Danger! Exploding Melon! Or A Day With Transient Global Amnesia
Just when I thought my life might be falling back into place … my melon exploded! It’s difficult to explain, it’s harder to accept … Transient Global Amnesia.
It seems I lost a day of my life. Not figuratively. Literally. It’s difficult for me to frame the story, because most of it has been pieced together through investigation and other people’s first hand accounts of the events. Watching all those episodes of “NYPD Blue”, “Law & Order”, and “Homicide: Life On The Street” may have paid off in some odd way … helping me cull information and try to make sense of what happened to me through an investigation of the facts.
Transient Global Amnesia (TGA). It’s the medical term for what I experienced Friday March 11, 2011. At some point after 3:00 PM my ability to create new memories ceased. Though I was able to walk, talk and see I was not able to remember that entire day. It was as if I was sleepwalking for a good part of the day. Even though I was conscious in the eyes of others, from my perspective there was nothingness. Quiet, painless, darkness. Nothing more. My brain just said “TMI” and flipped a switch and my brain turned off. Radio silence.
If you read all that … wow! Is your head ready to explode? Lot to take in? Lot to parse? More information than any one human should have to know? Sort of how I felt, probably before the “episode”, and most certainly after.
If not for eMails I sent out that day, my cellphone call log, or text messages in and out, I’d have no record of ANY events that took place on Friday March 11, 2011. I think I woke up. I think I had breakfast. There were dishes in the sink … but who knows.
|Woke up. Got out of bed. That’s just an assumption based on past history.
|I made and ate breakfast?
|Text message from my sister in NJ.
|Call from Dr Rosenfield to confirm my Monday appointment.
|Reply to my sister’s text message.
|Mom called me … 2 minute conversation.
|Chris eMails me his plans for the weekend.
|Sent myself a group of “notes” as a backup via eMail.
|Received an eMail from Seattle Short Sales asking for IRS 4506T form.
|Sent response to Seattle Short Sales asking for more info and the form.
|Googled for 1506T form, found it & downloaded it.
|Client called. I logged into her computer remotely and fixed some issue she was having.
|eMail Seattle Short Sales completed 4506T forms.
|eMail reply from Seattle Short Sales Re: My completed 4506T forms.
|Brenda posts a message to my Facebook wall. I get an eMail notification. I sort of remember that … but didn’t respond then because I was going to do it later.
|Text from Chris. (no response from me)
|Chris sent same text again. (no response from me)
Looking at the list of events, it seems I was “fully functional” between 8:00AM and 4:00 PM. But it’s the time between 4:00 PM and 9:00 PM that are a total mystery.
At 9:00 PM I called my ex Chris who was two hours north in Bellingham, WA. From what I’ve been told by Chris, I called him and told him I didn’t know where I was, what day it was, that I was afraid, and that something was really really wrong. I sensed that much. He immediately called my best Friend Amy and conference called us together. Then Chris dropped off the line and called our friend and neighbor Harriet. Once Harriet was on her way to me, Chris left Bellingham to drive to the emergency room. Amy stayed on the line until Harriet showed up. At which time Amy left her home to come to my place. Harriet rang the condo doorbell and I walked down the stairs to answer the door. I opened the door, recognized Harriet and she came in.
Once upstairs she started asking me questions. I kept asking her over and over again, “How did you get here?” To which she answered, “Chris called me.” This is one of many questions that were asked and answered over and over again. It’s part of what told Harriet something was seriously wrong with me and to call 911. Harriet came down so quickly from her condo “up the hill” from us, that she was still in her pajamas.
Just as the medics were taking me out the door (on a stretcher?) Amy pulled up. Harriet stayed behind to feed the cats, seems I forgot to do their usual evening feeding, which I do around 5:00-6:00 PM every day. Oops! Sorry Rocky, Rosie, and Angel! Amy followed the ambulance to the UW Medical NW Hospital emergency room. Harriet then went home to change into her clothes, and soon after came to the emergency room, which is only five minutes from the condo. Being Harriet has a medical background, it was a good thing she was there from the beginning to “document” what was “different” about me to the med staff in the ER. She also knew a little about my history too.
Once at the ER the “fun” began. I’m told I asked the same questions over & over & over again. What day is this? How did I get here? I’m hungry! There were others but those were the big ones. At one point Harriet wrote “Friday” on a sheet of paper in BIG letters and put it on a clip board. So every time I asked what day it was they just held up the sign. As a patient no one in the ER had ever seen a case of Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) ever. Rather dubious honor indeed. So doctors, and staff marveled at me as I asked the same questions over & over, in the same tone, with the same delivery, every time. Again … all this recounting is culled from those who were there and has percolated through my still fuzzy brain all week. The ER staff also marveled at how tough my skin was. I was told that the staff bent needles trying to get IV’s in me. Nice! A physical manifestation of how I’ve had to live my life? It’s all one big mystery.
Harriet told me that every time they’d asked me my birthday, I’d tell them 1/20/57. And every time they asked me how old I was I’d say “Do the math!” Every time! When they asked me what day it was, I didn’t know, nor the month. But I did know who was president of the US … the Obaminator!
The hardest thing for me to wrap my brain around since my episode of TGA is the concept of consciousness. During the time I could not form new memories, I saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing, though I walked, talked, heard and saw what was going on around me in everyone else’s eyes. So was I truly conscious? I still say that I didn’t “wake up” until somewhere around 11:30 PM or there about. Each time I would open my eyes I’d see myself in a hospital bed, with medical staff whirring around me and tubes and wires attached to various parts of my body. And as I looked over to the left of my bed I saw Chris, Harriet, and Amy. At that moment I was starting to form new memories again. I even remember one of the ER staff saying that. Of course as I was able to form new memories I asked fewer of the SAME questions. Though the last time I had to ask what day it was I finally remembered seeing the sign “Friday” that Harriet had made.
As I was now “awake” and forming new memories, I was told what was going on. That I had an episode of TGA, they explained what TGA was, and how I got to the hospital. I was also told that while there, I was stuck poked, prodded, questioned, had a CT scan of my mellon, blood tests, etc etc etc. None of which I remember … even now. So from 4:00-ish PM to 11:30-ish PM is a total mystery to me. What I did, where I went, what happened just a big question mark. A hole in my space time continuum. Once I did “wake up” and I was making new memories, both Harriet and Amy decided they could leave and Chris stayed with me until they released me at 3:00 AM or so.
On the way home Chris stopped at Safeway and bought some peanut butter, jelly and bread, and made me a PBJ and a glass of milk so I could take care of the “I’m really hungry!” It felt strange and good to be back home. I hugged the cats an awful lot. Somewhere around 4:00-4:30 Am I went to bed. No sleeping pill needed. Head hits pillow and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I’ve been sleeping on the couch since my left shoulder surgery months ago. But the cats didn’t let me sleep long. Around 7:00-ish they were stirring. I got up, fed them, then tried to go back to sleep, with not much success. So I got up at 8:00 AM. Fuck! Made breakfast for myself too. Around 9:00 or 10:00 AM the hospital called and wanted me back in for more tests. They didn’t like that my hemoglobin levels were so high, and the neurologist now wanted an MRI/MRA.
Around 11:00-ish were back at the hospital emergency room. The short version … more blood drawn, a shunt for contrast dye put in my arm, and the MRI were all done. We were there another 7 hours … more or less. The end result. Nothing. No stroke, no blown blood vessels, nothing! On one level … that’s good. On another … WTF??!!??!! So back home it was. The only thing was my blood pressure was still high, so they gave me Benzapril for that. One tab, once a day for the next month, and see where we are.
It’s been a week and a day since it all happened. I’ve relived it every time I’ve talked to someone. I’M FUCKING TIRED! With reason I guess. Saw my primary and had him give me my testosterone shot so I wasn’t also “coming down” from not having received it on Monday. Also saw the neurologist (Dr Gordon) on Thursday. He was pissed that they let me go from the ER on Friday. He’s actually launching an investigation why they did. In talking to me he doesn’t see anything wrong with any of the tests that were done. Though he sent me for an EEG. Did that yesterday. Waiting on results now. He also want me to go for a spinal tap to be certain my Sarcoid hasn’t involved my nervous system. He’s consulting with my pulmonologist and Sarcoid specialist Dr Raghu before I get tapped. Yippee fucking Skippy! And the beat goes on!
Okay … I”m done. For now. Even writing this is draining. Maybe I’ll write more to keep folks informed in another post at a later date. But this was way too draining and took me a week to complete. But if you read to the last word … WOW! Thanks! You do care! : )
To wrap it up … Joe’s okay. Or as okay as I can be after having gone through something so traumatic. Thanks to all my friends and family for their love, kind words, and support … and especially to Chris, Harriet, and Amy for all they did. I love you all! Thank you.