Last month, on a day that happened to coincide (& undoubtedly not just coincidentally) with a bit of constipation plus an abnormally-for-me high level of sodium intake from eating too many meals in a row that featured ham — well, on that day I had a couple of incidents of a weird visual effect like seeing heat waves all around the peripheral vision of my right eye, couple with a really hard time focusing the two eyes together for reading. Second time it happened, it was followed on by a nagging headache just behind my left eye. It was only a couple of weeks ago that my friend Chris suggested that I’d experienced a migraine headache. Well, duh, Mel — but I’ve never gotten migraines before, so…. In my case I think it was caused by high blood pressure from water retention do to constipation plus too much ham. 😉
Didn’t eat any ham yesterday, but lo! just after work while sitting on the bus reading a book, I started having some visual symptoms that at first had me thinking I was experiencing the same thing. Mostly inability to get my eyes to work together to focus on the page for reading. After I got across town to the restaurant I’d decided to eat at (the Bear Tooth, my fave), I started realizing it was different. First of all — well, the place wasn’t crowded, so I knew they had they’re “Please Be Seated” sign out. Except when I looked at it, I couldn’t make sense of it. It reminded me of when Jesse was learning to read & had big problems with blends — like being unable to connect the B and the L together in BLUE or BLACK (or BLEND). In my case I could read the three individual words PLEASE, SEAT, & YOURSELF, but I couldn’t make them make sense together. I only understood what it meant from having been there before & logicking it out.
So went & sat myself, knowing exactly what I wanted to order.— I didn’t even need. to look at the menu — except that I couldn’t remember the words for what I wanted. So I got the menu & started researching — again, being able to read individual words, but being able to connect them with each other, except just for the fact that I eat there a lot so logically know what’s what. The server came & asked me if I’d like something to drink. By that time I’d managed to puzzle out the beer I wanted (Bear Tooth had great microbrews), so I said IPA. She asked if I was also ready to order food, & I said I was, except that… I wasn’t. I couldn’t find the words. I said so: I lost the words. She laughed, not unkindly, until she became aware that I was distressed. I think she used the word “aphasia.” I said, yes, & ended up asking her to come back in a couple of minutes. I needed to do research in the menu.
It was incredibly weird. I wanted one piece of pepperoni pizza, plus an entree size Caesar salad w/ grilled chicken. But I couldn’t remember the words at all. I knew where they were on the menu, though, so I turned to the pizza page, found the word “Pizza” on the top, knew with some intellectual effort that was the right word, but had absolutely emotional sense of it: it was just a data point. Scan down the page… pepperoni?… yes… pepperoni. Memorized it, so that by the time the waitress got back I could order it. I knew how to add in “one piece” without the menu’s coaching, though. Then… salad. This one, the Caesar. With… chicken. And this size — yes the word is… entree. While noting to her again that something pretty darn weird was happening to me.
I was freaking, really… wondering if something had happened such that I wouldn’t be able to hold my job anymore, wouldn’t even be able to read a book. Got out my book & studied it — could read words, could even read sentences, none of ’em made sense. The food came, I put the book aside, sat there chomping my pizza all the time trying to remember again what this food was called that I was eating. Pizza…? yes, that seemed right. But what were these round red slices of meat on it called? I spent half the meal trying to remember, before I finally gave up & looked it up again at the back of the menu. Put the words together, repeated them & repeated them, memorizing it. Then worked on the name of the salad. Looked around the place which (as it’s part of an establishment including a movie theatre) has several old movie posters, including one from a foreign country of the old Peter Fonda movie “Easy Rider.” I had seen that poster enough to have no problem with his name. But what was that last one? Jack. Nicholson. Jack. Nicholson. Is that somebody… is that that guy from [images of “Chinatown” in my mind] — was that the guy? Jack… Nicholson….?
But, I was able to pay my bill without a hitch & even get the tip right. And by the time I’d left the building, put the hood up on my raincoat, stuck my Bluetooth in my ear, & started off home in the rain while talking w/ my friend Marcia, things began getting normal again. I could say, without a hitch, pepperoni pizza & entree-size chicken Caesar salad & Jack Nicholson & Please Seat Yourself without a hitch.
Marcia told me she was coming to pick me up to take me to the emergency room.
Um… you are?—But yes, after some discussion & argument, also with another friend of mine, that’s what happened. Spent nearly 4 hours at Providence Hospital ER last night — just across the street from my work, in fact just across the parking lot from the very bus stop where the whole biz began to unfold after work yesterday.
The current theories are either (1) hypgoglycemia, some hours after eating an oatmeal raisin cookie (although I’m low-carbing at the moment, I’ve been having some depression issues for a couple of days, & carbs help — which was also the point with the… uh… what was that food with the little red slices of meat again?); or (2) a transient ischemic event, TIA — AKA a “mini-stroke.” Which frankly I’d never heard of before last night.
My EKG was fine. Other tests up & coming — an echocardiogram tomorrow, an MRI & carotid doppler ultrasound Friday, a followup “what does this MEAN?!!” with my naturopath the following Friday.
Meantime, nothing like a little cognitive confusion & adrenaline to wipe out the last vestiges of the latest brief venture into depression.