May I start my story by suggesting that we (baby boomers that is) always get a second medical opinion when we are diagnosed as my story is not a happy one.
Touch wood a thousand times but I have been blessed with good health in my life and want it to stay that way. My mum always said I was a healthy boy which in today’s terms meant I was a porky as a young bloke. In my early teens especially after my dad relented under constant family pressure and purchased a telly in 1963.
There I sat day after day, night after night watching the box and I ate and ate and ate. My Year 10 school photo is startling evidence of how much weight you can gain if you don’t exercise. But I digress.
Football in my late teens, marriage and kids kept the weight off for a number of years until my middle age crisis at 40 when I first felt over the hill and once again ate and ate and ate combined with a drink, a drink and another drink. Permed haired social butterfly that I was and no exercise meant weight gain.
I took up half marathon running in a relentless pursuit of youth and feeling healthy and it worked until my body screamed in rebellion at 50 so the health routine became walking. I have literally walked thousands of kilometres in my quest to stay healthy since then which got me to my early sixties. I recently also began revisiting the gym which had not seen me for some time to strengthen parts of the body and I took up yoga to give me some flexibility as well.
There so you see it has been a lifetime of effort and I have managed to stay healthy with a daily fitness routine with the odd day off to relax. Throw in bike riding and swimming and you get the picture. Good ass wannabe would best describe me.
Unfortunately good health is not always based on your physical effort and my affective domain won over earlier this year.
I had been under a fair bit of pressure due to a mixture of anxiety over being unemployed and some huge life events catching up to me as I had locked them away in a never to be revisited folder in my minds computer system.
Once unlocked then stress and anxiety takes its toll on you and your loved ones which it did until one sunny Sunday afternoon in February this year I fell to sleep in my chair in front of the telly and woke up with a two week memory absence.
My better half took me to the local hospital and I was admitted for observation. I spent the night in a four man ward and listened to two dying men rant and rave and wished that I could be discharged as soon as possible as I am healthy and shouldn't be here. By four in the morning the neurologist had examined me and decided that as an outpatient I would do an MRI and EEG to check the brain so I was home by eight for breakfast.
One month later the MRI and EEG were completed and a date set for revisiting the neurologist. I returned to work as an Uber driver, a job I was really enjoying after 12 months unemployed.
That next appointment was to change my life as he announced that the MRI was clear (a good brain he said and I joked that my wife would be pleased because she thought it was in my groin) but then came the bad news.
The EEG showed I had epilepsy which meant that I could not drive for 6 months while I was tested with epilepsy medicine which he explained could have some severe side effects such as drowsiness, vomiting, weight gain, man boobs and seizures to name a few.
How could this be happening to healthy me I thought and we parted with him telling me how sorry he was. Now when a doctor tells you he is sorry then the mind goes into overdrive.
I immediately emailed my family and friends and explained what I had and that I would not be driving for at least 6 months so I then went into hibernation.
My better half was initially very upset for me but she soldiered on and took me everywhere for the next 2 months which I really appreciated. It was a reminder of how important our partners are in life when there is a challenge to face.
Whenever I communicated with people some asked if I was in a confused state and many offered their sincere condolences and mentioned how important I had been to their lives. It was all very touching and I continually acted the epilepsy patient without question.
At my second appointment the good doctor reinforced that the EEG had shown epilepsy so I must still not drive but he now thought that it could have been short term amnesia as the cause of my memory loss because there had been no seizure. He would not change his mind because of the EEG result showed a wiggle.
I was becoming very suspicious of the whole scenario as I had still not had a seizure and no episodes of any sort. I decide to see my GP and seek a referral to a specialist for a second opinion. As well, I asked for a psychiatrist referral so I could ascertain if my anxiety could have any bearing on the memory loss as everyone was telling me that stress affects you in strange ways.
The psychiatrist was the first appointment and he reassured me that stress can affect you but he could not verify that it might show on an EEG.
The consultant neurologist was next and he was heaven sent. He took 10 minutes to tell me that if I had not had a seizure then I didn't have epilepsy and he almost immediately took me off the drugs and gave me the go ahead to drive. He maintained that because I fell asleep sitting up then I would have blocked the artery in the neck with my head which could have caused the amnesia so he doesn't recommend the practice.
He then did another EEG and it gave me the all clear so I am now back at work as a cleaner and into a healthy routine again which includes a sugar free diet.
I will never forget his last words to me.
“We must listen to people not machines when we are diagnosing”. Amen doc.