Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Brain at 50

About six weeks ago a shooting pain started in my right elbow.  I thought it would go away, so I ignored it.  After all, at 50, lots of things hurt.  But it didn't go away.  It got more frequent and my co-worker seemed concerned and said I should take some aspirin.

That got me worried.  I did a little digging and was able to diagnose myself with deep vein thrombosis. Yeah, I was going to take aspirin FOR SURE!  I made an appointment with the doctor. My symptoms got a little better.

In the meantime, I'd become a little congested and on the day of my appointment, I had a full on head cold. On the drive over to the doctor's office, I called Fred. "Is the doctor on Keene Road or Belcher?"

"Belcher!" He said it with a tone in his voice like he was completely amazed that I would not know what road the doctor was on.  It had been two years since I've been to the doctor's office, but still.  I should have remembered.  I said thanks and hung up.

I did give one or two thoughts as to why I didn't remember, but soon was concentrating on traffic, which did seem to require more of my attention that morning.

When I got to the doctor's office, they gave me a form to fill out because it had been two years since I had been in.  I started to fill it out and stopped at the social security number section. The first five went pretty well.  Then, the last four digits were a bit of a problem.  I got the first two, but the second two, hmmmm.  Did they go this way or this way? I just put a little question mark next to the numbers.

Really?  I've been coming here for 16 years.  You don't know my social security number by now?  I can't help you.  (Actually, I really can't help you because I actually can't remember the order of those last two numbers.  Figure it out yourselves.).

The nurse called my name.  I grabbed a tissue on my way in.  I was really congested.  We went back to the room and she began to ask me questions about what medications I took:

"How much of that?" She asked.

"Three." I grabbed a tissue and sneezed.  Would my head explode?  So much pressure.

"No.  How many milligrams?" She had my chart filled with 16 years of information in front of her.

My head was pounding.  I was sweating. It was like the road question.  Belcher or Keene.  And the social security number.  "I don't know." She looked at the chart and wrote down a number.

"How about this one?"

"Oh. Just the one big pill." She was giving me an odd look.  I started to get worried.  Was I supposed to have all this memorized?  I remembered my neurologist had given me a card to write all of this prescription nonsense down.  I looked for it.  I didn't have it.

She consulted the chart and wrote something down.  Damn.

"And this one?" Am I getting graded on this? Is there a camera in here?

"Point one two five." Woot! Score one for me.  I stop myself from fist pumping.  The next three were as needed, so yea me.  But the last one I didn't know.

"I don't know." She went back to her disappointed look. She glanced in her file and wrote it down.  Damn it.  If she had all the answers, why did she continue to ask me? Honestly! Why didn't I remember the strengths?  Why didn't I remember the street the doctor was on? Why didn't I remember my SSN?

Wait a minute.  I'm 50 now.  Do I have Alzheimer's?

I wait until she leaves and then I pulled out my iPhone and looked up symptoms of Alzheimer's.  I looked at the stages of Alzheimer's.
  1. Stage 1 no impairment.  OK 
  2. Stage 2 memory lapses. Check.  Got those.  Street names.  Forgot them.
  3. Stage 3 trouble remembering names, with memory. Check.  Forget names all the time.
  4. Stage 4 Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic — for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s
At this point I thought to myself

100...93....................OMG! I have Alzheimer's! There was no way I could count back from 100 by 7s. Who does that?

Then my doctor walked in.

"And what are you here for today?" She said.

I looked up at her from where I was sitting with my iPhone in my hand, still glowing with the stage 4 diagnosis and said, "Well, I thought I was here because my elbow hurt, but I think now that I have stage 4 Alzheimer's. I mean, I just turned fifty, and now I can't remember what street you are on or my medications. "

She started to laugh.  "You sound a little congested.  Are you feeling ok?"

"No.  I have a cold."

Turns out a cold will screw with your brain just as much as Alzheimer's, although I'm not really all that good with the counting backward, but at least I can get past 93!  And I don't advise self diagnosis while at the doctor's office while you have a head cold! Or if you are the least bit of a hypochondriac, which evidently, I must fall into that category.

I do advise that you see your doctor every year.  That makes remembering what road they are on much easier.

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