Something Happened!

(No, not the Joseph Heller book, but you should read it)

You will notice, or perhaps not, that I have been away for a while. There is a reason for this. Two, actually. First is, I have finally received serious treatment for my Trigeminal Neuralgia and yes, it appears to have been successful. The treatment thus imposed is called a Micro Vascular Decompression, in which the skull is opened and padding is placed between the trigeminal nerve and nearby blood vessels which are annoying said nerve. This involves a complicated bit of surgery, which, as noted, was successful, and I have not had TN pain since November 10. Blessed relief!

What’s that? Side effects, did you say? Well, they are legion: stroke, seizures, venous sinus occlusion, swelling of the brain, and CSF leak…hearing loss, double vision, facial numbness or paralysis, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and unsteady gait. 

So guess which one of these yours truly was afflicted with? Well, several, actually, but most of them were (or are) minor and endurable. The one that made the biggest impact though…

Let me describe what happened. I had the MVD on Monday, November 13. I spent a couple of days in neuro ICU at Vanderbilt, got transferred to a regular room for one night, and then home the next day. Silly me, I thought that was the end of it. I was out and about, walking, doing fine, even had much of my strength back. Things were looking good. I might even get to go back to work sooner than expected and spend the remainder of the holiday season pretty much as normal.

But of course it was not to be thus. Sunday afternoon I was sitting at home, enjoying the last night’s Predators game and occasionally checking up on the last NASCAR race of the year. It was a fairly quiet day and I was enjoying it. At a certain point I decided I would enjoy it more with a glass of milk, so I got up to head to the kitchen.

Or at least I tried. My body did not obey the commands my brain was sending.

Being the stubborn sort, I kept trying. Eventually I staggered to my feet and somehow made it part way across the room before collapsing on the sofa.

Shell came in a few minutes later and saw me on the sofa. She asked me something, I can’t remember what. Perhaps, how did you get over there? or maybe, what was that noise? I replied, I suppose, something unintelligible. I couldn’t speak. Or at least, not well enough to be understood. It felt like the right side of my mouth was melting.

Bless her heart, she reacted as a loving wife should. She hollered for our son, told him I was having a stroke, and insisted on carrying me to the nearest emergency room. A couple of hours later I was back at Vanderbilt, and a few days later I was back at home, not quite so cavalier about the time spent horizontal. Stroke is a nasty business, and I was informed by the folks there that this had been a near thing; the clot that had caused all the trouble was large enough and located in a tender enough location that it could have either killed me or rendered me helpless for the rest of my life.

So. Something happened, all right. Now then…what caused it?

Could be the MVD. Could be…except that the stroke happened on the other side. Hard to say. Could be that my persistent atrial fibrillation finally caused a clot that resulted in the stroke, as they are wont to do. Could just be fate. In any event, I am now on blood thinners which I will probably remain on the rest of my life.

Weeks later I am back at work. I am still very weak, all things considered. Back to zero on the personal odometer. I am having to rebuild myself, make myself better than I was before. Better…stronger…faster…or not. I’d settle for “capable”.

Anyway. That’s what happened. Back to your regularly scheduled real life…


Bubbles on the brain

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve been able to add to this blog. Please, allow me to explain.

It goes back to a previous missive of mine, explaining something called trigeminal neuralgia, and how I came to learn I had been afflicted thus. There’s actually more to the story, and I will take some time now to elucidate. You see, in the process of obtaining the diagnosis I had many, many tests. Among them were a CAT scan (no cats found, sadly), and MRI, and lo, many blood tests. Many, many blood tests. A lot of things can cause TN, it seems, so we rule things out.

As it happens, the MRI caught it. But the blood tests caught something else. Something with the catchy name of Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance, or MGUS. Which meant trips to a hematologist. Otherwise known as an oncologist, otherwise known as the Doctor Whose Name Shall Not Be Said. Actually he’s a very nice man named Habib Doss, and if I were to contract cancer, he’d be the guy I’d want treating it. More tests, including a twenty four hour urine collection. Wow. Anyway, the upshot is that it appears I do not have cancer yet, but I will have to be monitored for it, probably for years, possibly the rest of my life. Anyway.

But, to the bubbles. The MRI found…

…wait for it…


Not one, or even two, but three! Three wonderful aneurysms! (in the voice of the Count, of course.)

Aneurysms. Bubbles on the brain, basically. My neurosurgeon said, hmmm, better have a look at this. Aneurysms can mean instant death. Yikes.

Now, it’s true that I am well aware that life is at best fleeting, and we are but transient presences on this planet. Still and all, I’d like to prolong that presence as long as possible. Another test then? Why not? An arteriogram of the brainpan this time for a better look. Meanwhile, I am dealing with the TN as best I can, which is not very well at all. The first med given made me feel like the walking dead. The second kept me awake at night and resulted in more soiled britches than I’d ordinarily care to admit, but being as I am all about honesty here, you are getting the straight scoop, and the Fruit of the Turds are very literally thus. I had too many pairs of skivvies anyway, right Shell?

The news from the arteriogram was not bad. Two of the “bubbles” were not so bad as to require treatment. The third…well…let’s try another med before we allow them to crack my skull open, hmmm? I have far too many medical bills I cannot pay.

Anyway. It’s racing season. The drivers and car owners are getting their mounts ready for the new year and the track folks are getting the new rules in place. And me? Well, I will hopefully be helming a new podcast, which will be the next thing I write about on this space. The Fruit Of My Loom, my son Preston, will hopefully be engineering this effort, and we may have a somewhat larger cast than last time too. And perhaps a sponsor to provide some updated equipment even. So, very soon I will be too busy to be sick…

What we live with (not to be confused with familial complaints, of which I have none)

Here’s how it all started. I think.

It was sometime in April, not long after a trip to Centennial Hospital to have my arrhythmia corrected (which it hopefully has been, but that’s another story.) I began to notice very sharp, stabbing, almost electrical pains in my face and mainly my teeth. It was like a really, really severe toothache, only it wasn’t confined to a single tooth; rather, it was first one tooth, then another. The next day, still another. At another time, it might feel like three or four involved at once.

It was frightening for a lot of reasons, and not just the pain. I can’t afford to spend any money on dental care. My heart and lungs have been the expensive things lately. They’re getting better–I hope–but I can’t afford to deal with a couple of thousand dollars worth of fang repair. So I went in to my usual biannual checkup/cleaning a few months later with some reservations.

The surprise was…no surprises. There was nothing wrong with my teeth. X-rays seemed to show this conclusively. I breathed a sigh of relief…kind of. You see, the pain had never gone away, and at times it was quite blinding.

It’s hard to explain this. A toothache, yes, that’s easy to quantify to anyone who’s ever had one. Or a migraine, or a cluster headache. Kidney stones, and God knows I’ve had my share of those. Or a broken tailbone. Yes, that too.

This…this is something different, and what was worse, it was something I couldn’t pin down.

Being the inquisitive sort, I began to do a little research on that Great Fount Of All Information, the Internet. It didn’t take long to find a few hints. But being rational, and having an appointment upcoming with the wonderful Dr. Anna I figured I would just lay everything out to her and see what she had to allow.

Dr. Anna is nothing if not thorough. She asked all of the questions and I gave all of the answers. She examined me every way she could and should, and she sent me to an ENT to rule out issues with my sinuses. I do have occasional issues with my sinuses. But the phrase that kept coming up is trigeminal neuralgia. This wonderful little condition comes with the humorous alternative moniker “suicide disease” because a) it’s so painful (it is) b) no one believes you have it (try and convince someone you’re in blinding pain for no really good reason!) and c) it’s rather difficult to treat, apparently. There are options, but none really offer complete relief, and there’s always the question of money, or lack thereof.

Anyway. My ENT visit was today. And Dr Roth, who is a very nice man, is sending me for a CT scan. More $$$, to be sure, which I am not keen on but I guess I have to do it, then a return visit next week. All the while I keep having to grin and bear it. Last night I shaved, brushed my teeth, and washed my face…and I cannot adequately describe the resulting pain.

No one will ever see these words, probably. But I will post it nonetheless, and continue to do so as this strange journey progresses. Mayhap as time goes on someone will get a little comfort from knowing they’re not alone.