I just read the December 14th posting on Time Goes By. The subject was dementia and the fear of it. That's something that was really bothering me six months ago. The number of times I would wander around the kitchen looking for the right place to put something or to find something was out of control, or so I thought. I realize now that it was all quite normal for someone my age (75). Yes, I still try to put the ice cream in the bread drawer and try to use the toaster to heat my coffee, but I was lucky enough to have had some balance problems. I say lucky because I told my doctor (my PA-C) and he referred me to a neurologist, as well as a balance specialist at the local rehab center. The neurologist noted my minor complaint "I keep forgetting things" and he then introduced me to his clinical psychologist. She took me into her office and we spent half an hour testing for dementia and Alzheimer's. All quite painless, of course. I was then told that I was just fine and my memory problems were the ones that were to be expected at my age. There was an immediate feeling of relief, as if a weight had been lifted from me. I know that I would never have gone to the neurologist on my own. I should have. Years of needless worry could have been avoided.
Of course I received a new worry in place of the one I lost. The doctor had ordered a brain scan to make sure he covered all the possibilities of things that might make me lose my balance. He had to order a CAT scan because I couldn't have an MRI. I can't have MRI's because of the metal cable and battery that is implanted in my back to combat intractable back pain. It doesn't work but it is there anyway. He told me that the brain scan showed a possible enlargement of the ventricles in my brain. Possible is the key word. CAT scans are not as reliable as an MRI. If there is enlargement of the ventricles, then further testing is needed to rule out any possibility of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. That testing would involve a spinal tap, or Lumbar Puncture. That's not high on my list of favored medical procedures. As a Navy Hospital Corpsman, I worked for a neurosurgeon and had to assist in many Lumbar Punctures. My job was to hold the patient still while the doctor pushed a long 14 gauge needle into his spine. In the position I had to use to keep him still, I was just inches away from the injection site. Once the needle was in place I was asked to remove the inner cannula and begin to measure the spinal fluid as it slowly dropped out of the needle... enough of that!
That brings me to today. I'm anxiously waiting for a phone call from the neurosurgeons office. Neurosurgeon and not neurologist. I have lots of doctors! This neurosurgeon is going to remove all of the metal from my back. The reason for the removal is three fold. One is to remove a useless piece of medical hardware. Two is to remove the hardware so that my pain specialist doctor can safely do some epidural injections to quiet the back pain that has become my constant companion. And three is to allow my neurologist to order new brain scans using MRI technology. Both the doctor and I want to know what's really happening to my ventricles. Because, if it's not Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, it may be Parkinson's or ???
I'm just back from a checkup visit to my main doctor, Stuart the PA-C. We decided to increase the amount of morphine extended release that I'm taking. I will take it 3 times a day instead of twice. It will be wonderful to get rid of the wires and have the epidurals. Maybe then the pain will finally be gone and I will be taking no drugs! I won't be holding my breath though...