Friday, September 21, 2007

The Latest Installment of The Story of My Brain.

I went to the neurologist yesterday because I've had a headache since Sunday. That's not too weird for me. Ever since I got hit in the head I have headaches. The part that was weird or me was that I went to bed on Sunday with a headache and I woke up Monday insane. Not quirky/odd/artistic, cut-off-your-ear-for-love insane, but the kind of insane where the curtains are scary, and the movement of leaves and cars makes me cry, and Julie's hair music makes suicide seem like a reasonable prospect.

Actually, Julie's hair music ALWAYS makes me consider killing myself (or her), but really? The curtains? So Lori took the day off and we went to the neurologist. And after our day with the doctor, we've decided that the neurologist needs to go see his neurologist.

He told me that the symptoms were bad, and sent me to the ER to have my cat scanned and my lab tested, and receive excellent headache drugs. When we went back to talk about the crazy part he said things like "seizures have a genetic component" and "some people have one seizure a year, while others have one a week. We don't know why."

And I said, "But I was sane on Sunday. I woke up crazy on Monday. I'm pretty sure my illness didn't progress that much during the 8 hours I was asleep Sunday night."

And Lori said, "There IS no genetic component. Remember? She was hit on the head with a softball? Unless her parents were also hit on the head with softballs, this is not a family problem."

So later when we had supper with Carrie at her excellent restaurant Melange (insert shameless product endorsement here), we tried to retrace the timeline of the Hit On The Head With A Softball Story...and here it is:

In the summer of 1998, when Carrie was in 7th grade, I coached her Pixie League softball team...Like I did every summer. And like every summer...we sucked. I had too many players in Keds and anklets who couldn't throw 20 feet and batted with their eyes closed. The only exceptions were Carrie, Katie (not my Baby Katie...another Katie), Julie, and Megan. They were all excellent ballplayers, but not excellent enough to carry the dead weight of all the Anklet Girls...and so we sucked pretty much every year.

So this particular summer weekend, we had an all-day tournament at the city park. My girls warmed up, the outfielders threw the ball back and forth in the outfield, and infielders threw around the horn. The umpire called "Balls in!" which, besides being a signal for the boys teams to get their cup out of the pockets and encase the family jewels, also is a signal that all the balls being thrown around the field should be rolled to home plate and collected by the coach (that would be me) in a big bucket.

So I was standing at home plate, waiting to fill my bucket and speculating about how many kids on the other team might hit home runs on us...and then it was a week later.

But for the rest of the world, that week looked like this:

Megan had a brain fart and fired the ball home from third base instead of rolling it. It hit my left temple and shattered my skull, and I went down like a $5 whore out behind the Come On Inn lounge.

Being the valiant mother I am, I courageously staggered to my feet, and collapsed back into the dirt several more times...rise, lather, rinse, repeat...until I managed to get to the dugout, where I apparently declined the offer of a ride to the hospital from the paramedics (It's just a flesh wound!), and instead chose to remain semiconscious in the dugout all day.

Later, I actually DID go to the ER. I was uninsured at the time and dragged my feet all day, but eventually realized I had to spring for a professional look-see. The ER doc diagnosed my skull fracture and sent me home with drugs and someone to wake me up every hour through the night.

I lived. I had rip-roaring headaches, the kind where aliens pop out of my temples and my vision went to hell almost instantly, but otherwise...not so bad.

A year later, I started getting lost. In my own neighborhood. On my street. In my house. And then on Christmas Eve I had the first festive holiday seizure. The good kind, with the grunting and the flailing and the urinating. I finally saw a neurologist, who determined that I had a left temporal lobe lesion with accompanying epilepsy. It was the beginning of my new identity as NeuroGirl.

And now, a decade later, I'm the Evie you all know and love. The one that can't remember what Lori looks like if I lose her in a crowd...Although the process of finding her is amusing. "African-American woman? Not her. Young Caucasian man? Not her. Little child? Not her. Ah! Small middle-aged blond wearing my shirt? THAT'S her!"

I've become a person that sometimes gets disoriented and cries at unfamiliar curtains and sees nonexistent people roaming the yard. A person that does everything in the exactly the same way at exactly the same time every day in order to maximize the likelihood that I'll actually remember to, say...go to work.

The story I hear is that this is pretty much who I am from now on. It's okay. We've mostly found all the work-arounds I need to be happy and the drugs keep the most embarrassing parts under control. Temporal lobe epilepsy is fairly common...I feel better knowing that even if I'm nuts, there are a lot of other people crying at their curtains.

Not long ago Megan and her Mighty Arm of Doom were at my hospital, giving birth to a new generation of brain-destroying little Megan-ettes. Irish suggested that I zip up to the nursery and slap that child upside the head, which made me laugh. But I wonder sometimes if Megan has any idea how much her momentary lapse in concentration has changed my life.

Now I spend a lot more time bonding with health care professionals than I'd like to, largely because Lori is absolutely conviced that with our luck, one of us will drop over dead now that we're in the best relationship of our lives. And although that would be good for picking up chicks later (is there anything more tragic that a grieving lesbian widow?), it would suck when we're old and want to spend our lives with someone who knows us and loves us anyway.

So...we treat the epilepsy. And then we blog about it.


Anonymous said...

Here is some good info that might be useful:

Kolb & Wishaw (1990) have identified eight principle symptoms of temporal lobe damage: 1) disturbance of auditory sensation and perception, 2) disturbance of selective attention of auditory and visual input, 3) disorders of visual perception, 4) impaired organization and categorization of verbal material, 5) disturbance of language comprehension, 6) impaired long-term memory, 7) altered personality and affective behavior, 8) altered sexual behavior.

Selective attention to visual or auditory input is common with damage to the temporal lobes (Milner, 1968). Left side lesions result in decreased recall of verbal and visual content, including speech perception. Right side lesions result in decreased recognition of tonal sequences and many musical abilities. Right side lesions can also effect recognition of visual content (e.g. recall of faces).

The temporal lobes are involved in the primary organization of sensory input (Read, 1981). Individuals with temporal lobes lesions have difficulty placing words or pictures into categories.

Language can be effected by temporal lobe damage. Left temporal lesions disturb recognition of words. Right temporal damage can cause a loss of inhibition of talking.

The temporal lobes are highly associated with memory skills. Left temporal lesions result in impaired memory for verbal material. Right side lesions result in recall of non-verbal material, such as music and drawings.

Seizures of the temporal lobe can have dramatic effects on an individual's personality. Temporal lobe epilepsy can cause perseverative speech, paranoia and aggressive rages (Blumer and Benson, 1975). Severe damage to the temporal lobes can also alter sexual behavior (e.g. increase in activity) (Blumer and Walker, 1975).

Common tests for temporal lobe function are: Rey-Complex Figure (visual memory) and Wechsler Memory Scale - Revised (verbal memory).

Kwach said...

I swear I've done more research about TLE and traumatic brain injury than the average neurologist. If you're going to be helpless the least you can do is be well-informed, don't you think?

Ev's brain is sometimes fascinating and sometimes frustrating, but it's her brain and she's my girl, and I love her mightily ... so my job is to get as forewarned as possible and then run interference when the neurologist tries to steamroll us with a barrage of double-talk.

So, Robin ... any input you have along the way is greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Good News ! You should be able to become a banjo prodigy with right side intact;)If you only pick it up and, get it in tune. Good for you Lori for pulling neuro guy's nose out of his books. (you know what I really mean :) I'm sure you have researched sideways but, go for the info at established brain institutes.
Hug Girls.


Sharon said...

Hi! I found your blog through a link on Cedarflame.

I've only read this post so far and I find it refreshing that you have a sense of humor about your condition and your life, in general. Too many people take any opportunity to dwell on the negative aspects and become depressed.

I found your comment about a grieving lesbian widow funny. Mostly because I was one many years ago and there were many suitors who came calling. Though, I can't say any of them were really long-term relationship material. They were all motherers though.

Anyway, one more thing... what the heck is hair music?

Ev said...

"Hair music", sometimes refered to as "hair bands", is that particularly awful heave metal rock music from the '80s, characterized by skeletally thin men with ENORMOUS curly bushy hair that they would sling around like they had no fear of whiplash.

It's that awful screaming guitar music that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard and make the patience-challenged person want to go postal on the asshole with the stereo.

Since I hate the stuff and I have memory problems, I can't name a single Hair Band, but there are hundreds of them and they all suck.

Ev said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kwach said...

She hates it a lot.

She hates it a lot.

A genre of heavy metal also known as "Glam Metal", "Glam Rock", "Hair Metal" and "Jesus Christ, will you turn that shit OFF???" music.

Hair Bands you might remember include Motley Crue, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison, Guns 'n Roses and Metallica.

Jade said...

I like Metallica. They have mellowed with age, I think. Growing up I listened to Jethro Tull, Kiss, Meatloaf and I am sure my Mom hated them. Though she did like Boy George (gag). I still listen to the same music I did as a teenager though not as loud and no jumping on the bed playing air guitar. Rap makes my skin crawl and some country makes me want to stick an icepick in my ears.

Carrie said...

Old Metallica is most certainly NOT hair music. They were a fucking thrash metal band, and then they got all limp wristed and hip swingy sometime in the 90s. They did have some mighty hair, though.

Anonymous said...

My advice for the neurologically challenged and those that love them? Do exactly what you're doing (research, questioning *Doctor* and challenging prevailing theories about what you can/can't do regarding the brain and neurological systems). We're learning more and more every day - it's an exciting time to be a therapist (but maybe not yet an exciting time to have temporal lobe damage). In the immortal words of one of the papa's of the hair-band genre, "For those hit with a rock (or softball), we salute you!" Robin

Suzanne said...

Holy shit.