This blog is part of a series of 4.
I had raced in hotter, humider, longer, less water, same race so why this time did I get heatstroke? Will I find someone to believe me?
I think maybe I have an infection on my brain, or a brain tumour or something worse, like cancer. I cannot wait anymore. I need to see someone about this headache, someone who knows about brains.
I head to Emergency.
Call in the Brain Experts
The neurologist at the hospital at least took me a bit more seriously, considering an ugly collection of brain illnesses, brain tumour, stroke, MS; she orders an MRI scan on my brain.
The round of doctors come, the neurologist and her team. She speaks non stop with a fast Spanish accent, I cannot keep up with the pace, I sink back into my pillow and shut my eyes and let her talk to my parents, like I’m not even in the room.
MRI Conclusion: Normal Study
As I learn, skull squashing headaches don’t show up on a MRI.
The team of brain experts aren’t giving up yet, We are going to run more tests. Check for everything and anything.
Male doctor in the group pipes up, But first we need to test for something we may have missed. Pregnancy.
Nurse comes with test. Are you ready to do a wee wee?
I say, I’m not pregnant. I have a headache.
But how can you be sure?
I sigh, this conversation feels like déjà vu, I had heatstroke and now something’s not right, my brain feels like it’s gonna squish out of my eye balls.
Well do the pregnancy test, we still need to check.
Every word I speak is taking up precious brain energy, I’ve got my period. I’m not pregnant.
The male doctor blushes and the rest of the team scurry out of the room.
I fall back on the bed, my head is going to explode with all this talking and I’m tired of standing up for myself.
The neurological ward is not a party. The mood is somber, hopeless. Patients in there with some serious brain injuries and conditions. I am the youngest person in there by fifty years.
One night I wake up, because the patient next to me is watching teleadverts, the ones that run for half a hour at a time, the noise is blurring into my sore skull.
I notice there’s a patient sitting in my chair, staring at me. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I think, am I in the wrong bed or is she in the wrong chair? I don’t know. I don’t remember where I am. Everything is muddled in my mind.
At the same moment, the patient seems to wake and realise she’s in MY chair, oh hello dear, oh never mind, don’t worry about me, got a little lost on my way to the tot, back to bed now and wanders off to her bed.
I sleep with one eye open for the rest of the night.
Next morning, there’s a patient across from me who can’t walk but think he can, so he gets up to go for a walk. Within seconds, he falls and nearly lands on my bed.
I’m too tired and spaced out to hit the buzzer for the nurse.
You Are Young and Fit – This Is NORMAL
I can’t get out of bed, my blood pressure is low 80/50 (I’m usually 115/70). I feel so faint, spaced out from lack of oxygen in my brain.
What’s wrong with me? I ask the nurses
The nurses brush off my concerns, You are young and fit, low blood pressure is normal for someone like you.
Even though it’s ‘normal’ for someone as young and fit as me, the nurses make me sleep with my bed tilted downwards, so the blood will keep pumping into my heart and brain.
As I lie there, unable to sleep cause I’m upside down, I think to myself, This is NOT NORMAL
Doctors are trying their best to find a bio marker for my headache. Everyday with more blood tests coming back clear, I sense I’m overstaying my welcome.
I plead with the doctors on their rounds, I’m not here to get attention, this is not a holiday for me. There’s something wrong with me, I can’t even remember my middle name, pleeease help me.
They tell me, we are doing all the tests they can but if they can’t find anything then
I Am Willing to Do Anything
Next thing I’m lining up for a spinal tap which is scary as I don’t like needles. I feel like my soul will get sucked out of the syringe and I’ll fade away to nothing. Which is as irrational as my other fear of being eaten by a dinosaur.
Spinal tap will test for infection in the brain which can lead to permanent brain damage. The doctors need to draw out a sample of my spinal fluid, similar to an epidural needle. I was willing to do anything to find out the cause of this headache even face my fears of soul-sucking needles.
I held my dad’s hand while I sobbed and they stuck a massive needle between my lower vertebrae and sucked out my precious spinal fluid.
The first anaesthetic needle is meant to numb the feeling of the big needle but it doesn’t seem to work.
I can still feel that, I say.
Well you’re not meant to, replies the doctor.
I CAN FEEL IT. More AESTHETIC.
The doctor adds more general anasetic but I can still feel the pressure of the needle.
And leave my soul in my body, I silently pray.
Later, the team bustles in with results from the spinal tap.
Spinal Tap Test Conclusion: Normal Study
Doctors who say, There’s no neurological condition detected, we are recommended that you are moved to the psychological ward tomorrow….. this is where I stop listening.
Reach over fumbling for the big red button. Buzz the nurse.
Discharge papers requested, immediately.
A Pill for a Headache?
It has now been five months since the heatstroke and I still have no answers to why the headache started at triathlon race and never went away.
I had several girlfriends racing that same day, and they said they felt hot. They didn’t feel like this.
My brain not working as it should and seems to be getting worse. Sleeping for 12-14 hours day, I pass out 2-3 hours at a time, anywhere I am, in the car, on the lounge, at friends houses.
One day I forget how to add up 10 and 15. I’m constantly nauseous, the only thing I can eat is cheese and crackers and ice cold water. My hair is falling out in clumps.
Travelling in a car with towel over me, the sunshine hits my skin and burns, I’m living like a vampire. My body is overheating, around midnight I get up to have a twenty minute ice cold shower to cool myself down
One time, I’m taken out for dinner, too tired and overwhelmed to even eat my dinner. The concept of chewing is too overwhelming, too difficult to get my brain to command my mouth to chew the food. I am spoon fed cause can’t coordination my hands to hold the fork and food.
I speak to my sister on the phone, ask her what she did on weekend three times in a five min conversation, and I still can’t remember what she did on weekend.
At the follow up appointment with the neurologist from the hospital.
The fast talking with the Spanish accent eyes me off over her glasses, she seems surprised to see me here.
What are your sym-P-toms? , she asks.
Headache, I reply.
I don’t know why, I was hoping you would tell me.
Test results all clear…You are young, fit and healthy. You DON’T have headache. You have ANXIETY. Depression. MENTAL HEALTH. You need ANTI-DEPRESS-SANT. It fix everything.
Thank you for for your advice but I’m here to collect my test results and find out why I still have a headache five months after the heatstroke.
Ok, I have pill for you. It help headache.
Oh, yes. I say, feeling hopeful. What it is?
Excited, she says. Yes, It help headache.
Ok, how does it work exactly?
Anti-depress-sant. Really. It help. Headache GONE!
I walk on out of there.
She yells at me down the hallway, You come back and see me when you ready for anti-depress-sant. ANXIETY! DEPRESSION!
There are good doctors out there with good treatments for brain recovery. I just haven’t found one yet.
I keep looking. Maybe a doctor outside the hospital can help.
I am praying for a miracle.
Thanks for listening
This blog is part of a series of 4.