Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Three thirty AM

So, it's early here at the hospital and the same holds true as when I gave birth. Despite being in a hospital where there are people taking care of you, you get no rest. I didn't get to bed until about 11:30pm and then I realized that my condition had changed a bit. More on that in a moment. So, I called the nurse who talked with me a bit, with the doctor and then with me again. So, bedtime around midnight. That wouldn't be so bad, except that I knew to expect a visit from the nurse again at 2am to check my vital signs - yes, I'm still alive; no need to double check. The nurse aide came in and wasn't the slightest bit quiet about it - have you ever had someone rip open velcro while you're sleeping? That was the sound that mostly woke me up - the velcro from the blood pressure cuff. I think I fell asleep for 20 minutes after that when noise from the staff room door opening and closing woke me up. I've been laying in bed for the past 45 minutes and just decided to get up. No point trying to fall asleep on two uncomfortable pillows and a bed that adjusts to each little movement.

So, what better activity to keep me busy than blogging... I'd be on Facebook but WakeMed has blocked Facebook (probably because it's listed as a "personal and dating" site).

I know how I ended up here but it seems like a good place to document it all while it's still fresh in my mind.

On Christmas afternoon I noticed I was experiencing a strange skin sensation in my right arm. This wasn't highly unusual as I've experienced this before. I had mentioned it to a doctor who said "I'm sure it's nothing." Ok. So, it's happened a few times that I can remember (although specific times / years / place of such episodes are lost to me) but I've started to worry about it a bit. Figured I'd call the doctor and look into it after the holidays.

Later that afternoon, I was walking down the stairs and felt as though my feet were very cold. I bent down to feel and they were warm, so I didn't rush up to grab some socks. First left leg incident.

Later that night as I was brushing my teeth, I noticed as I leaned against the counter that the cabinet door felt warm along my left thigh. I thought it was odd and even went so far as to feel the door. Not sure what I was expecting to find, but at least I investigated - could have been some spontaneous combustion of the hair dryer or flat iron.

A few moments later, while sitting on the toilet (at least I didn't say "the throne"!), it felt as though someone had been sitting on it and warmed it up, on the left side.

Then I jumped into bed between the nice cool sheets, only the left side felt as though Joe had been in bed warming it up - but he hadn't.

All of those things prompted me to call my regular doctor in the morning. I ran out to the appointment early in the morning and had blood drawn. The doctor's initial "diagnosis" (if you could call it that) was consider Vitamin B12 deficiency. He ordered bloodwork to test for that, Vit D deficiency and a few other normal blood panels. He also said that if the bloodwork showed nothing, he would refer me to a neurologist for further testing.

Over the weekend things stayed the same until I returned from a walk with Joe and Ava on Sunday afternoon. For some reason, I felt as though I was walking less gracefully than I normally do. I'm not clumsy but caught myself scuffing my feet as I walked several times. I thought it could be attributed to the fact that I was wearing different socks that made my feet slide in my shoes more. When I got home, something wasn't right and for some reason I checked my leg and felt that it was partially numb - not fully as I was still experiencing the weird warm sensation (most notably while sitting on the toilet seat).

We called our practitioner who suggested a trip to the ER for a CAT scan or MRI to rule out stroke or MS.

Arrived at the ER at 3pm. Left at 9pm.

What happened in the middle was a lot of waiting, a CAT scan (which ruled out signs of a stroke), a brief consult with the ER doctor and orders to call the neurologist in the morning to schedule an MRI - again, to rule out MS or other neurological conditions.

We were lucky to get into the neurologist Monday morning (instead of having to wait until January 15th, the next available slot), so packed up the baby and hauled ass (to put it mildly - I was nursing Ava when Joe told me of the appointment time and we had about 20 minutes to get ourselves ready). Of course, he told me the appointment was at 10:15 and only when we pulled into the parking lot did he confess to bumping the time up 15 minutes to ensure that we'd be there on time! What followed next was some waiting and some more waiting.

I feel like I've spent the better part of the past two days sitting and waiting. And all this while, the brain has lots of time to go a little nutty with things.

The neurologist was very good. He was thorough and well-spoken, a little shy and understanding of how I must be feeling. He did a long exam and during that exam discovered something I had not been aware of. Although the weird skin sensation on my arm had remained the same (and continues to remain unchanged), the weird temperature sensation on my left leg had progressed halfway up my back on the left side. I only knew this as he went across my body with what I describe a medical hammer (that's what it looked like, although there was no hammering). He would place the metal hammer on one side of my right leg and then move it to the same spot the left leg and ask if they felt the same. I would reply that it felt cold on the right, warm on the left. This continued at all points up my leg until he reached the spot on my back where I flinched quite hard. Suddenly the warm sensation had turned to pain and discomfort. He was calm when he said, "That really bothers you, doesn't it?" I don't think he was expecting that reaction from me; I certainly wasn't. As I was dressing, I realized the left side of my stomach felt the same way, so I him test it the same way. Same painful flinch.

The doctor left the room for a few minutes to make some notes and make some calls. When he returned, he said he wanted to run some further tests, including two MRIs (one of my cervical spine [neck] and one of the lower spine) and some sensory tests. He also threw out the words MS and other things such as compressed discs and tumor.

His nurse called over to the hospital and found that there was a bed available for me. Rather than have to go back and forth for a few days to get all of the tests done, we decided for me to check into the hospital and get them all done in one shot. Easier said than done, though. I got to the hospital around 2pm and didn't get the MRIs until 6:30pm. They did draw blood earlier in the afternoon but neither the results of that or the MRIs will be known until the morning. I probably could have gone home had I insisted, but I'm glad I didn't. As I was trying to fall asleep, I realized that my cold right foot was causing the same painful flinch on my left leg (until then it had only happened on my stomach and back area). So, something was moving down my leg. I notified the nurse and she spoke with the doctor. I guess for whatever reason my case is not considered an emergency of any kind as he only ordered more observation (this was a different neurologist than the one I'd seen earlier in the day).

So, now I approach 2009 with

-- a few things to scratch off my list of things to do in my life: get a CAT scan or MRI - check!

-- a few hours wasted sitting in waiting rooms and hospitals

-- the feeling of what it would be like to be trapped in a confined space and not be sure you could get out (I did ok for the first MRI - 20-30 minutes of the loud noises - but there was no rest time between the two. I was laying on my back, still as could be, and the tech told me I'd be moved further back into the chamber for the second MRI. There was no time to move around a little, sit up and stretch. I went from sitting really still to sitting really still, only the second time around I started to feel really warm and towards the end, became a little panicked. I managed to snap myself back to my mantra ["I am healthy. I am brave. I am strong."] but towards the end I started to have crazy thoughts about being abandoned in the chamber due to a fire emergency or having been forgotten about by the technician. I was more than a little glad to be out of the chamber when it was all done and hope to not have to experience that again any time soon.)

-- less sleep on my own without the baby (who would have thought that possible!)

-- and much uncertainty.

I don't know what the doctor will be telling me today. I'm scared of what he has to tell me. I'm also healthy, brave and strong and need to keep reminding myself that although I've never been faced with anything like this before, I come equipped with the strength to pull through. A friend of mine who survived breast cancer told me that I have "the strength of a thousand men in my body" - I'm calling on all of them to fight with me.


BrooklandJess said...

You do have all that strength and more besides. Doesn't all the waiting just sap your resolve and energy? Doing nothing is ten times harder than doing SOMETHING. Keep yourself involved in things, all kinds of things, to help keep the balance. I find learning the names and stories of the nurses has helped me in the past, esp since they make or break the experience in a hospital.

I too got to have an MRI (2X, neck/head) and the first time I had a full blown panic. Then I was peeved that the doc thought the Xray was more useful for diagnosing. Growl. The second time, I knew to ask for a little relaxant. If you ever have to have one again (hopefully not), ask if they have something. It didn't knock me out, but it just kept the panic at bay.

Thinking of you...

nikole said...

I am anxiously awaiting an update and keeping you in my every thought. You ARE healthy. You ARE brave. You ARE strong. Sending you some extra strength and good thoughts.