Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving marks the one year anniversary of when DH's medical mystery, the mystery that had taken over our lives for two and a half years, was finally solved.  This week, one year ago, DH once again began experiencing the strange stroke-like symptoms that caused sudden, significant weakness over the entire left side of his body.  He was once again unable to use his left leg without it buckling, unable to lift his left arm or use his hand. Once again his words became garbled, the left side of his face drooped, and he couldn't move his tongue to the left side of his mouth.  

This time was different; DH was experiencing a brand-new symptom.  This time, his head hurt, too.  And even though every medical test that any doctor could think of had already been run, this new symptom caused the doctors to hospitalize DH yet again in order to re-run the old tests and try some new ones.  The headache, in conjunction with all the other symptoms, finally forced the doctors to think outside of the box.  It finally provided the missing piece of the puzzle that convinced the doctors once and for all that DH was not allowing his stress to manifest itself in a physical way with these bizarre symptoms (a.k.a. Conversion Disorder).  

On Thanksgiving Day last year, a neurologist finally came up with the diagnosis of Complex Hemiplegic Migraines, a disorder that explained everything and, as soon as it was mentioned and I began researching it on-line, seemed so obvious I could not believe that none of the fancy-shmancy neurologists at Jefferson or Johns Hopkins had even considered it.

Late in the afternoon that day, DH was given an injection of medication to treat the migraine, and within ten minutes, the symptoms went away.  Just like that.  He could speak clearly, he could move his arm above his head, he could walk without a cane.  For the first time since this medical roller coaster started, he was able to leave the hospital better than when he entered.  This time he did not require weeks and weeks of physical therapy to regain full use of his body, only to relapse with yet another episode anywhere from a month after all the symptoms had disappeared to as little as a few days after being discharged from the hospital, long before his body was back to normal.  This time, exactly one year ago today, the doctors figured out what was wrong and actually treated it.  They prescribed medication to prevent the migraines from returning and medication to take at the first sign that a migraine is coming anyway. 

Don't get me wrong - we have ended up in the ER a number of times this year.   Any time DH's symptoms do not respond to his medication, we have to head back so the doctors can make sure it isn't a stroke.  And every time, despite acting  they are humoring me when I tell them the specific medicine he needs in his IV and that the symptoms will completely disappear within ten minutes, DH's symptoms have disappeared within ten minutes.  But the times that his migraines do not respond to his medication are becoming fewer, and I clearly have become more convincing in the ER - our visits are shorter each time now that the doctors are giving DH the IV drug earlier and earlier into our stay.

This year, as we went around the table overflowing with our extended family to share exactly what we were thankful for, I couldn't help but tear up a little as I remembered last Thanksgiving: taking the kids to visit Daddy during the day, Twin B getting so excited about how "lucky" we were to be in the hospital that day since the cafeteria was giving away free turkey lunches and dinners, trying to provide a sense of normalcy for the kids by taking them to our regular Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' even though DH was still in the hospital.  I remember talking to DH on the phone soon after the medication had taken effect, marveling at how easy it was to understand his speech as he told me he could go home the next day.

And so today marks the anniversary of the mystery being solved.  It marks the end of DH being told it was "all in his head" and the beginning of actually treating the problem.        

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

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