Friday, February 03, 2006

so way back when

The first event that lead to my adventures:
A few years back I got a headache. I am not one to ever get them. Because I am a nurse we cannot resist self care. We don't go to the doctor and we self medicate with over the counter meds. So, I went to the drugstore and bought some Advil. Took a couple and went to bed.When I woke up many hours later I couldn't move my arm for a few hours and when I finally could it hurt,very badly.
Ofcourse I thought I had had a stroke.
Common warning signs of stroke are the worst headache you have ever had,dizziness,slurred speech and numbness or paralysis ...this numbness can be really obvious like can't feel your arm or leg or when you look in the mirror and smile one side of your mouth won't will droop. So,despite the fact I had only one or two of the list I went to the doctor. Even nurses don't want to be that guy ,the one who sits home drowning in denial. The doctor reacted just like most would.
He laughed and thought I was being silly.
Doctors can be the biggest barricade to good health care in the system. Some have become too cynical or worse they are uneducated.In my case he got stuck on the age thing refusing to believe someone my age could be at risk for a stroke despite knowing I smoked with a positive family history of heart disease and diabetes.
I was scared and my fear was at first a great motivator and I demanded a CT scan. CT scans differ from an MRI. CT will show bones and some soft tissue. MRI will show all that and more.
I went for my CT . It was a pleasant experience,very fast and happily the scanner is open so no claustrophobia.
As can sometimes happen the CT scan was not definitive. I had to go for an MRI.
MRI machines are small, cramped and closed. The procedure itself is painless unless you require a contrast medium, then you will need an IV. If you know which arm is a "good one" for IV's/blood let the nurse know right away. Why get poked more than you need to? I hated it but I survived with my sanity intact .
If you are claustrophobic ask your doctor for sedation. You must stay impossibly still during an MRI so choose the sedation option if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of it.
Keep your eyes closed in the MRI. Some have headphones with music but it made me feel worse. It may have been because the music choices were severely limited , Britney Spears for an hour? I believe that is cruel and unusual.
I used my favorite book plot and made it into a movie,casting all my favorite actors to keep my mind occupied. MRI can last quite awhile, sometimes more than an hour so be prepared.
My MRI was negative but my arm still hurt so I was asked to have an EMG. This is an exam that tests how well your nerves work. Unfortunately it hurts. There are two parts, the first is the use of tiny shocks, not too bad really despite how it sounds. the second part requires the insertion of needles into the muscle and then shocks..yes,this hurts,way more than is necessary.
I would advise anyone to skip this part(check with your doctor) as it is barbaric and honestly? The data received may not be that valuable.
EMG is used to rule out (or in) carpal tunnel syndrome and any other nerve conduction problem.
I had no diagnosis as all my tests at this point were negative. I refused any more invasive painful procedures so I went the anti-inflammatory route and three months later got better.

I made a number of mistakes during this time that lead to halfassed medical care. First I didn't request a specialist. I stayed with the doctor who felt I was overreacting way,way too long.
Second I gave up.
I got scared of the tests and instead of asking for pain medication or sedation I found a patch of sand and shoved my head all the way in.
Because my symptoms were serious I should have taken them seriously...I didn't.
To this day I have no idea what happened but I should have had blood flow studies done of my neck and brain to rule out TIA, the dreaded mini stroke that is a warning sign of a large stroke to come.
Anytime you have signs or symptoms of stroke demand the MRI immediately and then move quickly to the blood flow studies. Ask all about pain,discomfort, ask how damn scary is this test going to be so you will be ready for anything. Don't put your head in the sand. If your doctor doesn't take you seriously find out why. Don't be afraid to demand a second opinion.
There are two kinds of stroke, hemorrhagic and ischemic. The first is bleeding into the brain and the second is a clot that cuts off blood and oxygen to the brain. If you can get to a hospital within the first four hours of an ischemic stroke you can be given a "clot buster" that could not only save your life but your quality of life. It could return mobility and speech.
Actively bleeding into your brain may require surgery to stop the bleeding and remove the clotted blood to decrease the pressure on your brain. If stroke is caught swiftly it can be treated.

To this day I wonder if had I been treated better would the resulting cascade of medical errors have happened?


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