We were not far from home when the driver was obviously fishing for the lane lines, weaving slightly left and then right. You could feel the car in tentative mode–just not sure where it was supposed to point. “What’s going on,” I queried, “are you having a problem?”
He looked my way, and drew in a breath, “All of a sudden I have tunnel vision,” he replied a little shaky. “I’m trying to get us off the road.”
“Well, pull over and I’ll drive!” My directive sounded a little scared, even to my ears. I had grabbed the arm rest, and white-knuckled, wasn’t feeling very secure.
“I would if I could see my way to do that!” His voice was anxious now, too, as we were approaching our right turn. Fortunately, we had no oncoming and no one behind us, as he took the turn very wide, slowly crossing lines.
As I verbally directed him to the entry of a bank parking lot, I asked again, “What’s happening? Are you sick?” He pulled the car to a safe stop and breathed a sigh of relief at the same time as I. “I think I have a migraine coming on,” he ventured. He’d had them before, but usually had some small warning that gave him enough time to grab his migraine meds.
We got my husband safely into the house and he swallowed his Excedrine Migraine tablet and went to bed. I kept the house quiet and dark. That was usually the end of it. This time it wasn’t.
The next morning he woke sick and barely made it to the bathroom. Trying again to get another tablet down was no use. It came back up as fast as it went down. There were a couple times when he managed to make it back to the bed, but any entreaty to seek help was met with, “It’s just a migraine!” It wasn’t.
My son and I decided if he wasn’t a little better by Monday, he was going to the ER, whether or not he thought it “just a migraine.” He did sleep most of the night, and next day though weak and dehydrated, seemed a little better. He even mentioned his eyesight was a little better. It wasn’t.
Tuesday, after confessing he still had problems with his eyesight and a residual headache, his son bullied him into calling the VA. We are new to the area and he’d still not established himself at the local Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic of Crown Point, but had finally made an appointment for March 2nd. He called them, but after hearing his symptoms, Vicki told him to drive to the Chicago VA Hospital immediately. Well, as you know, there was a problem with that! No way on God’s green earth would I tackle Chicago traffic. “Go to your nearest ER then,” she directed. We did.
We were registered at the ER by noon. Over nine hours later and following a CT scan, which gave no definitive answers, he was admitted after 9 pm. What followed was a week of tests; the first of which was an MRI that showed “acute infarct in the right occipital lobe and acute lacunar infarct in the left. Stroke–two sites.
Many more tests and a parade of doctors later:
- UTI’s – no infection any time
- TEE – horribly invasive tube down the wind pipe to observe the back of his heart. Findings: PFO, embolic stroke. Side effects: Extremely sore throat, nagging cough, choking, spiking temp. Source of temperature, unknown.
- Xray – Pneumonia, started on antibiotics. Upon further assessment, decided not pneumonia, but continued antibiotics for transient fevers.
- Repeat MRI to compare to initial MRI.
- Ultrasound of carotids
In the meantime, heart monitor, vitals, and notifications of next test, and/or (finally) results of last test. The heart monitor sounded off several times when his blood pressure fell below 50.
Cardiologist, neurologist, infectious disease, and associated doctors, assessed possible pace maker (nope) and lumbar puncture (nope!).
With the exception of one nurse, all were sympathetic, kind, and patient. He has now been put on medications including, Lipitor, Plavix*, blood pressure meds, aspirin. (Plavix produces an unkind side effect–back ache.) *VA dumped for another blood clot med.
Found to be diabetic, he was also given MetFormin and insulin, but prescribed Januvia* which I found out ran $432 for a 30 day supply. He is now on a diabetic and cardiac diet, low sugar, low salt, low carbs. *VA dumped Januvia for MetFormin.
Life can change in a second. I’ve alluded before about my mother noting our being in the “youth of old age.” Maybe this means we’ve graduated. ©2017 Virginia Williams