The noun form of the word "patient" means a person who is under medical care or treatment. This definition certainly applied to me as 2012 ended and the new year of 2013 dawned. The following adjectives also define the word “patient”: persistent, persevering, long-suffering and unflappable. As the process of trying to figure out what was wrong with me wore on, I think the most that could be said about me was that I was persistent. I persevered until I eventually found an answer, or in my case a series of ever unfolding answers. But I certainly did not prove to be long-suffering or unflappable throughout large portions of this process.
In the last few days of 2012, I had my first appointment with a neurologist. He prescribed a series of tests over the next few months and each potential cause of my black-out was tested but eventually discarded as not the cause. The neurologist also recommended I should wear compression stockings to facilitate blood circulation.
I have a reputation for following instructions to the letter. So I immediately began to schedule the various tests the neurologist ordered. I also took the guidance he gave me on compression stockings and purchased a pair. I immediately began to wear the stockings, but they just made me feel miserable. I didn’t feel like my circulation was impacted at all. But I did begin to feel very bloated and uncomfortable, like my lower body was growing into a blimp and about to explode. (Hmm – maybe this is where the long-suffering part of patient comes in?). After a few more days of wearing the stockings I was still in much discomfort and saw no apparent impact on my circulation. So I just stopped wearing the stockings.
I was still putting in long hours at work. The person who had been hired to be my boss was not scheduled to show up for another few months or so, which meant that I had to continue acting in his place for that period of time. The good news was that I was not as tired as I had been in December. The bad news was that none of the tests thus far (x-rays, carotid artery scan or CAT scan) had turned up any answer for why I had blacked out and fell off the treadmill. I thought that was odd, but given that I didn’t seem to be getting worse, and might actually be getting better, I wasn’t too discouraged.
However, in late January of 2013, I again was not feeling well. Instead of getting an appointment with my primary care physician, I went to an urgent care clinic because I could immediately see someone. Another plus was that the clinic was within a short walking distance of my apartment. The diagnosis was an upper respiratory infection. For the next week or so, I continued to rest and take the medicine that had been prescribed but I started to feel really tired again.
I began one early February morning with a visit to the fitness center around 5:00 a.m. A number of people I knew were there, including my fitness center friend. I had really reduced my routine - no elliptical, no treadmill, no weights. All I felt comfortable doing at that point was using the exercise bike. I was riding the bike in a comfort zone knowing friends were in the room and thinking I was okay. I was watching the television that was on in the fitness center.
The next thing I knew, I was on the floor with the building's security guard standing over me and taking my pulse. I had blacked out while on the bike and fell to the floor. My friends, who were in the middle of their exercise routines when the fall happened, heard a sudden clunk as I hit the floor. My fitness center friend had rushed out to get the security guard. He called 911.
An ambulance squad came in, and after hearing what happened to me, they decided I needed to go to the hospital. I still remember one of my other fitness center buddies looking down at me as I was resting on the floor and saying “Maybe she should just try yoga?” Despite how serious this medical mystery was becoming, that observation still makes me laugh.
While I was on my way to the emergency room, my fitness center friend called my sister to let her know that I had experienced another episode. My sister said that she would come to stay with me that night. In the meantime, the emergency room team was trying to figure out what my problem was. The people who saw me on the floor of the fitness center described symptoms that sounded like I might have had a seizure.
The emergency room doctor called my neurologist’s office. Unfortunately, my neurologist was on a trip outside the United States but a colleague at the practice was consulted. The two doctors agreed to put me on anti-seizure medication as a precaution. My neurologist’s colleague said I should make an appointment to get in to see my neurologist as soon as possible after he returned from overseas.
My sister came and helped me out, getting my newest prescription filled and making sure I had plenty of food to eat and was comfortable. I called a former boss who had seizure issues, and I talked about what had happened to me. It was important for me to figure out how my life would be impacted by potential seizures. The conversation helped me realize that while I did not like the diagnosis, I could cope. I just wanted an answer.
But it wasn’t to be, and it looked like I would have to persevere a while longer. My neurologist, after examining me the next week, decided that he did not think it was likely that I had experienced a seizure. But he did say that I should keep on taking the anti-seizure pills which surprised me. He also wanted me to have an MRI. Finally, my neurologist was not happy with me for not wearing compression stockings. I tried again, and felt just as miserable as before.
I was not a pretty picture. Even after my new boss reported to the job, I was still working a full-time job with an over 40 hour week, and continually checking my iPhone for messages during my time outside the office. I found myself not only tiring out quickly but beginning to have more and more dizzy spells. I was wearing compression stockings resulting in a continuing feeling of bloating and discomfort. And it got so bad that a good friend rescued me, taking me home one afternoon after a series of dizzy spells (including one while sitting in my desk) occurred at my office. By the beginning of March, to say I was frustrated would have been an epic understatement.
I did not fit into the category of unflappable. I was an impatient, incredibly irritated patient. My behavior was the antithesis of the terms “long-suffering” and “unflappable”. Would my physical condition just continue to deteriorate with many questions and no answers?
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.