My Stroke (Part III)


Cape Hatteras, N.C., 1978. While brooding over this water-damaged evocation of nostalgia (in the truest sense of the word), I couldn’t help but wonder — is being pigeon-toed a precursor to stroke? Below, left: Me, post-stroke, with son, Chris, in Coon Valley, Wisc.

On a balmy October day in 2010 about two weeks after I created a big commotion at the Bluebird Cafe during family brunch (as described in my previous post). Suzanne and I were gadding about in the Indiana Dunes. We had beheld Mt. Baldy, supposedly the largest dune east of the Mississippi, as well as hiked the mile-and-a-half West Beech trail. I can’t say that I found this activity particularly challenging, but I do recall  having to endure a persistent  sensation that wasn’t exactly a headache and wasn’t particularly pleasant. I would liken it to some sort of waking dream where reality is slightly heightened —  I don’t know, maybe like being trapped in a a photo realism world?

Anyway, when we got back to our B&B around 4:30, I announced that I was going to crash for a few minutes while Suzanne read out on the veranda.  Next thing I knew, Suzanne was jostling me awake, saying, “It’s almost seven! Aren’t you hungry?”

IMG_1286 (1)

In fact, I was starved. Acting on the recommendation of our host (“It’s the best-kept secret in all of Chester!” he proclaimed) we found ourselves at a bustling nearby seafood joint — live music and all.

So there I was, feeling content and rested, glad to be having some time alone with my wife. Indeed, it was all good until about midway through our meal when I reached for my glass of wine. What happened next was akin to some bizarre episode of deja vu. Just as at the Bluebird Cafe two months previously, my arm inexplicably swung across the table, sparing my entrée, but sending my side of mixed greens, along with the freshly replenished breadbasket, crashing to the floor.

“I’m starting to have a real problem with this,” I muttered to Suzanne. “Seriously, am I really to believe that this is diakaesis, or whatever the hell Dr. M calls it?”

“Demand that you see him!” was Suzanne’s immediate response. “And don’t settle for just the nurse.”

This was sound advice, given that his nurse had a phone voice, which, in my opinion, was deep, polished, ideal for the radio. Conversely, in Suzanne’s opinion, her phone voice was flirty.

After going a couple of rounds with said nurse, I wrangled an appointment to see the man himself about two weeks after my return from The Dunes.  “Must not be back from his golfing junket,” I recall Suzanne muttering. I had urged his nurse to insist that he order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, which to my totally untrained eye seemed superior to the CT (X-ray computed tomography)  scan as an imaging tool. ,

“I’ll certainly will ask him,” his nurse purred, “But I suspect he’ll want you to have a CT scan.”

Doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

“Dr. M has ordered a CT scan of your carotid artery and of your brain,” his nurse informed me the following day. “He feels that CT images do a better job of highlighting abnormalities, particularly in the carotid artery,” she explained.

Scan 2

More from the nostalgia bin: Suzanne and I in 1980 as struggling Northwestern University grad students in love. (Below) Suzanne in 1980 ready to take on the world


On the appointed day, Dr M reassured me that after a thorough review of the images ( from two days previously), he had found no evidence of a new event. “You’re a fascinating case,” he told me, flashing his Chesire smile. “You’re presenting with stroke-like symptoms in a manner wholly atypical of someone with your type of stroke.”

Dr M added that he even took the liberty of sharing my images via his secure line with several colleagues with particular expertise in interpreting radiological imagery. “Their consensus was absolutely no evidence of recent infarct or anything else that might be of concern to us.”

I should note that last April, back in the emergency room, Dr M told me that, if conditions warranted it, he would consider having a stent placed in my carotid artery to seal off blood flow to the area around the tear. He added that his radiological interventionist, Dr G, was one of the nation’s most esteemed .

Be that as it may, what I’ve cpme to learn about doctors is that, as a patient, you have approximately a four-second window of opportunity between their “wrap up” and handshake to press them on such ticklish topics as, “Can I get a second opinion?” or “Can you prescribe something for the pain?”

It should come as no surprise that Dr M didn’t roll that way.  His modus operandi was to run through the medical stuff and then kick back and shoot the breeze like a man without a care in the world, until some member of his entourage bursts into his office and says, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but Dr. M, your patient backlog has just passed the hour mark!”

I had decided that given the alarming frequency of “diakaesis, I must insist that he have the stent put in. Unfortunately, he made like the Mad Hatter and vamoosed before I could even open my mouth.

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