...

9 Comments:

At 6:18 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

Good to see you back...and good luck with 'whatever' it is/was...

 
At 7:00 pm, Blogger Emily Blake said...

I guess socialized health care isn't any more efficient than unsocialized health care. I hope Athena doesn't pop out of your head.

 
At 5:07 am, Blogger CAROLINE said...

Poor you. Hope things right themselves soon.

PS You best reserve your week at the Inn ... spring reservations are booking up and there's only one guest room ;-)

 
At 10:33 pm, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

It's a good job then that there's so little in life to drive one into a screaming rage...

Thanks for dropping my blog... Glad to have found yours...

 
At 10:53 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Why thank you Brian, though I fear that the pleasure in reading is probably more mine than yours.

I do have a preponderance for wordy ranting... ;-)

 
At 10:25 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

Re-read your saga and as someone battling with the NHS system (for a different problem) I am sent into despair by your experience and some I have recently gone through and wonder how the old, the deaf and those for whom English isn't their first language ever survive our medical system... Or maybe they don't...

 
At 3:33 pm, Blogger Optimistic_Reader said...

Eek! Glad you are alright again. Being unable to shout at the telly is a terrible affliction indeed ;-)

 
At 1:39 pm, Blogger nana said...

My daughter just had this same occurrance. Headache, unable to talk to me clearly, gibberish. It was very scary. CT scan negative. She has migraines but nothing like the above. Glad you are ok!

 
At 9:27 am, Anonymous John Heyland said...

I have just left hospital after having all tests for stroke and nothing found. I have suffered migraines for 50 years but no Dysphasia til last week. As everyone says it was very scary until I read this article.

 

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