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May 23, 2013 8:15 am

MY LOUSY WORLD: Anticipating a stroke

Written by Doug Blough

Oh, I’m worried all right; I’m just not sure which worry to make my priority — my heart, my liver or my brain.

Here’s a brief overview of our candidates: On May 5 when I checked my blood pressure upon rising — as calm and serene as I’ll be all day — it read:133 (pretty good)/82 (not bad)/131 (Whatdamuddah?!!). How could my pulse rate leap to 131 from the previous night’s 91, fairly normal for your average sloth?

Also in the running is my blood test results last week. My numbers months ago were encouraging with a Simvastatin-aided 188 cholesterol and triglycerides smack-dab normal. Now, after eating lots of berries in my oatmeal, daily fruit and very little alcohol, I’ve suddenly got the heart and liver of a 90-year-old, chain-smoking alcoholic! Is there a cardiologist in the house?!

Bringing up the rear is my suddenly-suspect brain. I’ve been inhaling a daily dose of Advair for asthma every day for five years. Simple process: slide the discus open and push the dosage lever down while simultaneously inhaling deeply. Ridiculously simple, right? Well, you’d think, but one morning I could not remember the procedure. I was stumbling all over myself trying to complete a two-second ritual I’ve performed on 2,000 consecutive mornings. Is there an Alzheimer’s specialist in the house?

It’s quite unsettling to face heart and liver failure and the onset of dementia all at once. I will admit to being a notorious alarmist though. I once drove like a bat out of Helena to the emergency room at midnight, certain the palpitation I “think” I felt was a heart attack.

Two years ago, I was sure I had a brain aneurysm after a sudden, severe headache in the middle of the night. Urgent Care sent me for a CAT scan, where absolutely nothing was found inside my head but a few cat hairs sticking to my brain cortex.

Way back in high school, I was convinced I had cancer when a red rash appeared on my neck and began spreading towards my chin. A doctor gave me what I believe were sugar pills, suggesting “Phisohex poisoning.” Each time I washed my face with my daily pimple soap, I hadn’t been rinsing it off my neck, where it dried.

Years later, when they took Phisohex off the market because hexachlorophene was believed to cause brain damage, I became obsessed that my weirdness was because my brain was badly damaged. I remember telling friends and being offended when they teased me about it.

But still, I have a lot hitting me all at once, and my increased forgetfulness may be the most alarming. Besides completely forgetting how to complete a brainlessly-automatic task, twice in the last month I’ve walked away from dish water running in my sink, flooding the kitchen floor and basement.

Alzheimer’s is such a terrifying scenario, it’s difficult maintaining perspective on normal memory lapse versus dementia. Each episode of forgetfulness is logged directly into the latter category. “Of course I know my phone number; it is … um …”

At least my brain is still sharp enough to know it’s not good that my cholesterol jumped back up to 232; triglycerides, 245; glucose, 104; ASG/SGOT (pronounced “Asig Jost”) 48; SGTP (pronounced just as it’s spelled), 75; GGT, 63; TSH, 0.146; and risk factor a whopping 5.3!

Even though I’m told there’s no feasible correlation, I’ve self-diagnosed that 131 pulse rate as “Blue Bunny Syndrome.” Still up at 4 a.m the previous morning, I ate a sandwich and attempted to have just a few spoonfuls of Blue Bunny chocolate chip/peanut butter ice cream. I awoke later to an empty half-gallon carton, the spoon on my chest and the worst case of acid reflux on record.

I resisted the nurse hotline advice to go to the ER, since my rate gradually decreased throughout the day. Again yesterday upon rising, my pulse rate was 107, then minutes later, a scary 139! And again I retraced to the previous night’s 2 a.m. ice cream binge.

I had bought my own blood pressure machine because, during weekly visits to the Cathcart Center for unrelated issues, my blood pressure averaged about 150/100/105. One day my favorite nurse (except maybe for Nurse Goodbody on Hee Haw), Paula said, “At your age, you’re an accident waiting to happen.”

Paula fingered my daily two pots of eye-popping-strong coffee, suggesting dilution with half decaf, which I’ve done. I noticed right away though, that at home, my blood pressure is almost always much lower than when out in the cruel, stressful world. Truly, “Home is where the heart is,” so I’m sentencing myself to house arrest.

That way, it will only be my own name I’ll soon be forgetting just before the big stroke.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link June 07, 2013 1:06 pm posted by Nan

    Good one Doug, missed your column this week.

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