Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My strangest 20 minutes ever

I had a strange day on Monday.  I started the morning with the bright, flashing lights of the aura of a migraine-- nothing unusual about that.  I have been experiencing migraines since I was 5 or 6 years old, so for about 50 years now.  It was bothersome, but not the worst headache I've ever had.

I sat down to watch the news at lunch time, and started getting the aura from a second headache. So, I closed my eyes for a few minutes, until I heard the beep-beep of an e-mail notification from my phone.  I opened the phone and saw something sort of like this:

I couldn't make sense of it.  I worked for several minutes trying to make sense of the e-mail.  I was just about to give it up to horrible corruption of some kind, when I could make out a word or two, but the sentences made no sense whatsoever. As I kept working, another word here or there would come clear to me.  The last word I was working on had only 2 letters in it, but i could not figure it out.  I guessed some short words to try to figure it out by the context, but couldn't.  I remember thinking, "This is just a two-letter word.  I must know it.  Why can't I read it?"  Finally, it cleared up for me, and it wasn't strange at all.  It was the word "do".

The first thing i did was call Dave's office and leave him a message.  Then I went to the bathroom mirror to see if i was drooping.  I thought maybe I was having a stroke.  But no, I wasn't confused, I knew where and who i was and what I was doing.  But I had not been able to read a simple e-mail.

Dave called, and I lost words several times.  I knew what I wanted to say, but could not get the word out of my mouth.  He headed home, and I called the doctor's office.  I left what i hope was a cogent message for the doctor's scheduler, but I could not remember my phone number to leave it on the recording.  They did manage to call me back anyway.

Well, after a doctor's appointment and a brain MRI, we are pretty clear that I did not experience a stroke.  What we think I did experience was transient aphasia, which can happen with the types of migraines that produce auras.  One of the sites I have read describes it this way:
It is now understood that Migraine aura is the result of an electrical wave that pulses across the brain called Spreading Cortical Depression. As the unusual electrical wave spreads across the brain, our neurons fire in an abnormal way and our brains can become confused. We see things that aren’t there. We may feel, hear or smell things that aren’t there too. Even our sense of time and space may be altered. As the spreading cortical depression hits the parts of our brains responsible for these and other functions (such as language) we experience strange aura symptoms.
Strange indeed! This weird thing even happened a few years ago to a TV news reporter while she was trying to cover the Grammy Awards on the air:

You can read more about this reporter, Serene Branson, and her story here.

I will be heading to the neurologist in the future to talk about this, but it seems there is no permanent damage being done, and when it is over, it is over.  I am glad I was home at the time, and not teaching or out grocery shopping!  At the advice of one of the sites I read, I now have some cards in my wallet that basically say this:

Hello!  My name is Chris.  I sometimes have transient
migraine-relate aphasia which makes me unable to
process language for short periods (15-20 minutes).
Could you help me? Please call my husband Dave at
XXXXXX and let him know where I am and that I am
having trouble.  Thank you!      

 So, if I have another episode and am out and about, I will be depending on the kindness of someone nearby.  And thank you to those of you nearby (locally or virtually) who were praying for me.  I am grateful that I am not in the permanent aphasia camp, and that it passes quickly.  And I hope I can better understand what stroke and brain injury folks face all the time. I just find myself grateful for so very much!

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