Although I mainly write about my photography on here, the last few weeks have been some I'll never forget and it has nothing to do with cameras.
On Monday, 23rd March, I was sitting at my desk worrying. Worrying about a series of symptoms that had steadily become worse since the previous Thursday. They were the kind of symptoms that would surely make you sound mad if you told a doctor about them. I was dealing with a numb tongue, and pins and needles in my toes along with the addition of pins and needles in my finger tips that morning. I had Googled it - of course I had - and had multiple sclerosis staring back at me. I decided to call the doctor and was squeezed into an appointment that afternoon.
The doctor was sympathetic and did basic observations before asking about my lifestyle - I don't smoke, I drink little, and I'm not a particularly stressed person. She did a series of strength tests with me to see if I had any weakness. I didn't. Finally she took some blood to do a sweep of tests that would cover a whole range of areas - thyroid, cholesterol, sugars. I was relieved it wasn't just me and she was concerned enough to have it checked out. I made an appointment for a week later and tried to forget about it.
Tuesday, 24th March 2015
Like any other day, my son woke up around 6am and I headed to the bathroom before going to get him out of his cot. This time, as I washed my hands, I glanced into the mirror to notice only half my face making any movement. Jumping back into the bedroom in a panic, I told my wife who could see that half my face had drooped on one side and was making no movement. A drooped face says one thing; stroke. She called NHS24 who spoke her through various tests whilst sending an ambulance and I sat with our boy on the sofa like normal trying to stay calm for him. When the paramedics arrived they did more tests before we were rushed across the City to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with a suspected stroke. There I was assessed and taken for a CT scan before waiting for a while for the scan results to come back. They were fine and I was diagnosed as having a transient ischaemic attack - a mini-stroke.
An hour later and we were making our way to another hospital across the city. There I saw a stroke specialist who began a series of tests on me to try and pin-point the effects this had had on me. Aside from a drooped face on one side, I had lost my ankle jerks and was wobbly on my feet but I still had strength. He then asked me an important question, "what do you think when we talk about stroke?" It was a big question for me; until this point I had gone from the initial shock and then from pillar to post being tested, and suddenly a doctor was asking me how I felt about It. Two thoughts rushed into my mind "how is this going to affect our life?" and "why, at 34, am I dealing with a stroke?" I went with the latter. "That's the same question I have," he replied. I didn't expect to hear that. "I don't think we're dealing with a stroke here". He sent me for an MRI and an ultrasound of the arteries in my neck. All these came back clear and it was arranged that I would return the next day to the neurology department for further investigation.
It was good to get clear results back from the various tests that had been done. "Unremarkable" and "all fine" were the words of the day, but for me this just came back to the same question - what is it then? Is this something beyond the doctors' knowledge and most definitely outwith my control?
Wednesday, 25th March 2015
It was early, around 2am, and something was bothering me. The paralysis down the right side of my face affected everything, including closing my eye to sleep. I tried to close it by holding the lid shut but I could still see the street lights pouring in from outside our window. That didn't make sense. The only answer was that my left eye was open and that meant one thing: the left side of my face was now paralysed too. I woke up my wife who asked me to smile...nothing. Raise your eyebrows...nothing. I tried to remain calm this time as she called NHS24 again. "Make your way to A&E" - so we did.