usingtherightwords

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Medical Terms I’ve Come to Know Personally


To my followers: I’m sorry I’ve been gone for more than a month. It wasn’t because of my not having anything to write about. It’s because I’ve been ill, and as a result, there are medical terms I’ve now come to know personally. These are below in bold type.

On July 6, I awoke, turned over in bed and immediately felt like the room was spinning. It felt like being on a playground merry-go-round that never stopped. And because it never stopped, the nausea I felt — and the vomiting that went with it — was as terrible as any nausea and vomiting I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t keep anything down, not that I was hungry. But anything I drank came up, and so did the bile.

The only time I didn’t feel sick was when I laid flat on my back, and that made any kind of moving nausea-inducing. I couldn’t get down the stairs to get to the car to go to the doctor without several times looking down into a bucket. I had to lay the passenger seat flat so I could lay flat while my wife drove me to the hospital.

At first, the general practitioner diagnosed my condition as benign paroxysmal positional vertigoa condition in which crystals (real name: calcified otoliths)  in the inner ear move, causing dizziness. These episodes typically last an hour, and since I was suffering for longer, the doctor put in for a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan and a magnetic resonance imaging test.

The CAT scan revealed nothing, but the MRI revealed a two-centimeter lesion in my cerebellum, the part of the brain that deals with balance. I was admitted to the hospital and stayed there for four days. In that time, I slowly learned how to live with my head spinning, which I experienced because my left eye was jumping in my head. I learned how to eat, drink and go to the bathroom while spinning. I took meclizine, which helped with the nausea. I could hardly read or watch TV, and when I read, I needed my reading glasses at all times instead of just early in the morning or late at night. When I watched TV, I needed my head to be pinned against a pillow. I likened it to an infant who can’t keep his head up.

Doctors gave me prednisone, a steroid that could speed up the healing (blood tests showed an elevated white-blood-cell count, so I was trying to heal myself). It has a side effect of elevating one’s blood sugar, so several times I was given insulin. I now know what a diabetic experiences.

Also in that time, the neurologist recommended I meet with a more specialized neurologist, one whose expertise was in multiple sclerosis. This was set for July 20th.

I wanted to stay in the hospital until the spinning stopped, but on the 10th, I came home still spinning. When I was able to read, I looked up MS and found it was a  demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain (the myelin sheaths) and spinal cord are damaged, probably because of the failure of the myelin-producing cells.

I was weeks away from my 49th birthday. All I cared about was how to get the spinning to stop. I’d deal with the diagnosis later.

On the 17th, I met with my general practitioner who recommended I try scopolamine, the drug people take by putting a patch behind their ear before going on a cruise ship, to combat the spinning. All that did was make me spin faster, so the doctor suggested lorazepam (better known as Ativan). This did nothing.

On the 20th, I met with the neurologist and learned I had clinically isolated syndrome and not MS because I had only one lesion, so it isn’t multiple. I joked that I had S and not MS. The neurologist explained that only 15 percent of people with CIS ever get MS. I’ll take those odds. He also said there would always be scarred brain tissue. My wife said she didn’t care because she couldn’t see it.

Over time, the spinning got slower and slower until on Aug. 4, the day before I was to leave for a vacation in Lake Tahoe, it finally stopped. I posted on Facebook, “Today, for the first time in about a month, I got off the merry-go-round.” I’m not sure everybody who responded or liked the post knew what I meant.

But it doesn’t matter. I’m home, the spinning has stopped, and I’m ready to resume life. I have a follow-up MRI on Sept. 21 to make sure no other lesions have appeared. So far, it doesn’t seem so.

My wife and I started watching “The West Wing” on Netflix. How coincidental that President Josiah Bartlet has MS.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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August 15, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Glad that your ordeal had passed. I’m sure the uncertainty about your diagnosis was every bit as frustrating as your symptoms.

    Comment by Joe Blachman | August 15, 2017 | Reply


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