Category Archives: health

Head Trauma

About once a year or so I get an EEG. This isn’t because it is necessarily required, but my neurologists (plural now) can’t figure out what’s wrong with my brain. It’s as if they need to keep checking that my brain is screwed up. My friends have a few guesses as to why, but the doctors can’t scientifically prove any of those.

I have so many studies on record: EEGs, ambulatory day EEGs, video monitored hospital stays, MRI, MRA, MRV, and coordination tests. (They want me to walk in a straight line despite my huge thighs not making that possible.) So what’s another test? I actually get pretty excited about the EEG itself. My main anxieties arise from dealing with insurance and setting appointments. This time I had to deal with a few misunderstandings, a rescheduling, and a 30 minute stay in the waiting room because of a snafu.

The waiting room was an interesting experience. I was the only one there until these two Old White Guys (OWGs) arrived with a newspaper. One said, snidely, something about ‘that Hussein in the White House.’ Then they pointed at parts of the newspaper that made them feel OWG rage, cursing up a storm. There were several statements about the incompetence of congress, with a stop off at “why do they have 5,000 laws they can’t get through. Just make 5 or 6 and vote on them.” (This writer interprets that to mean that he wanted everything shrunk down to a one-size-fits-all type of lawmaking. You know. Like back in his day.)

There was a brief break when OWG 1 noted Shakira had a new baby and how cute it was. I think OWG 2 was thrown off by the knowledge of someone named “Shakira” being in the news. (FYI, this image is all that’s available of that baby as of right now.) They left the room after this bizarre interruption and I pondered what they were really mad at. Maybe the Hussein comment wasn’t coming from the Fox News Cult. Maybe they were moderates joking around and yelling at representatives from both sides.

OWG 1 returned. The news was on. The discussion: Hillary Clinton’s career. No discussion of current events. Only a brief mention of her problems with the terrorism misinformation. It was just her. OWG 1 stared. Lingered. Finally said, “damn bitch” and walked off.

Uh. So this was supposed to be a post about my new head wrap: Instead of normal ambulatories where they glue the electrodes on, this hospital used a type of paste. I thought that was great because the glue makes it look like you have horrid dandruff for two weeks. But how do you keep these pasted things on? A friggin’ gauze headwrap.

versus two years ago:

what the glue does to your hair (from two years ago):

(Pretty rockin’. I should try that with my pomade.)

Two days. Two days. Twwooo daaayyysss…..

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Big Brother Wizard of Oz

I’m cat-sitting this weekend. Since I’m at my sister’s I’ve been absorbed by her television. I’ve been trying to do other things that need doing this weekend, but my brain shut off. I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is a lovely Christmas movie. I also caught the end of The Wizard of Oz and now those songs of my childhood will be playing over and over. Damn. At least it isn’t that “Call Me Maybe” song.

I thought with all my laziness today I could give posting a pass and make up for it tomorrow. Then I thought of other times I gave myself a concession to avoid something I need to do. It snowballs until I’ve allowed excuses to quit altogether.

I haven’t plotted anything out for the rest of this month, other than the owls and one or two more Christmas things. I’m sure there are other things in my brain that i haven’t put into writing yet. I haven’t been on tumblr recently so no inspiration there. My main “saves for blog” folders are on my computer at Dad’s (and I’m out of there for the rest of December).

I keep trying to write down this dream I had last night, but it keeps rearranging itself. Suffice to say it was about a young girl of noble birth who’s fighting against a militant-socialist regime. She loses her family in an airship explosion. She ends up going undercover in the regime as an enforcer. It gets a little weirdly Orwellian 1984 here. She works for what could be called the Outer Party and secretly is trying to find the leaders of the Inner Party and start a resistance. She was like an underling to O’Brien (she beats people who are thought to be traitors to the Party). Through this she found her old bodyguard wasn’t killed in the airship crash and has been held for two years for torture and questioning. Mostly torture.

It’s Auron. Of course my brain stuck Auron in there. He’s happy to see she’s alive, but since she is a fighter she doesn’t need his protection. She wants him to fight for the resistance, which he’s willing to do. That group consists of her second in command who looked like Commanderette Zircon from Spaceballs, a nerdy computer hacker, a doctor named Rajeesh (oh god, really?), myself as an engineer (who kind of dressed like Cid from FF7), and several others who were the most paranoid group of people you could meet.

We were all worried about Big Brother and I found out that one woman who had surgery done to her had a metal tracker in her head. I swiped a magnet over it. It shorted out, but the woman had to have surgery again because of the pain it was causing. That made everyone more paranoid since they don’t know who else could have a tracker. I ended up running around rubbing people with a magnet. I’m positive this comes from my paranoia of having VNS (as mentioned before) since if I look like I’m having a seizure someone can swipe a magnet over my head. That idea still freaks me out. Did I take my meds? Yeah. Continuing.

So we get involved in some sort of attack/escape/shopping plan. It keeps overlapping with other dreams here. At one point there’s an explosion and we lose our doctor. But that’s okay because his assistant, Dr. Palmer from NCIS is there. No one trusts him, though. There are some explosions and I get cut off from everyone except for Auron. We have to run through the jungle. My brain decided to take a short cut from this to another dream where I’m in a super mall waiting for my family in a massive line. But I have tickets to get into the mall? What?

I’m tired. I’m going to go back to sleep and hope nothing like that happens again.

I’m not even here anymore

I had to wake up super early to see my neurologist. If I didn’t go then I would not be able to get meds. I hate insurance. I’ve been dancing around to different doctors and different tests and I still have *requirements* on top of that. I had another appointment later in the day just so I could hand a piece of paper to my main practitioner because the insurance wouldn’t recognize a procedure request directly from a neurologist. What? And the procedure? Another EEG.

I talked to my neurologist about all my medication issues and sending info to a second opinion doctor. We discussed the possibility of VNS, or Vagus Nerve Stimulation. Basically it would be a pacemaker for the brain. It’ll be a last resort, but I’m running out of options.

Much of my day has been waiting in… places. I had breakfast at a diner which then turned against me. I haven’t really eaten lunch. To top it all off I told dad about an anthropology book that I’m reading that discusses the possibilities of Jesus being more militant than portrayed. He proceeded to go into a rant about this author not understanding exegesis and incorrectly interpreting historical context. It was fun to see him go on the defensive for once. Our religious conversations usually have me trying to argue a point to a brick wall. (Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays, dammit.)

Here are some images that reflect my frustrations with modern Christianity:

Scratch That Off

I know my last post was kind of a freak-out. I’ve been going back and forth with the doctor (and his assistant) to find out the results. Apparently the test results were “normal”. I requested that my doctor call me personally to explain this. Unfortunately I had my phone off at the moment he called so I got his message which was basically, “Everything looks normal. The brain is supposed to be asymmetric so it’s fine.” I got my family and friends worked up for what my doctor says is nothing, but I’m still wary.

I feel the image does not portray a healthy brain. If it is something that I would be at further risk for, I need to know. I’m also disappointed because if this was evidence of an identifiable source, we could treat my illness better. It’s either back to square one or I take the results to a different neurologist.

I’m sounding whiny again! Blah. Sorry and I’ll be back to posting other content later this week.

Brain-a-chondriac

I remembered last minute yesterday that I had to schedule an MRV. An MRV is like an MRI, but for the brain veins. Thankfully it only took a few minutes (as opposed to previous hellish experiences). I managed to get one today, which was excellent since my “authorization letter” expires Saturday and the rest of my week is sort of booked.

The reason I really needed this test (on top of everything they’ve been checking for) is that the neurologists have no f**king clue as to what is causing the epilepsy. I’ve had this since I was 15 and it has done nothing but get progressively worse and require more and more meds (as covered by several posts). The MRI & MRA helped none. The 3-day stay at the hospital only confirmed that I have mini seizures, which also confuse the doctors. My neurologist finally said the MRI kinda sorta showed some swelling that could be caused by veins.

I am always excited to look at images of my internal bits. That might sound narcissistic or just plain weird, but I know I’m not alone. I got a CD of what had been scanned and immediately viewed it when I got home. I’ve captured some images so you can see what the cold, loud machine came up with:

So you may notice something that pops out right away. I am not a brain expert, but that doesn’t look quite right. I then did a shit-ton of research. No, I did not go to WebMD or Wikipedia as a first stop. I started Googling images of brain veins and asked about blood flow for certain veins – the problem seems to be in the sinus (or transversal?) veins. I know veins aren’t symmetrical and I wasn’t expecting that, but damn if it doesn’t look like I have no matching vein on the right side and a bit of a bloated left side. Finally I came up with several hints and an eventual diagnosis: Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis.

Okay. Uh. What does that mean? I finally hit the wiki and saw this: CVST is a rare form of stroke caused by blood clot. I haven’t had a stroke. I’m not aware that I’m prone to blood clots. Both Wikipedia and several Neurological Journal/data sites confirmed that a sign of Thrombosis is seizures (and bad headaches which I sometimes get, but blame on the computer). So does that mean I’m going to have a stroke? Not necessarily, but the concern is there. Am I going to die?!? Maybe not.

This is what a normal brain’s veins are supposed to look like:

This is what a CVST brain looks like:

(Source is the Radiology Assistant which depicts a couple of examples of the ones that look like mine and have the same diagnosis of Thrombosis.)

I am known as a semi-hypochondriac. I will take things to extremes only when I have a major query (like, I don’t assume I have pneumonia as soon as I get a cold).

My neuro buddies: tell me if I’m over-reacting. I talked to my dad and said I was a little depressed since there is a, albeit low, death rate. I got the “if it was that bad, we’d be hearing about it on the news. Don’t tell your mom, she’ll freak out. And don’t worry until the doctor tells you to worry” speech. I’m not *dreadfully* worried, just concerned that it is a serious thing, as everything related to my epilepsy is. And maybe there will be a hopeful outcome, but I’m kind of perturbed by both the research and my father’s shitty reaction. Updates when available (which may not be for a few more weeks).

(Still hesitating on the next Disney post because it is villain related and that decision requires much contemplation.)

Coffee and Cigarettes

It has been one full year since I quit smoking. This is the longest I have gone without nicotine; the previous record was about 4 months. I do not view myself as a strong-willed individual. The fact that I’ve made it this far is thanks to friends and family, as well as financial and medical issues. I think about smoking everyday and the fond memories my brain clings to gloss over the hacking and nausea and occasional segregation from social circles.

I jokingly blame my sister for the habit. She came down to visit me in Atlanta in 2004 and to visit with some friends. We met her friends at a pub with an outdoor smoking area. One of them was chain smoking. The scent was sweet and alluring. The pack had a palm tree and the words “Bali Hai”. She gave me one (under my sister’s disapproving glare) and it was wonderful. Bali Hai is a product of Djarum clove cigarettes. I began seeking them out and eventually fell under the lure of the “Djarum Blacks”. I became a regular at cigar and liquor stores since other places often didn’t sell them. Even though they were harsh on the lungs, I saw an appeal to smoking thin black cigarettes. I hear recently they’ve gotten thinner and places are charging the same for nearly half the original pack size. So while I miss them, it’s a good thing I sought something marginally less harmful. Marginally.

(Beautiful, aren’t they?)

Drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes helped me lose some of the weight that I have since regained. They helped keep my appetite down, obviously, with the side effect of malnutrition. Occasionally when I’m drinking coffee I get the urge… the nostalgia… I remember… I also remember the next stage which is when I discovered “Dreams”. Sounds girly? Yes. Think it would taste girly? Yes. They were some sort of off-shoot of cigars, mixed with a range of flavors. My favorite was Chocolate Mocha. I blew a lot of money on these specialty cigarettes, but it felt like it was worth every dollar. The flavor was much more palatable with food and coffee, and whilst not great with alcohol, I could smoke more of them and not get as sick as when I was smoking cloves. But alas, thence came Obama. Obama’s policies on smoking (which I don’t disagree with, but was affected by at the time) included banning flavored cigarettes. Dreams and there ilk were out. Djarum was still around, but they had to lose their Vanilla and whatever else they had. I hear these banned treasures are allowed in other countries. Yet, I have been too poor to demand import. But look what we are missing out on:

I smoked for the duration of working at my hell-job (customer service). That 4&1/2 years saw my evolution to the inevitable: menthols. Most of my break time was spent in the smoking area, which had a gazeebo for some reason. Smoking out there was a relief and a reason not to socialize. Have I mentioned I have social anxiety? I have social anxiety. Smoking briefly assuaged it. I was making crap money at the time and when I moved into an apartment by myself I had to face facts: quit or downgrade. My drinking habit needed money, afterall.

I began with Camel’s Turkish Silvers, but even that was too pricey. I found myself one day asking sheepishly for a pack of Newports. (Buying cigarettes was a cause for anxiety because I either felt judged, or was upset that I had to ask a stranger for something that was ~behind the counter~.) I tried to keep the count low, but as my drinking got bad, my money got tight, the job got harder to deal with, and my health (brain-wise) kept deteriorating, the cigarettes helped relieve the depression. So when I quit the hell-job I figured I might quit smoking. That didn’t happen. It couldn’t happen. I was now under the pressures of no money (begging the family and trying not to let them know that at least $40/mo was for smokes), an even worse drinking habit, and the depression that follows job searching… the addiction would not go away.

Finally, I was shipped up here to Long Island. I experienced a shock when I found that while Newports in GA were around $4/pack, they could be anywhere between $8 and $11 here. I definitely had to cut down. I know Mom reads this, but I have to say she was an enabler for my first few months up here. Living with Dad, I was constantly supervised and judged aloud (now that he knew, since I hadn’t told either parent for the 6 years prior). At Mom’s I felt freed from the restraints of a rather conservative home life. Then I’d go back to Dad’s and get a lecture about how *he* had to quit because Mom had claimed allergies and wanted him to stop before the girls were born. He used to smoke pipes. Someone can correct me on this, but pipes, I feel, don’t have the same high/effect from the carcinogens and pure toxins that come with cigarettes. I would loved to have smoked pipe tobacco as an alternative. Other than nicotine, I have a desire for the actual act of smoking. Chewing on gum or a toothpick satisfies nothing. (If you are interested in pipe tobacco and/or beer reviews, check out Pope Crisco’s Intoxico.)

The family nagging was only a small portion of my reason to quit. (After all, I still have a rebellious streak.) My money was (still is) non-existent. When I asked for money for bills, the family did not show an enthusiasm for my cigarette needs. With my new health care, I got to see a handful of doctors in regards to my brain and general check-up. Every single one of them gave me the “you will die” lecture. But really, I have my friends to thank for a good portion of my quitting. It is hard to quit on your own. It wasn’t so much the fact that most of my friends were harassing me, but they would actively get involved. Sarah was a big help, Rob has been an inspiration (having quit a few months before me and still not smoking), my sister prevented me from bumming off her friends anymore, and there was a positive response instead of disapproving nods. When I vocalized my urges, I got appraisal for my progress so far.

So here’s to one year without cigarettes. My coffee will just have to go on without the death sticks for the time being.

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