Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm Baaaack!!!!

I hope at least. If you've been wondering where I've been the last few weeks, I've had some head issues. A short history...

For a long time I have suffered from something that I call "watery vision." I call it this because everything looks as if I have my eyes open under water, you know how everything is not blurry but not clear either. Well it is clear but just not right. Hard to describe. It's a refraction issue if you can remember your high school physics. Sometimes it seems like I have no depth of field, everything is kind of flat. Other times it is as if something is between me and whatever I am focusing on but I can't see it. And at times it affects my balance so when it happens I try to sit or lie down until it passes which usually takes about an hour.

I've brought it up with two opthamologists and both told me that it is an ocular migraine. I've never had any pain when it happens and I've never suffered from a migraine headache. They told me I was lucky. I remember my grandmother getting them and it looked awful. But I've had these ocular migraines for at least ten years, off and on, no more than four times per year and they are always more of an annoyance than anything.

Two years ago when we lived in Bainbridge I got a headache every morning for awhile when I woke up. Can you guess why? I was taking Advil every morning for I don't know how long until my doctor told me I had to stop or I could create even worse rebound headaches. He wanted to try me on Topamax, a migraine preventative drug, but I deferred since it can cause drowsiness and I was on the road all the time. Eventually the headaches went away and hadn't come back. Can you guess why?

So the beginning of March I was leaving the dentist's office and as I walked out my vision shifted, to my so called "watery vision." I had to be careful driving home, but I wasn't too worried, same ol' same ol', gone in about an hour. Two days later I got hit by a headache like I had never known before. It hurt so bad I was whimpering. I couldn't even sleep. This was new for me. Everyday I had a headache and about every other day it was crushing where I just tried to lie still, curled in a ball with my eyes closed. It hurt so bad I couldn't sleep and if I did finally fall asleep, the pain would come back and wake me up and I would just lay there sobbing.

Nothing helped. Not aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, or Alieve. Not coffee. Not Cephadyn, Imitrex, Phenergan, or Reglan. Not even Valium. This lasted until about ten days ago, when in a stab in the dark my doctor gave me five days of Prednisone hoping the steroid would act as an anti-inflammatory and open up some constricted blood vessels causing a headache. My headache went away in an hour! I think it was a coincidence.

But they did come back, maybe not as frequently and not as severe but they were still there. Better though. Now it seemed like they came around when I stood up and sometimes when I laid down but not when I was sitting.

Then about two weeks ago I was sitting watching TV, typing on my laptop when I noticed my left leg fell asleep and so did my left arm. I didn't think anything of it since I hadn't moved in the chair in awhile, trying not to cause a headache. Eventually it went away.

Late that afternoon we were meeting friends for dinner. Dinah and I drove separately since she was going to stay with Jennifer and Arwyn to go to a play after dinner and I was going to return home with Rose and put her to bed. When I got out of my car I instantly got struck by a massive, piercing headache, right between my eyes. And then my left leg went numb. Uh oh, how am I going to get up those stairs? Very gingerly. Grabbed the rail, left arm went numb. Damn.

We sat down at our table, we were early, so we ordered an appetizer. I'm sitting against the window with my left arm on the window sill which is good because I can't move it. I can pick it up with my right hand but can't really work it by itself. But my problem now is I can't read the menu. I can see it, but I can't read the words, they just won't focus. It seems like every time I get a word to focus it moves farther away. Damn.

At this point Dinah is concerned and wants to go to the hospital. I don't because this should only last about an a hour, that's how long it lasted last time. Besides, our friends have not arrived yet. Her argument is I might die. I counter that I don't want to die hungry. Right about then Jennifer and Arwyn arrive. And right about then my tongue goes numb and so does the left side of my face. Uh oh.

Jennifer is a cancer doc and Dinah considers her the smartest doctor she knows. That's a lot of respect. She asks Jennifer to check me out. She asks me some questions, I don't really remember. I'm having a hard time talking, my tongue feels about three inches around. And the left side of my upper lip isn't working. Jennifer says I'm stroking. Damn. I'm cognizant enough that if Jennifer says something, you take her seriously. Got to go to the hospital. I don't want to go, but inside my head, I'm scared now. But I'm worried about Rose, who's going to take care of her? Dinah calls our friend Michelle who is going to come and pick her up and take her home with them. Rose is going to Emma's house, so she's excited! We're out the door with quick good byes and apologies making a stop at a gas station to pick up some aspirin.

If you have never chewed aspirin let me tell you, it is awful.

We get to the hospital and it'd obvious they don't think I'm having a stroke. My blood pressure is normal, as usual. They aren't panicky. I get some blood work done and a cat scan of my head. Everything comes back normal and fine. I get to go home after a few hours. The good thing is we get a good but late dinner in Ellijay where they have better restaurants.

It was after that that I met with my doctor and I got the Prednisone. But she did refer me to a neurologist. Prior to seeing the neurologist I had an MRI done of my head. MRIs suck. If you are the least bit claustrophobic you could lose your sanity. You've got your head in this tube and then it sounds like the are working a jack hammer at different spots on the outside of the tube. And the whole time you can't move. For 45 minutes!

The neurologist meeting went well, no cure but a plan. I was frustrated the whole time though because I felt like I was disappointing the doctor, somehow giving the wrong answers. Dinah told me not to worry, that's just the way specialists are, quirky. It was a long session but in the end he felt there were three possibilities. One, could just be migraines not behaving right. Two, the radiologist didn't note it but my neurologist felt there were signs of slight swelling on the surface of my brain in the MRI meaning viral meningitis. If so, that would account for all of my issues, headaches, vision issues, numbness. BUT, and it's a big but, I don't have a fever. If I had meningitis I should have a fever of like 106 but I haven't had one all month. While it is not impossible to have meningitis without the fever it is extremely unlikely and doubtful. And it would still be unusual to just have the numbness on the left side.

So that leaves TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). That's his main concern, our main concern and my biggest fear. It's the reason why we are there and why I'm not really concerned with the headaches anymore.

Am I having mini-strokes? Was this a prelude of bad things yet to come?

So to rule it out he wanted me to get another MRI (technically an MRA) but this time of the arteries in my neck (carotids). He was adamant that I get it in Gainesville GA at a specific hospital on a specific machine because it had to be on a big bad ass MRI machine for the results to be worth a damn and those machines are few and far between and they have one here in Gainesville but not in your little hick mountain town of what wasthe name of it again? Otherwise I'd have to get three Doppler echo-sono somethings and that is really unpleasant and the results won't be as meaningful. Get the 3T MRI!!! I also needed to get an ECG on my heart and an bubble echo cardiogram of my heart where they bubble saline solution through my heart while looking at it with an ultrasound. Those two we were allowed to do back in Blairsville. Whew.

So last Thursday I went to get my MRI. In the meantime my headaches are now at a tolerable level. I still have them every day and I still have them for hours at a time but they are much less severe, maybe a two on a scale of one to ten instead of an eight. Very much like that period in Bainbridge. There are still a few eights but now they are short bursts under a half hour fading to a dull throb. Always seeming to be triggered by standing and walking. And this is exactly what happened when I got to the hospital in Gainesville, walked in the door and it felt like someone hit me with a maul right between the eyes. The pain intensified as I walked down the halls eventually fading either when I sat down or given enough time. I guess the good thing was that I'd be in pain while they were looking for something.

I got all ready to go.... and didn't fit in the big bad ass 3T MRI machine. Couldn't get it past my elbows without crushing me. Double damn! So I went to lunch since my neurologist's office was out to lunch and couldn't offer me any direction. I finally got a hold of them on my way home. Wait! Stop! Turn around! They wrote my cell phone number down wrong and had been calling the wrong number. At this point I'm having my doubts about this group. I like the doctor, not sure about the support staff. The scheduling dude, Clayton, tells me they rescheduled me for 3:30 at a different hospital for a CT scan of your carotids. Remember what I said about how important that 3T MRI was? Remember that CT scan was not given as an alternate? Dr. Baugh spent ten minutes ranting on that point. Does this sound right to you? Didn't to me either but Clayton insisted. Of course when I presses he never said this was the doctor's decision, he said and I quote, "well I guess the doctor is just going to have to get what he can get." Hmmm, don't feel right to me ma. I really pissed him off when I called to double check again from the radiology exam room.

The CT scan (technically a CTA) went smoothly. They had to do some blood work ahead of time which caused a delay, but I had gotten there early since I had nowhere else to go. This scan involved a contrast dye none of my previous ones did. Boy is that a weird feeling flowing through you. I was done by 4:00.

The next day I had the ECG and bubble echo. Nothing to report there. That visit went smooth as silk. It was neat to watch the ultrasound. He couldn't tell me if my heart was a boy or a girl. I had heard that the bubbles would be neat but I didn't see anything.

My ECG was fine and the radiologist said everything on first exam looked good on the echo, no leaks, holes or pooled blood. I haven't heard back on the CT scan but they haven't called me saying I'm dying. I did call them saying I didn't want to worry over the next month until my followup appointment. They said they wouldn't call if everything looked good. They didn't call back today so I guess it's good.

So it seems like we didn't have any answers for the numbness or a definite reason for the headaches but we've at least proven I have a healthy heart. Whew! Good to know.

So that's where I've been and why I haven't had any posts in a while. Needless to say I haven't done any cooking in that time until today. But after that lengthy of a post, maybe I'll save today's cooking until tomorrow.


ericpalmer said...

Dang man thats some crazy stuff. Glad to hear tyhe hearts good though.

Two things- what kind of food do you cook? I've taken up cooking lately-mainly italian stuff. And I saw that you like fantasy sports, I just started a fantasy blog about a week ago and I'm trying to get a following on it. Check it out if you're interested.

Candice-Leigh Baumgardner said...

Hi AJ:

Ever heard of an open MRI? It allows you to take your MRI standing or sitting, and there's no tube for you to fit into. I wonder if there's one in your area. It might allow you to get the test you need.

I agree that the MRI seems to be critical. Keep being proactive - keep calling your doctors! You have to be your own advocate because no one else sees the big picture like you do. Listen to your body and don't stop until you get answers that feel right to you.

Take care and keep me posted.


Huff Daddy said...

Hi Eric, thanks for stopping in. I cook anything and everything. Surf through here and you can see some of the dishes I made, normally with a recipe attached. I've done some Italian but I admit it is my least favorite. I'll be sure to check out your blog. I'm currently struggling in second place in my fantasy hockey league with not that many games left in the season. I'm so close!

Huff Daddy said...

Hey Candice-Leigh, thanks for reading! Yep I know about the open MRI but it is half the strength of the machine they wanted to use so that's why they went with the CTA. Actually I secretly hope the doc blows a gaskets when he sees the different test and I can tell him "hey, your guy said YOU made the change!"
Don't worry, I haven't given up on follow up yet. I saw my regular doctor afterwards and will again in two weeks and she is doing all of the coordinating.

Brook said...

Drama! Living it loving it-not! macular migraines-interesting as I suffer from that little phenomena myself though I do have traditional migraines so...I am glad that you have gotten plenty of good news, and I hope the source of your headaches can be discovered and that it is a simple thing. I agree with the being your own advocate-no one-except Dinah of course-cares as much about your well being as you do. I love the pics of Rose you have been posting. I have never had any of the tests you described and honestly never want them either. I spent enough time in metal feed troughs, almost empty grain silos and big water troughs as a kid to know what that MRI must have been like. Keep on keeping on my friend! Oh and YAY for the coffee shop!

Brook said...

Ocular not macular!

Huff Daddy said...

Well let's hope you get some answers from your doctor tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you don't have enough White Castle in your diet ?

I've only had one migraine (I assume that's what it was) in my life - about 15 years ago. It was the worst thing I've ever experienced for about 30 minutes.

It may have had something to do with my alcohol intake at the time, but that's another story.

Huff Daddy said...

No, not enough White Castles, which sucks. I bet the closest one is in Ohio. I can't even try to substitute a Krystal as we don't have any of those either. It's a bummer.