On Medical Issues

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Picture from brainmind.com.

So for those of you that read this blog, you may have noticed that I’ve not actually composed anything in a while, and my habit of daily blogging has definitely gone by the wayside. There are two good reasons for this. The first is that I was in the US for two weeks for my third wedding (to the same woman) and obviously didn’t have as much time to blog given all the things that a wedding entails.

The second is that I’ve had a recent medical issue.

While in New York, the day before the wedding, I was playing with my nephew. I attempted to put him on my shoulders so that I could walk around with him and show him the world from a slightly higher vantage point.

That was a bad idea. He wanted nothing of it.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but I obviously was bending my neck quite a bit, and since he was having nothing of my attempt, he was forceful in his rebuffing of my efforts, and kept his knees together. I eventually put him down, and we got back to running around and my ‘chasing’ him.

Eventually, I picked him up & spun him around, and put him back down again. That’s when I had a sharp pain in my head, and a purplish haze descend into the vision of my right eye.

I thought I was having a stroke. (As it turns out, it wasn’t too far off from that, but thankfully, I did not have a stroke.)

I checked my eye in the mirror, and it looked okay. I went to my wife, and without telling her immediately what had happened, started to have a conversation. Since her reaction indicated to me that there was nothing wrong, I figured I could ignore the issue for the time being and that it would go away as my last migraine eventually did.

I kept up with the shopping (we were at the Woodbury Commons) and my brother-in-law thankfully had volunteered to drive back, so I was able to sleep in the car. When I awoke, the vision in my right eye had returned to normal and I just had a headache.

I assumed it was another migraine. The migraine was worse the next day, though I got through the wedding and the reception with the pain. At the time, my eyelid started to droop a little bit, which was more pronounced the next day. The pain got worse too.

I decided to ignore it until I flew back to the UK. We flew business class, so it was a good and comfortable flight, and after a couple of glasses of wine I woke up to a worse headache. (This was because of the wine, not because of anything else.)

The headache didn’t go away, and so by Friday (a week later) I decided to see a doctor.

I saw a GP who referred me to Moorfields Eye Hospital, given that the problem appeared related to my eye.  They diagnosed a “right Horner’s syndrome” wherein the nerves leading to my eye are compromised in some way and cause the pupil to be less responsive than normal and my eyelid to drop farther than normal.

One possible cause of that is a carotid artery dissection – essentially a small tear in my carotid artery – which can be potentially life-threatening, so they referred me to Royal London for a CT of my head and neck and sent me over there immediately.

It turns out that I do have a small tear in my right internal carotid artery, but that it is not life threatening.  The CT confirmed the right carotid artery dissection, and they have determined that surgery is not necessary.  I will be taking aspirin and blood thinners though for a while.  I was told that the eye problems will eventually sort themselves once the underlying damage to the artery heals.

Since then, I’ve been back to the GP, and also seen a neurologist. The neurologist has said there’s a chance that the eye problem will be permanent, but since my eyes are so far back in my head anyway, it’s not terribly obvious there’s anything wrong. I can still move my eyelid and make it even less obvious, so that’s not a big deal. I can’t drive for the first month after the incident (so coming up on the 5th of May I should be eligible again) but as I don’t drive in the UK at the moment that’s not a big deal. (Where I live is very close to major tube stations, so I have no need of driving.) According to the neurologist, I wouldn’t be allowed to fly a plane (ever) if I were a pilot, but since I’m not in the aviation industry, that is also not an issue.

Basically, I have to take care of myself for the next six months, and try not to do anything too strenuous. I can’t lift heavy objects or do crazy things with my neck, and the next steps are to follow up with additional scans. I must admit that I find all this a tad depressing, but as vascular issues run in my family I’m not all that surprised now that it’s been a bit of time since the original occurrence.

Throughout this ordeal, my wife has been a great source of support and I’m very appreciative and grateful for her. I’ve also had really good experiences with the health care system here in the UK which will be the subject of another post.

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