Part One: The Attack of the Transient Ischemics
Called “mini-strokes,” TIAs occur when blood in the neck or head is blocked from reaching a portion of the brain. A TIA can affect several different functions, and with me it started with my speech, but on Monday I had a severe headache and my vision was affected, on Tuesday I had another episode with inability speak, on Wednesday my left hand and left side of my face and even tongue (Now that’s weird!) went numb, and by this time the doctors in Jos were insisting on an “emergency evacuation” to a hi tech hospital before I blew a major gasket. Everyone was now certain these were TIAs, and the stroke clock was ticking. The trusty American Heart Association warns us to treat suspected TIAs like stokes and that many people who get TIAs go on to have a major stroke within a year. So I was more than willing to get to a hospital with the most modern facilities. But where? Where would our brand new insurance company send me?
Buongiorno! On Wednesday I was told I’d be Medivacced (sp?) out of Africa to the Istituto Clinico Humanitas in romantic Milan Italy the next morning. Of course I'd rather go to Michigan, but Milan would do. I was ready. But the next morning came, then the day came--and went, and I was told the emergency would have to wait another day. Friday morning came and went, and finally around 1:00pm we got off the ground in our personal-sized jet. We were supposed to be in Milan around 6:00pm, but due to two refueling delays, we did not arrive until midnight. I had a great time onboard with the Kenyan medical staff and English pilots. Real characters. I kept telling them that, with all the delays, “It’s a good thing nobody’s sick.”
And really, I wasn’t. My symptoms had subsided, and with my recent back pain gone after two months of killing me, I felt better that I had in months. As soon as I got to the hospital, they drew blood and put me into a CT scan. They immediately determined there was “no current emergency” and at 1:30am I was wheel-chaired to my room. After a few hours of sleep, the tests continued—more BP, EKG, Dopler/vein artery test, then I met the head of the department, watched the Olympics in Italian, and rejoiced at 2:00pm as my lovely wife appeared at my doorway. And joy of joys, the hospital staff said she could stay with me while I’m here. Conjugal visits! Finally, to top off our first day, a little later we met with my neurologist, and after a very nice and relieving chat, she ended our conversation by deepening the mystery of these strange episodes—she doubts they were TIAs at all.
Next Time-- The Reeds in Italy Part Two: Rounding Up the Unusual Suspects
In the medivac jet - here Larry our pilot self administers a sobriety test under the supervision of Joseph the doctor. He was too drunk to tell if he passed.
The ambulance took us to the Instituto Clinco Humanitas, where I was met by this guy. No additional comment necessary.
And this lady. A little camera shy, but definitely not shy with needles. She wheeled me up to my room...
...where the next day Renita joined me, exhausted, after a long flight and a longer week.