Saturday, February 14, 2009
So, my sister isn't doing great and she's quite stressed because she's worried about herself and she's almost convinced herself that she has MS even though there has been no medical proof of this but she's been researching her symptoms (tingly and achy limbs and vision troubles) on the internet and this is what she's come up with.
She had an appointment with a neurologist last Friday who scared the hell out of her by telling her unequivocally that she'd had a stroke (not a TIA/minor stroke) as the doctors at the hospital told her but a stroke and that the stroke had been in the right brain stem, resulting in a temporary minor loss of sensory ability in her right side.
He speculates that she has a hole in her heart wall between the heart and the lungs, through which a clot has gone to the brain stem causing a temporary blockage. We all have such a hole at birth but in a minority of people it doesn’t close up. Monika was born a month prematurely. He took five vials of blood for tests. His manner through most of the interview was brusque and cold. He gave her hell for driving the car, to which she replied that no one had told her not to. He said he was supposed to report her to the Ministry of Transport so that she’d be barred from driving for a year, but he wasn’t going to. Towards the end of the interview, when he asked her her occupation and she answered that she is a tenured professor at the University of Western Ontario, he began to treat her as an intelligent human being, and actually discussed a few things with her. He ended by requisitioning a test to see if the hole in the heart wall hypothesis is right. He gave the opinion that she is at high risk for another stroke and that she is to reduce all pressures in any way possible while waiting for laboratory results and further advice.
He also confirmed the preliminary diagnosis that she does not have atherosclerosis or cardiovascular disease. Her arteries are clear, her cholesterol is fine, and so is her blood pressure. She exercises regularly, does yoga, and along with her family eats a vegetarian diet. There is lots of stress in her life: the responsibilities of a wife and the mother of two daughters; a full-time professorship at Western, including substantial teaching, publication, conferences, and endless committee responsibilities; the work of a publishing poet who is serious about her writing.
The neurologist did see the possibility, when Monika raised it, based on her reading and web searches, of an autoimmune disease (she has had endometriosis for years) or of lyme disease; also of a bacteria or a virus. This last would probably be the most palatable of all these possibilities.
So she tries to take it easy at home, does some quiet marking of student papers, and talks with family and friends, while waiting for some light on her situation. My dad gave her money for taxis since the logistics of her family’s vehicular movements are complex even in good times. They live out in the country, they work in the city, Anna (16 this month) goes to high school in London and is driven there daily by her father or mother, Natasha (12) goes by bus to an elementary school 10 k from home, and both girls have a bunch of lessons and other things they get driven to. Monika has agreed to call taxis even when the cost seems exorbitant.
And, I'm worried about her home life, too. She called me a week ago Thursday in tears because her husband won't leave her alone. He follows her around the house constantly asking her if she's okay. She told me that she screamed at him to leave her alone because he ignored her. When she was talking to me on the phone, she had locked herself in the bedroom and while we were talking, he was jimmying the lock.
I sent him an email asking him not to stress her out like this but he told her about my email and she asked me to cease stressing "him" out because in turn, it stresses her out and she loves him very much and says that he's just like this because he's worried about her.
So I sent him an apology email saying that it's my concern for her that made me send the original email but I'm still ticked at him. I'm thinking that her "screaming" at him to leave her alone isn't very stress-free...
So, I going to see her tomorrow (it's about an 1½ hours away). I'm determined to keep our visit light hearted and not stressful. I'm bringing homemade minestrone soup for lunch and I bought her two humourous books (Nora Ephron's "I Feel Bad About My Neck" and Rick Mercer's "Rick Mercer Report: The Book"), both of which I hope she'll like. Although after I bought them, I started worrying that maybe books weren't a great present if she's having vision problems.
I also bought her a small teddy bear with an "I Love You" heart on it. I'm also giving her this really nice bath set that I got for Christmas that I can't use because I'm sensitive to perfumed stuff but I know she loves that kind of stuff.
And, I went to the dollar store in hopes of finding something goofy to wear so that I could amuse her right off the bat when I got there. I was thinking something like a red nose or heart-shaped antlers or something like that but they didn't have anything like that so I ended up buying 5 flowered leis instead (one for me and one for each member of her family) to wear.
And, I hope that our visit goes well and I really, really hope she is going to be okay because I love her a lot and I would give anything to have this be happening to me instead of her. At least if it was happening to me, it would be more understandable since I'm overweight and don't eat properly all the time and smoked for 13 years!