Monday, October 4, 2010

"Listen to your hear it's not all in your head."

Well one minute I'm sitting in the doctor's office the next I'm making an appointment for heart surgery the next day, wow talk about fast. How did it all come to this and why, well let's talk.
 It all started in my head. Since I was a small child as young as maybe four years old I can remember having migraine headaches. I would get so ill from them I would have to go in a dark room with no noise and lay down, sometimes it would get so bad that I would vomit. As I got older the headaches seemed to get more severe. I learned to manage the migraines with early detection, my eyes would start to see flashing lights and I would run for the aspirin and a quiet place. I also found that after a hard workout or long hard hike, anything really that got my blood pumping, I ran the chance of getting a migraine, not every time maybe three out of five times.
 So for the last 41 years it has been something that I have learned to live with, learned to accept. I wasn't until this last year that something new started. In January of 2010, I started having small bits of memory loss. Maybe it was even before then, I don't remember.(ha ha) But on top of the noticeable memory loss I was having headaches everyday, and migraines about three times a week. I examined my life, trying to figure out what had changed and came up with nothing major at the time. Things had seemed to have calmed down compared to the previous two years, so what was it?

In April I couldn't take it anymore. I left work one day and could not go back. In addition to the headaches and memory loss I couldn't stay on task, I was having bouts of confusion, not even able to remember the simplest of things like my birth date or phone number. I was a mess at work. I couldn't do my job without worrying and that only made the headaches and migraines worse. I had to go on short-term disability, fortunately for me I have a great employer and wonderful benefits.
 So started the trip after trip to the family doctor in order to get a handle on the problem. It seemed like all the doctors wanted to do was throw one drug after another at me for migraines. None of them worked, and they all had terrible side effects. So if the migraines didn't get me the medication side effects would. After three months of medications I noticed that my right arm was starting to go numb. I was dropping things and every time I had a migraine it felt like the right side of my face was having paralysis; I couldn't move it very well and the right side of my body also felt weak. Again, more pills and now a sleep test to see if I had a sleep disorder. Well again the pills did not work and the sleep test came back normal.

 At this point the doctor is scratching his head. He will not and can not release me for work. But now disability is no longer willing to pay because people live with migraines everyday and that is not a disability. I'm stuck is what I am. So I ask to see a neurologist, something is wrong with me this is not all in my head, I am not making this up. I do not want to live this way. If I had my choice I would much rather not have headaches five days a week and two or three migraines a week as well as the confusion and memory loss. I would much rather enjoy my grandchild and my life, be healthy and happy and not a burden. So on to the neurologist I went. The first one was a ding-bat, she didn't even look at my medical history. She gave me a balance test, pushed sleeping pills at me and told me to come back in three months. Next!! Don't give up this is your body your health. The next neurologist ordered another sleep test because she looked at my medical history and found problems with my first sleep test. She found that the prior tech hand read the test wrong and it needed to be redone. She also asked me if I had ever been tested for a PFO (patent foramen ovale). What is this disorder you may ask yourself? Well here it is, straight from the medical flyer provided to me from Intermountain Healthcare.

PFO: Fetuses in the womb have a normal opening between the heart's upper chambers. This opening usually closes soon after birth. But for about 1 in 5 people, it doesn't close completely. A PFO allows tiny amounts of oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-poor blood to mix, almost like a "leaky tunnel" between the two heart chambers. For many patients, a PFO does not cause significant health problems, but in some patients a PFO can increase the risk of stroke.

So, on Thursday I went to the medical center for my bubble test, it is to see if there is air leaking from one side of my heart to the other, if there is then I have a PFO. They put some dye and bubbles in my veins and watch them move around on ultrasound imaging. The severity of the PFO, if you have one is based on a scale from 1 to 5 resting(5 being the worse)and 1 to 5 active. Well after a battery of test it came back that I have a 5+ resting and I was off the charts active. It was a big hole, about the the size of a quarter. Wow, I knew I was not crazy, I knew there was something wrong, I was not faking it or making it up. In laymen terms my good blood was getting mixed with my bad blood and little clots were getting through without being filtered out though my lungs first. These small clots were giving me migraines and causing mini-strokes in my brain. That explains the memory loss and confusion, as well as the loss of feeling in my right side.  I was a ticking time bomb, just waiting for a stroke to go off. I was in the doc's office on Thursday, in the hospital for surgery on Friday, spent one night, and home on Saturday. That's right Heart surgery in a day, you got to love modern medicine.

So listen to your heart, it's not all in your head, and don't give up, your not crazy!!!

1 comment:

Barbara German said...

Wow, Debbie! What a story! I'm glad you were persistant and thank goodness for modern medicine. Get better soon....I love your attitude and your work. I'm going to be following you. Take care!

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