Saturday, October 03, 2009

Who knew badminton could be dangerous?

K and I used to play a lot of tennis together. We had both just started playing when we met so we made perfect practice partners for each other for years. We'd play for three-hour stretches a couple times a week.

But we aged and tennis can be hard on a body. In 2006, K gave up tennis, succumbing to increasingly bad knee and back problems. That left us with nothing that we like to do together for exercise. K suggested ping pong, so we tried that for a few weeks, but that was enough ping pong for me. (He's since gotten serious about it.) Then he suggested badminton. I liked badminton in gym in high school, so I was willing to give it a try.

So August 2008, on a hot Friday night, K and I went to a community center to play badminton. There were two nets up when we arrived and the people playing doubles on them were seriously good. We couldn't possibly slip into a rotation with them. But one of them was nice enough to say hello to us and offered to get another net out. Play came to a stop and people hauled posts and nets out and got a court set up for us. So we'd attracted a lot of attention and been quite a nuisance even before the incident, all to accommodate our pathetic beginner badminton game that didn't belong in the same room with what was going on at the other nets.

The birdie's path is difficult to judge when you haven't seen one fly in 25 years. And I'm not an athlete; physical coordination is not my strong suit. After maybe a half hour of playing, I was chasing the birdie, misjudged its path, tried to change directions midstep and rolled my ankle. I heard a bone crack and collapsed on the floor in pain. The sensation I had was that my shin bone near my ankle was broken, that I'd snapped my foot and lower shin off from the rest of my shin. It felt major. I yelped and clutched my leg, told K I broke something, and then passed out.

Fainting from pain is caused by stimulation of the vegus nerve which slows the heart. Blood vessels dilate which causes a dramatic drop in blood pressure which causes you to faint. That may have been what happened to me. But I've fainted several times in my life and in all other instances the fainting was a very pleasant, warm, peaceful sensation, and I've maintained a sense of self, sort of like a dream state, and I slipped into it gradually. This episode was nothing like that. It's very hard to describe. This was just completely, utterly terrifying. It wasn't gradual; I was just out instantly. I had no sense of self. It was just a sensation of complete abject terror. There was no dream-like picture of being in a place; there was just the condition of horribleness. K describes that I wasn't still, that I was shaking my head and moving my arms around. It's possible this was a pain-induced seizure, though I'll never know for sure.

When I came to, paramedics had been called and were on their way. Of course, play in the room had stopped and everyone was standing around me. They took down one of their nets so that paramedics could get through with a stretcher. Embarrassing. But the craziest thing was that when the paramedics arrived and started poking around on my ankle, it didn't hurt at all. They had me stand on it, and it felt fine. It felt like I was in the Twilight Zone because I KNEW something was broken because I'd heard it break and I knew I'd felt excruciating pain but it seemed perfectly fine. The paramedics canceled the ambulance which was en route. I actually drove us home.

A couple hours later it was hurting and swelling and bruising. In the morning, I went to urgent care and indeed I had a broken bone and I'd sprained all ligament groups in my ankle. I suppose there was some sort of adrenaline rush caused by the injury and passing out/seizure that had masked all pain.

The broken bone was not my shin bone, but just a chip fracture in the navicular bone in my foot. Took forever to heal but wasn't a big deal otherwise.

This epidsode was just one of six, count them six, brushes with emergency services (if you count urgent medical care) in a 12 month period for us, from December 2007 to December 2008.

1) Dec 2007: Karma broke her leg at the dog park. (I think I blogged about this, though I'm not finding it.) Emergency vet hospital.
2) Feb 2008: Karma lacerated her foot/ankle on some ice at the dog park, requiring stitches. Emergency vet hospital. [Update: no, this wasn't Feb. 2008. It was December 2008, right after the pond incident.]
3) March 2008: I broke my finger at the dog park. Got it twisted in a dog's collar as I was trying to help an incompetent dog walker keep her six dogs out of the street. Urgent care.
4) July 2008: The duplex that K owns had a big fire. Kids were playing with matches in the basement. Minneapolis fire dept. (No one was hurt, but one side of the duplex needed complete gutting and renovation.)
5) Aug 2008: The badminton incident. Minneapolis fire dept paramedics.
6) Sept 2008: The fainting incident. Minneapolis fire dept paramedics and ER visit.

Also in December 2008, Karma injured her tongue by licking something metal and frosty. And then, also in December 2008, we had the life-threatening falling in the pond incident. No emergency services for either of these, though.

It was really quite a year.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

My trip to the ER

I wanted to post about this in more detail because I found the whole experience interesting. So when C and I pull up to the ER ( a Baylor system hospital, which are very good), there are only a couple of people sitting around. You hear stories about how crowded ER's are and while I do understand there is a big difference between an ER in suburbia and an ER in downtown, or even an ER at a county hospital, I was still shocked at the lack of people. It was around 7:45 when we arrived. There was a family sitting close to us that were there because the mother (50+) had gone to a Medi-Clinic or something like that after having an apparent heart attack. They told her they couldn't handle something like that, so she drove herself to the ER. She was there with hubby and a daughter. They didn't seem too concerned that she was just sitting there - and neither were the front desk. Within 10 to 15 minutes, some more folks showed up....a lady who was "dizzy and unsteady", with a HUGE baggie of all the medications (prescribed or not) that she was taking; an elderly guy who was there for a sleep study, but either couldn't read the forms or understand them and his wife had to tell him what to say or write; a middle aged lady complaining of stomach pains and "other issues"; and then a young boy in a scout uniform, who had a broken arm.

So based on what you told the check-in folks, the triage nurse would call you to her little side office. I was a bit surprised that everyone got called in to her before the young boy, who was in obvious pain and was crying. I would have thought they would take care of him, but as C explained, they knew what his problem was - with everyone else, they didn't really know what was going on and they need to figure that out in case it was serious. I felt really bad for the kid - the scout leader was trying to read stuff to him to get his mind off his arm, and his mother just kept going outside to make or take cell phone calls. We were in the waiting room for over an hour and within that time, she didn't say 3 sentences to him or spend more than 5 minutes at any one time with him. I wanted to tell them to take him before me, but C said they probably wouldn't, even if I told them to.

So after they take me back to a room, we sit there forever, waiting for a doctor. There were lots of nurses and orderlies, but he was the only doctor I saw around. When he told me they were going to do the MRI, I was a bit worried, only because he told us it would take a bit since the were having to call an operator in - that alarmed me, my thought being they must think they can't wait if they are bringing someone in to do it. I asked the doctor if they were doing this just for me and he said no, there was another patient that was needing one, so that made me feel a tab better.

As for the MRI, I guess I just don't understand why some people get all freaked out about being in the machine. I almost fell asleep in it (was in for about 1 hour). Then again, I don't have claustrophobia and therefore probably can't understand how enclosed spaces make those who have it feel. After waiting 30 or so minutes for them to go over the results and consult the ENT on call, they let us go. We got home a little after midnight. Never did hear what happened to the boy with the broken arm...I wanted to ask but I'm sure privacy issues would have prevented them telling me anything.

The story of my summer

Since I finished my final round of medical tests on Wed, I thought it’s probably the time to provide some details on what started this whole medical odyssey.

The last Saturday of July…a grocery store…afternoon…

C is in the meat/poultry section of the store and I’m in the wine section, just browsing and waiting for her. I’m looking around and suddenly, my vision is very, very blurry. I blink a few times, trying to clear it up when I get this weird feeling – just feel weird or strange. Nothing specific, just didn’t feel normal. After about 30 seconds or so, I get extremely hot and extremely nauseous. I started walking towards a back corner and my balance and equilibrium are all messed up. I have this feeling that I’m listing way to my right, so as I’m walking, I’m trying to lean to the left to compensate. I get about half way and can’t stay upright, so I stop and drop down to the floor in a sitting position. By this time C has gotten to the section and saw what was going on and is asking me if I’m alright. I’m totally aware of what is going on, I’m talking to her and asking her to find a bathroom and get me to it - I felt like I was going to throw up any second. I tried to stand up and couldn’t and went down, kinda lying on my side with the sensation of spinning – not the room, but inside my head. There is a men’s room around a corner, so C and a guy who was watching all this got me up and basically pulled me to it. The guy stayed with me while C went to find a manager and then get the car to take me home. The manager arrived with a wheelchair and got me out to our car. By this time, the spinning and balance issues had gone away, but the sweating and nausea were still there. C drove me home and after laying down for a bit, I felt fine. Total time of the event…about 90 minutes. By coincidence, I had an appointment with our family doctor on the following Monday. I told him about the event and the response was that he had no idea what might have caused it and he wasn’t concerned, but if it happened again, to get in to see him ASAP.

4 weeks go by and I don’t have any re occurrences. In the meantime, I take my road trip to the Great Plains (postponing it by a week or so to make sure I didn’t have another event). I’m back for a couple of weeks…..then:

Tues, Aug 25….at home….evening…

C is on a business trip and I’m upstairs on the computer, with a TV on. A news story comes on, I turn to watch it when my vision gets very blurry again. I knew what was getting ready to happen, so I stand up and while I got hot, not nearly as bad as the first time. I got nauseous, but not nearly as bad as the first time. My head was spinning, but not that badly. I was able to stay upright and after a couple of minutes, it’s all over. I didn’t tell C about it until she got home the following afternoon. Since this event seemed very minor, especially compared to the one in July, I wasn’t going to call our doctor. C convinced me otherwise and I went to see him on the following day, Thursday. He checks me out, asks me questions about slurred speech (no), arm pain or weakness (no), headaches before or after (no). He’s thinking stroke, but I don’t have the telltale symptoms. He suggests, for peace of mind, that I go see a neurologist. I make the appointment that afternoon, for the following week…

That night…at home…..night…

C and I are watching TV. Suddenly, I get a ringing in my ears, which starts at a low volume and pitch and steadily increases. No blurry vision, no hot feeling, no nausea, no spinning sensation. When the ringing stops, I can’t hear out of my right ear. I must have had a strange expression, because C asks me what is wrong. I can barely hear her and I’m a bit freaked out. And C is freaked out. So the decision is made to go to the ER. By the time we give the cat food and lock the doors and get medication list together, my hearing is coming back, but it sounds weird (tinny and like I was in a well). By the time we get to the ER, it’s almost normal and by the time the triage nurse sees me, it’s back to normal. ER doc asks me all the stroke questions and after talking with the ENT on call, the decision is made to get an MRI. So now my thoughts are tumors, specifically, a brain tumor of some kind. MRI takes an hour and the results are negative – no tumors, no masses, everything looks normal, except for some sinus inflammation. ER doc asks me if I’ve been having any sinus problems (no), but after talking with the ENT doc, decides to give me some antibiotics and steroids. Also, to follow up with the ENT. I make the appointment with the ENT for the following week, a couple of days before the neurologist. I also start taking the antibiotics/steroids. Then, 2 days later…

Saturday, Aug 29…at home….morning…

I’m doing my daily ritual of going to the 20 or so websites I check out when I blink and my vision gets very blurry. C is downstairs and I call to her to come up where I am. By the time she gets up the stairs, I’m on the ground. Very hot, very nauseous, big time spinning sensation. No arm pain, no slurred speech, no headache, very aware of what is going on. After about 10 minutes, it’s all over. By this time, I’m really concerned since this is the 3rd event in a week. I’m also concerned about something happening while driving or swimming or walking in the neighborhood. My appointments are set for the following week, so I’m hoping they’ll figure out what the problem is.

So for the whole month of September, I’ve been going to doctors and having test after test done. At the same time, I’m freaked out about driving, so I limit myself on how much and how far. I was going to take a motorcycle riding class, but I’ve nixed that for the time being. I’m freaked out about getting headaches, so when I get one, I’m wondering what the cause might be (not eating, too much wine, or something else), C won’t let me swim without her being out there. I’m freaked out about walking in the neighborhood, on the off chance something happens blocks from the house. Basically, I’m a shut-in. Thankfully, I haven’t had another event since Aug 29th, even though I think some of the docs were hoping I would. Here are some of the tests I’ve had:

Hearing tests
Caloric stimulation (inner ear with warm/cool air)
Stress test
Carotid arteries tests
Wearing a heart monitor for 48 hours

The bottom line is that all of these test have come back normal. So while we’re not really closer in figuring out what caused the events, it’s all about the process of elimination. Cardio and neuro have been ruled out, so that leaves inner ear issues. I just had those final tests completed and will have the results in a couple of days. I’m pretty sure they will come back negative/normal. So, while that still leaves the question open about what was/is going on, at least I’ve gotten a clean bill of health in regards to heart, arteries, brain, etc. I’ve done quite a bit of research these past couple of months and I have come up with I think was the culprit. I want to hear the results of the latest ENT tests and speak with the ENT doc – once I do that, then I’ll give my diagnosis.

When is a haircut dangerous?

When the haircut is the governor of a state. Thanks to M for forwarding these pieces (reporting here and analysis here) from the Houston Chron describing Gov. Rick Perry's actions to scuttle a commission investigating the arson for which Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by the state of Texas.

We've discussed the case previously here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dog training and bluegrass

Apparently, I was on to something when I drew a comparison between the folks at the dog training club and the crowd at the Ralph Stanley concert:
Karen is the project director for the “Star” room, the [building] expansion TCOTC has undertaken in 2009. ...I asked Karen if there had been any surprises [during construction]. She noted that ...[a] lot of volunteers are
bluegrass fans.

From the October newsletter for TCOTC, the dog training club.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book picking time: help, please

Next month my book club will select books for the year. I need to pitch a few and could use input. Can anyone recommend or warn me off of these possibilities:

War and Peace (Seriously; since I learned it is de Bernieres' favorite novel, I've been itching to read it.)
The Power and the Glory (Graham Greene)
Justine (Lawrence Durrell)
The Sheltering Sky (Paul Bowles)
The Bright Forever (Lee Martin)
The Liberated Bride (A.B. Yehoshua)
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War (Nathaniel Philbrick)
In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic, David Wessel

Other ideas welcome, but keep your Cryptonomicon and its ilk to yourself because the book club ladies won't go for that.

Also, since our meeting for Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, two people have read or finished it and loved it. Someone is planning to pitch Yiddish Policemen's Union this year.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Can someone explain to me

why Glenn Beck and his ilk are not horrified by the socialism implicit in the existence of National Parks?

Ultimate Productivity Blog

is here.

H/t SusanG at DKos.

Twitter's best days now behind it

First there was the U.S. Open curtailing players' tweets, and now WaPo is strangling its reporters' tweeting. Bummer. I loved the tweeting from reporters.

Not a great week - Update as of 09/28/09

Finished up with specialist #2 this morning. This was the one that caused me (and for that matter C) the most concern - neurologist. With my initial visit to him earlier this month, he also wanted several tests done (and he is also the one who wanted me to see a cardiologist), then would follow up with me at a later date. This guy was all into the "S" word (stroke) - so I had many many questions about headaches, arm pain, arm weakness, slurred speech, not aware of surroundings, etc. All my answers to these questions were no, which of course is good, but not helpful in trying to determine a diagnosis. So after the tests, C and I went this morning to hear the results....

no problems, no issues, healthy, cannot explain what the problem is...or was. One of the leading candidates when I first went to see him was a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. While I didn't have all the tests mentioned in the linked article, I had many of them and all came back negative.

So, I've now gotten an "all-clear" on the neurological front. This leaves me with one specialist to go, which if this turns out to be the culprit, isn't as critical or alarming as this last 2 possibly were.

In all the research I've been doing over the past month or so, I've come up with my own diagnosis . I have my last 2 tests on Wednesday - when (or if) they also come up negative, then I'll share what I think I have (or had) and the events that occurred in late July and August that got this whole thing started.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tosca on the plaza

Here is the plaza in front of the Metropolitan Opera house last Monday, Sept. 21. This was opening night for Tosca.