Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Reeds in Italy

Part Two: Rounding Up the Unusual Suspects

On Monday the tests continued at Instituto Clinico Humanitas. More Doplers, another CT Scan, an MRI, an EEG, another EKG, a heart ultra sound, a urine test, more blood tests, yadda yadda. But the evidence was mounting. With every test, TIAs or “mini-strokes” were looking less and less likely causes of my difficulty speaking, vision problems, and partial numbness. My blood pressure was an acceptable 130/90, my veins and arteries in great shape and clear, my brain waves normal, my blood work all normal (a bit low on the “good cholesterol,” but otherwise a-ok.) There is almost no history of stroke or diabetes in my family. It was just impossible to rule any other way, and our neurologist predicted it on Saturday. These were not TIAs. They doctors told me they were all surprised. They said they took one look at me and assumed I was a stroke, heart attack or diabetes case just waiting to happen. “He’s fat, he must be unhealthy- “ which is a prejudice with a long and cherished history among the uninformed. But the Docs admitted their bias, and patted me on the back for fooling them. Of course, they said, “It would still be good to lose weight.” Thanks doc. Exercise too, right? Meanwhile, what’s going on with these episodes? It was a process of elimination, a process of “ruling out” as health professionals say. When the most obvious suspects are ruled out—vascular disease, evidence of stroke, hypertension, poor blood chemistry—you look for the unusual suspect. And again, the neurologist had her eye on the right bad guy.

They were migraines. And that came out of left field because I’d never had them before. Mine were the less common type called a migraine “with aura.” The speech, visual and sensory disruptions were all part of the profile, and the fact that a severe headache followed each episode was the key. So just like that, the mystery was over. And not the mystery only: my fear of impending doom was over. I was suddenly being informed that I am healthier than most really fat guys have any right to expect to be. It was a nice moment.

So there ya go. Our little adventure, taking us out of Africa to Italy is drawing to a close. Soon, its back to Liberia to solve yet another mystery, maybe even bigger than this one—how is this chapter in Liberia going to close, and what chapter will be waiting on the other side of the page. But, that can hold off a few days, can’t it? Yes it can, because, after all…

… Milano awaits!

Next Time-- The Reeds in Italy, Part Three: Accidental Tourists

Getting ready to climb into the CT scan earlier Monday morn. Philip getting ready to make me feel weird.

This is a CT cross scan of my bod. Not sure of all the organs we're lookin' at-- knowing its my guts is enough, no?

The MRI. I go in there. I come out a changed man.

Nurse Roberta takes my blood pressure, this for the 20th time in five days over a couple thousand miles.

The endocrinologists tells me he's not going to tell me to lose weight. Thanks.

The head of the department, left, and the Dr. who followed me through from the initial ambulance ride, Antonio Voza, tell me I can go home.

Before I leave, two more things. First lunch for two, an italian feast-- now that's hospiital food!

And Roberta gets to yank out the multi valved, tinker-toy like structure that's been stuck an inch into my arm for three days. I still feel that pull. Note she's smiling, the sadist.