By Brian M. Howle
Sorry for the lack of activity here, kids … but my absence can best be summarized in the following mathematical equation: 59 yrs. @ 6’1″ + 189 lbs. x 45 mph ÷ Gravity = Unlimited Legal Drugs. Is this a great country, or what?
Oh, this little distraction sorta clouded my larger issue for absence.
However, like being in a late-onset Sesame Street episode, I was destined to learn a new word, a medical word that was applicable not just once; oh no, it was applied to my condition twice, but with different body parts in play with the use of the word.
That word is stenosis; from an Ancient Greek word that means “narrowing.”
While shopping in an Indianapolis Wal-Mart in mid-August, I suddenly went totally blind in my left eye. Now, I had been having little bouts of impaired vision, where these obscuring fields of gray blocked parts of my field of view in either eye; sometimes the top half, sometimes the bottom half, sometimes the sides, sometimes was like a tunnel and sometimes right in the center of my vision. But, they began dissipating almost as soon as they appeared, and never lasted more than a minute or so at the most.
Not this time.
This time, it stayed blocked, completely. As I was processing this as a possible problem, I became aware that the entire right side of my body – from neck to feet – felt like it was asleep; not paralyzed but buzzing and as if something was trying to grasp my entire right side with frail but gripping fingertips.
With a family history of heart problems, I was aware of the signs, and how to deal with an onset if one still had the ability to control functions as it begins. I began talking to myself, out loud, making sure it was clear and not slurred or babbling voicings. I smiled and felt my facial muscles for the expression. And I made a beeline for a store employee, ready to ask them to call 911 for me.
As I approached a guy working frozen foods, there was a sudden wave of nausea, and a feeling of being very flushed, along with a biting, metallic taste …
Then, a momentary pain from hell, merely nanoseconds if that, which felt as if I had been shot in the temple, directly behind my left eye.
And with that, my vision returned, all other symptoms disappeared, and the numbness was gone.
I knew it wasn’t something to ignore, so I called my childhood best friend, who just happens to be a doctor, and a bit of an expert in cardiac matters. He told me to return immediately, and though I had driven to Indy from Myrtle Beach, I could not take the time to re-pack my things and then make the arduous 800-mile drive under the circumstances – so I booked a flight the next day and returned home.
My exceptional friend had me come over to his office, to pop the hood and give me a look.
Seems I had experienced what is called a “Classic TIA,” medical slang for a transient ischemic attack, which means I had a pre-stroke stroke; a wake-up call, if you will.
He checked both carotids in my neck with a stethoscope; immediately went over and called his cardio guy for a consult. They ascertained that I suffered from carotid stenosis (There are 2 main arteries to the brain, right and left; I have an 85%+ clogged right artery.) That will have to be opened up and cleaned out.
The unexpected free drama came when a second stethoscope visit and a simple listen to my heartbeat led to a second phone call for a second consult, and they hurried me to a small room. An ultrasound scan immediately revealed on screen what he had heard through his stethoscope – a failing aortic valve, which (surprise!) is called aortic stenosis … which, turns out, is sorta important. So that will have to be replaced.
Perhaps Della was implicit in my re-introduction to mother earth in front of the M.B. Airport terminal in late August. There was a purpose in slamming my ass into the ground at 45 mph and impaling my leg with the carburetor intake, which allowed my circulatory system to have a “pop-off pressure release” that kept my heart valve from exploding with the pressure put on it upon impact of my chest and collarbone with the median grass. For most practical purposes, the chest held together, although severely bruised and a cracked rib or two. The collarbone made the ultimate sacrifice, however. But I did get lots and lots of little collarbone pieces to listen to whenever I moved my left arm, or breathed.
Honestly, I think Della may have just wanted to take my mind off of the new words I had learned, especially after I returned home from my medical evaluation and researched the conditions, online. Because it turns out, stenosis pretty much means, “Dude, you are so screwed if you don’t have surgery – very soon.”
Oddly enough, that was pretty much the assessment of my doctors. So, I’m in the glide path for a couple of major surgeries, including the always-a-hoot open heart variety.
Needless to say, on top of immediately forcing me back to the beach for treatment while in the middle of my most recent extended visits to see my sweetie in Indianapolis, Indiana, it has pretty much put an end to my writing or promoting musical performances for the immediate future. But I promise to keep my journal going into all phases of this, and reporting to you as we go along and see just how much fun this is going to be.
Pros: I have watched “Grey’s Anatomy.” Cons: I have watched “Grey’s Anatomy.”
FYI: If you develop anal stenosis – Magnesium Citrate, drink an entire bottle; then take Senekot, twice a day.
Just trust me on this.
And stay tuned.