Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part V: Moving On

The next day in the hospital would test me a great deal. I’m not just being figurative here. There were more blood tests. An occupational therapist got me up and walking. She was nice enough. She walked me around the ward. She even had me walk up and down one flight of stairs. Toward the end of my walk, my legs started to feel a little rubbery. That was not a feeling I was expecting. Fortunately, it was not a far walk back to my room. By the time I got back to bed, I had an awful headache.

My wife, Renee, showed up and was waiting for me when I got back from my walk. The nurse got me something for my headache. Renee, however, brought something from the house that I REALLY needed: my clown nose. I had become obsessed with clowning recently. I had even dressed as a clown for my son’s Halloween wedding.  I was REALLY happy to see that nose.

Later that day, a technician came in to perform an echocardiogram. In short, they use sound waves to take pictures of the chambers of my heart. They were ruling out cardiac damage that could have contributed to the symptoms I had the morning before. I turned my head to my right so the technician could get a better position for the test. When she wasn’t looking, I out on my clown nose. I turned my head as she was wrapping up the test. When the technician saw my nose, she started giggling.Man, I really needed that nose.

The next day, a doctor came in to review all my findings and prepare me for discharge. All of the tests came up negative for any damage to my heart or my brain. Once again, I put my clown nose on while the doctor was talking to me. It really helped to break the tension. In short, the doctor told me that there was no “smoking gun” to explain why I experienced the symptoms I had that morning. He also told me that just because there was no smoking gun did not mean that a bullet didn’t come flying through my house that morning. That actually made me feel better. It assured me that what happened that morning was real and no one (including myself) was over-reacting to what happened. Actually, my wife and daughter probably prevented a much worse situation by reacting so quickly.

I left the hospital on that day.The doctor gave me orders to wait a week before returning to work. Physical issues aside, I was relieved to have that time to try and process what happened to me. As it turns out, there were other things that required adjustment. My diagnosis – I had a TIA. That stands for transient ischemic attack. In short, I had a brief, mild intermittent stroke. Those were two words right there that would pop into my head every single day: TIA and stroke. When I had my first follow up at the stroke clinic (there’s that word again), the doctor threw another one at me. He said I had a “left hemispheric event”. George Carlin was right. The more syllables you use, the less serious it seems.

The week I spent at home was also an adjustment in other ways. On the third day, I thought I would try to run a personal errand at a  nearby store. Somewhere around aisle six, my legs got that rubbery feeling again. I decided not to push my luck and go home. When I got home, my wife and daughter both told me I was not happy for “sneaking out” by myself. They were right. I had snuck out and I was taking a foolish risk.

Over time, I would return to work. I would have follow up visits. I basically assimilated into my normal routine prior to my “left hemispheric event” (that just sounds funny when I say that). My follow up visits show that I am clean as a whistle (minus the need to drop some pounds). I still get the headaches. The doctor said those are quite normal given the experience. I have an implant in my chest that tracks my heart rhythm. I just received a report form my cardiologist that my heart rhythm is normal. I still hear the words TIA and stroke every single day. I have to be OK with that.

Simply put, I have to learn from my history, work to improve my health (lose the weight), and otherwise…just move on. I couldn’t control when it happened before. I can (and will) work to improve my health and reduce my chances of letting it happen again. Still, I can’t obsess over it too much. I will have some days where moving on will be easier than others. Still, moving slow is still moving forward.

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