Thursday, March 6, 2014

Altered States

Looking back, the wiser woman...would've crapped her pants, called an ambulance and stayed put.

The weaker frame or more easily spooked character would've turned the car around before pulling into the L parking garage, gone home and called 911.

The less stubborn fool wouldn't have quadruple-visioned her way confusedly down a long escalator to weave around a slippery train platform awaiting the roaring rail thud, but the best Russian love stories end that way (see also: "Anna Karenina," by Leo Tolstoy).

The more intelligent individual would've sought medical attention last fall when she whacked her head against a wrought iron railing, gouging a 2" bloodied cut into the skull (I just cleaned it up, coagulated it and went to sleep). The more rational, non-Evel Knievel probably would've seen a doctor after slipping and falling back-of-the-head-first onto a solid block of ice in the alley 6 weeks ago. (Now that, friends, is a bitch of a headache.)

But I digress.

Last night was Ash Wednesday. I don't normally like to go to church alone, but Luke and my mother had their ashes dispensed earlier in the day, so I went alone. The closing hymn was "Abide With Me," the final verse above. It's a popular funeral hymn. I hastily exited the sanctuary, got in my car and bawled.

I had an in-class, open-book midterm in Multiculturalism last Thursday, for which I was as prepared as I ever am for any academic endeavor, given my MO is to pull up the boot straps and whip quasi-knowledge out of my gut. That usually works. The class started at 9am, and, as is typical, I planned to take a 6:45 am train downtown. Enough time to get settled, go to Argo Tea & get a raw bar (which, by the way, if you've never had one, tastes like sweetened tar) & a large black tea, stake my favorite seat, and prepare.

When I got up at approximately 5:30 am, I think the coffee had brewed, but I don't remember, but if it had, I'd have had a travel mug of it to go out front, where my chair is at present, to smoke my first cigarette of the day. Disoriented already, when I got up to ash the butt, I smushed into the neighbor across from our house's plastic-encased metal fence and sort of bounced back. The best way I can describe it is if one had taken an Ambien (sedative/hypnotic sleeping pill) and only sleeping for an hour, when I do take Ambien, but ironically hadn't Wednesday night, because I was already sleepy. My medication cocktail was no different or altered recently, and the only other sedative, Valium, I had taken one of at approximately 8pm the night before. Hardly, with my tolerance, to loop me out almost 12 hours later. It was like being totally fucked up drunk when you didn't drink a drop. I don't remember if I'd slept the whole night through or not. Normally, I wake up from arthritic knee pain (as of late tempered by a full body pillow--my God, how cozy and supportive! Who needs a snoring, restless man?).

I didn't shower that morning, I don't think so, too out of it, but brushed my teeth and threw a hat and sweats on. Loaded up my briefcase the night before, and driving to the L station was confusing. Yes, it was still dark out, and I have poor night driving vision, but I was behind a car which I'd hoped had a better grasp on where he was going than I did, so I followed. I parked the SUV like a douche, which I always do, and forgot the parking pay ticket in the cup holder in the garage. It's a jaunt from the garage to the station escalator, and I was stumbly.

Like I said, I teetered on the platform, other commuters parking their asses on the benches. I embarked the L train, which is only 2 stops from its originator, so it's pretty empty when I get on but holy Christ, it's SRO packed and panic-inducing by the time I get downtown. I get off at Washington, at Daley Plaza, and walk up the 2 flights of endless stairs to cross over to Dearborn to school. I clung to the handrail of the stairway; whereas, usually, I just trudge up there with no problem. I remember being very confused and altered. People downtown walk quickly, carelessly and like they're in a game of Frogger. Either that, or I walk slowly, steadily and like a normal person. In any case, Thursday, I was bumping into people left and right.

Once I walked into school, my coat unzipped, I told the security guard I'd forgotten my ID and needed a temporary sticker. I was told I was wearing my ID around my neck, though I have no memory of putting it on at home. I had to go onto the computer to remember my class schedule and in what room my class was held. Already in the room was my classmate, Caroline, and I explained that there was something terribly wrong with me. Thinking I'd feel better if I ate something, I gnawed the tar bar but proceeded to deteriorate. There were many things I wanted to say, but my speech was slurred so badly and I couldn't iterate what I wanted to say in my brain that Caroline realized something was very wrong. (This is not the first time I've had slurred speech. My less-than sympathetic mother notices and usually snaps a "What are you on?" or a "What's wrong with you?" when I'm not "on" anything, I'm sleepy, or just feeling out of it, which my psychiatrist doesn't think is very understanding of her, FYI.)

There was absolutely no way I could lucidly concentrate on the midterm. Once my professor arrived, I pulled her aside and briefly explained how I felt. She signed me in for attendance and sent me home with my midterm, to turn in once I felt *not* like I was dying. (Yeah, we're still working on that....)

Meandering home was no easier; in fact, it was more difficult. I'd lost the sensation on my left shoulder such that I couldn't keep my briefcase on my left shoulder (I'm a southpaw) and it wasn't that heavy--I didn't have my laptop with me. I did get a bench spot in the subway, where I waited a good 10 minutes (I think) for my train home. Once at the Cumberland station, I had to schlep to the car, get the pay ticket and go back down and up the stairs to pay. Normally, I don't touch the handrails of ANYTHING on public transport--I'm kind of a germ-a-phobe in that regard. But I was clenching for dear life. I had no business behind the wheel of a car but drove home in one piece.

My mom wasn't home, and I was just so dizzy, gait imbalanced and out of it, I laid on my bed and my whole body shook for at least an hour. Afterwards, the symptoms started to abate. I hesitated but eventually told my mother what happened, and paged my dopey-houred neurologist, who hasn't seen me for 2-3 years, when he was testing me for MS and did an MRI and a spinal tap. The MRI showed 2-3 areas of my brain which are getting no blood flow. At the time, he didn't do anything about it, because I wasn't impaired at all neurologically. I asked him if it was possible I'd had a TIA--a mini-stroke. He said going to the ER would've been a safe thing to do, but they'd just do a cat scan, which'd show him nothing. He didn't *think* I'd had a stroke but couldn't say over the phone, and told me to go to my PCP ASAP to get an MRI order and make an appointment to see him, the PCP visit Tuesday and MRI yesterday.

My neuro exam was overall normal apart from the fact that I see double when I look up both with and without my glasses on. My pulse was high. My pressure was low. Typical of my heart condition. The PCP and her med student honestly thought the symptoms were consistent with a TIA. That scared the shit out of me. So let's smoke more! What the hell?

Luckily, after taking off my jewelry apart from the head piercings that I was adamant weren't coming out (we've been down this road before, readers), which were taped down, and not taking off my rings, which I could feel vibrate, personally, I find MRI's quite entertaining. The beats--you have to listen to like a musician--and I told Steven they're perfect for what the Lips do. He thought it a shame I couldn't record it, but it would've been a strategic challenge to keep my phone on my lap during the test. The best way I could describe it--and while not claustrophobic but having panic/anxiety disorder, you pop a Valium, they plug your ears, and you just lie there for half an hour and pretend you're in our own personal, have-to-remain-still rave party. Metal in my head vibrating? Funky beats? Let's do this! It's SO FLAMING LIPS! How can people be annoyed with MRI's? Pussies.

Results will take 3-4 nervous days. Then I'll make the appointment to see the neurologist.  I'm bummed that I told Guy more than once today that I was scared and needed a hug, even if it was a stop by on his way home from work. I got some blahbety-blah about him still being at work and being late for a church meeting and he was sending a virtual hug. I was virtually nonplussed. Lest we forget as a Catholic, being Lent, he has to spend 22 hours a day conspiring to plot Catholic doohickeys on their cloistered chosen few blessed until their day of atonement for the next 40 days. I'm scared, I'm nervous, he said something about my neurotransmitters (which have to do with what and a stroke, Guy???) and I ignored his response and started crying again. Tonight, it wasn't worth the salt in my tears.

If it WAS a TIA, they resolve within 12-24 hours, but you're at risk for having a full-on stroke afterwards. Others have TIA after TIA and live to be 100. Who knows what's wrong, if anything. Maybe it's just THE IMMENSE AMOUNT OF STRESS I AM UNDER. At any rate, thanks to Pastor Dave for the actual hug AND the prayer last night, and I'm sorry I didn't say goodbye, but I was too funeral'd out after that last hymn to do much more than shake and cry.

Shame on those who dismiss what happened to me as being a petty episode. It scared me to near-death. You go through it, make it home alive and come talk to me about how you feel.  Thanks to all the friends far and wide who lent their prayers and well-wishes via social media, much appreciated.

Will keep y'all posted. Until then, totally invest in a full-body pillow and kick your man out of your bed. You'll be happy you did.


Very Moon said...

No men in my bed anymore, just a blonde girl. Sure she runs around on four legs and barks incessantly if you don't throw the ball or let her in after she shits in the yard, but nobody's perfect.

I've been worried about you, but sometimes I worry quietly, because otherwise I just add chaos, with the angst. Know I've been thinking of you lots. Honestly, you're one of the reasons I need to keep a live phone. (Anyone wanna donate to a starving artist fund? No?) I love talking to you. I like your virtual company. You can't have anything major wrong, because the universe can't be that cruel. You're like a sister to me. I tell you things I'd otherwise be terrified of being judged by anyone else for. You mean a lot to me, for having never been in your physical presence.

So no dying, damn it. Seriously. Yoga that shit if you have to.

Andrea Miklasz said...

You ARE my sister. Please find a way to keep the phone alive. The universe, God, couldn't be that cruel to separate us, by death or incapacity on my part. For never physically meeting, we're as close as people can get, methinks. I'd never dream of judging you or criticizing anything you do unless it's not in your best interest.

Girl, I've made a career out of trying not to die. Don't worry about me. Love you!

Andrea Miklasz said...

I talked to Pastor Dave on Saturday about the medical issues, and why I boogied out of church so swiftly after "Abide with Me," and he did admit it's a rather popular funeral hymn, so he totally understood why I didn't want to hang around and answer a lot of questions about the prayers for my medical testing. So we're cool. Still having brief periods of altered mental state and confusion. Which is great, seeing as I have a shitload of homework due this week, but that's what the ADA is for, so I'm not going to lose any (more) sleep over it.

Andrea Miklasz said...

One of my friend Bill Wyman's friends/followers proposes I may have suffered some type of post-concussive trauma that led to the episode, after having fallen on the ice, which is certainly possible. She didn't want to post it on a stranger's blog, but hey, everyone is welcome here.

BMF said...

Babe, you still don't have your test results and it's been a week? CALL TOMORROW. Sorry I've been out of touch--traveling. If you had a stroke, I'll have a stroke. I've read this entry multiple times, and can't believe how terrifying the whole ordeal must have been. And to hear you're still having symptoms really scares me. You truly are like a kitty with 9 lives, I think 8 of which you've used up. So be careful!!!!

I tell you, I'm not digging that woman's post-concussive line of thinking because that would lend itself to a brain bleed, which could manifest in so many ways.

Please, please go to the hospital next time (Which I hope there won't be)you get hurt.

Andrea Miklasz said...

My tests are back--the MRI is unchanged from 2 years ago (no blood flow wise in those 3 sections) and a mini-stroke doesn't show up on the MRI, but I had no bleeding in the brain from the falls. Only the neurologist can diagnose a TIA based on symptom description. My liver & kidneys are super, I'm not diabetic, but I do have hypothyroidism, which my mom and brother do too, as does literally everyone else in the family, so they're going to monitor that for another month and put me on medication if need be. Kate thinks that is where all the weight is coming from--and it's all in my core, and is probably water weight; which, if they get my thyroid straightened out, should come off quickly. I'm making the neuro appt on Monday and am anxious to hear his take on everything. So mostly good news. Mostly. Some not so good news. But I don't think I'm going to die. Which is good news.