“You didn’t have a stroke;
you had a CT scan in a tube (you’ve asked me before);
you have an infection (they drew blood);
I called Greg, he said to come here;
we went home and dropped the bikes off;
you said something was wrong, so we came here.
[I] Went home to take care of the dogs – be back shortly.”
This is the note I found beside me in my hospital bed Saturday afternoon. Allegedly, I had read it previously but I still found it fascinating news. The details of Saturday morning remain lost to me but it appears that I began forming new memories again only a few hours after “the event”.
The drawing of the spinal fluid was the first memory that took root in the blank page of Saturday, November 10, 2018 (a date that eluded me at the time), followed by the MRI. Mike had called my sister who dropped her plans for the weekend and remained at my bedside for the entire two days and two nights, suffering the privations of hospital food without complaint.
As the results of the tests came in, the ER doctor would think of new and more creative (spelled “expensive”) ways to exploit my newly acquired health insurance. An ultrasound of the carotid arteries and an abdominal CT scan seemed to satisfy the hospital’s quota of billable procedures, though the ER doctor showed some chagrin when I declined a colonoscopy. Did he suspect I had my head up my ass? Then came the drug peddler: potassium supplements, a pill to ensure I didn’t get heartburn from the IV antibiotic, and an injection in the abdomen of something else prophylactic (I now recall it was a blood thinner). The nurse was gracious at my refusal of a flu shot but the ER doctor harrumphed away when I firmly refused his offer. I think they were scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find something to prescribe when they could find almost nothing to target.
I must brag just a bit: The Greg mentioned in Mike’s note is one of our mountain biking companions and, more importantly for this telling, he is also my primary care doctor. He had called ahead to his colleague, the ER Doctor inordinately fond of the colonoscopy, and advised him not to treat me like an old lady as I was uncommonly strong and fit. You’re beginning to understand my fondness for the man, aren’t you.
So, where was I? The brain is still having some issues with short term memory. Oh, let’s just go with stream of consciousness for now; it may be amusing someday.
Well, eventually they gave up and decided it was simply a case of TGA (transient global amnesia) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/transient-global-amnesia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378531 which isn’t that uncommon among people over 50. It’s thought to be triggered by vigorous exercise, vigorous sex, and I can’t remember anything beyond that. Sadly, in my case, it evidently wasn’t the second as we were on a bike ride.
I’m told that we had gone for a ride with our regular group of friends, on a trail we ride frequently; in fact, I’d ridden it the last two Saturdays in a row, making it more difficult to know which memories belonged to which day. According to Mike, we arrived a bit late and I pushed the pace to catch up to the group (here’s the vigorous exercise). Included in the group was Greg, my primary care physician, and an orthopedic surgeon. Comforting, eh? We ate breakfast at the restaurant at the top of the climb; I’m told I ate part of Greg’s pancake, a few bites of Mike’s potatoes, and coffee. Then we donned our downhill gear and raced the seven miles downhill back to the truck. Being a pretty nimble descender, I wasn’t far behind Mike at the usual regrouping places. We always pause at the waterfall, and then again at the place we call the hike-a-bike, which is about a mile from the parking area. Mike tells me I rode down the lower portion of the hike-a-bike normally. When he arrived at the truck, he was concerned when I didn’t slide in sideways behind him. He waited, growing increasingly concerned, as the possibility of a wreck is always the first thing that comes to mind when a normally good rider fails to show up. He was relieved to see me approach the truck sedately with nary a scratch and no visible sign of a fall. His relief evaporated when I told him, “Something is wrong.” His alarm grew when I kept repeating myself and asked the same questions every few minutes as we drove home. Hence the note, written in the ER before he left to feed the animals and Mum.
The subsequent two days in the unfamiliar, sometimes frightening environs of the hospital, were made almost pleasant thanks to the considerate and competent staff and the constant, reassuring company of my big sister. Her unfailing calm, her attention to my every wish (without hovering or hand-wringing), and her ability to feign amusement at my heightened use of humor to keep fear at bay, strengthened the bonds of sisterly love.
At last, having adequately assured themselves that no test had been overlooked in the CYA checklist, I was discharged. I’m home, feeling a little light-headed but essentially normal, albeit five pounds lighter than I was when I left the house Saturday morning. Hospital food is not a diet regimen I would recommend, but nonetheless effective.
Oh, yes, the violent death that lured you in! Once home, (go ahead, settle in, this could take a while) I went back to check on my mom. In my absence, Mike had tended her and when she asked where I was, he had told her I’d gone camping. Her dementia doesn’t allow her to form new memories unless it’s something that scares her. Then she perseverates about it until it’s all she can think about. When I got home, she asked if I’d been gone but she didn’t remember that I’d gone camping (funny, neither did I). On my way back to her granny flat, I noticed an enormous gopher sitting in plain sight above ground, in my garden! Galled by its hubris, I pointed it out to Molly who dispassionately dispatched it with two quick crunches of the skull…culminating in a violent death.