Holidays are such an exciting time of year. Families gather, friends drop by, everyone eats too much, and despite being serious grownups, we still hope Santa has something special in his bag for us. I must have been a very good boy this year, because Santa came through with some great stuff, like an amazing Apple iPad and a small, self contained fish tank to continue the hobby I’ve had since childhood.
There was one Holiday surprise, however, that was not only unexpected, but definitely unwelcomed. A few days before Christmas, I was in our kitchen having a pleasant conversation with our youngest daughter, Lee, who was visiting from NYC. I noticed I had a strange headache which came on very quickly, wrapped sharply around the entire head and, after a short while, completely vanished. Next, in the middle of the conversation, I suddenly began to slur my speech and lose the ability to articulate my words. In a few seconds, I had become basically unintelligible. No pain involved, just some vision disturbance (blurriness, difficulty focusing). This situation lasted for about twenty very anxious minutes until most of my speech returned and my vision cleared.
Fortunately it was a business day so everything was in place for my family doctor to order a CAT scan and carotid artery scan within a few hours of the event. Shortly after the tests, his office called to tell me the scans were both normal and I should see the doctor in a week. That visit was yesterday when the doctor revealed I probably had a TIA or mini-stroke. These TIA’s don’t always leave evidence behind so his opinion is based on an evaluation of the symptoms and experience with other patients.
If that diagnosis is correct, I believe this wasn’t my first TIA episode. About a week earlier we joined our friends for a few days at DisneyWorld. At breakfast the first morning I experienced the same type of sharp and sudden, whole-head pain with visual disturbance. My speech, however, was no worse than usual. That episode lasted about twenty minutes, as well.
My doctor said something yesterday that really surprised me. I assumed these TIAs were somehow related to my overall MSA condition. Not likely. In MSA, the brain sends out faulty signals causing problems with balance, speaking, swallowing etc. A TIA is most often caused by either a ruptured brain blood vessel, or a piece of plaque that has broken loose from a blood vessel wall. I fit in the second category. Thank goodness for small favors. Unfortunately, experience has shown that once TIAs start, they’re likely to continue, although it’s impossible to predict their severity. So, the New Year shapes up be more interesting than ever.
Speaking of the New Year – may 2011 bring health and happiness to you all.
Finally, I plan to keep this blog going for as long as I’m able or while I have something meaningful to say. Thanks very much for your interest, kind words, and prayers.