My MS diagnosis, a tale of torture and the sadists– I mean, DOCTORS– who inflicted it
I have a near car accident to thank for my diagnosis of MS. I had gone to the grocery after work to pick up something easy for supper and on my way out of the parking lot I stopped at the stop sign and looked both ways. Nothing coming. I was about to pull out across the street, when a blur of color caught my eye and I stopped and looked again. A car was barreling down the street, in the lane I was about to pull into. Thoroughly FREAKED OUT, I took the car out of gear, right there at the stop sign, while impatient Albuquerque drivers honked behind me, and covered my eyes one by one. Right eye covered, left eye no worse than usual. (I have been legally blind in my left eye all my adult life.) But when I covered the left eye the world went dark, all except a tiny sliver to the far right of my field of vision.
By now the impatient, honking drivers had figured out that something was wrong & had gone around me, so I illegally backed up into the parking lot, turned the car around and found a parking spot. I remember thinking to myself “OMG!!! That was really smart, backing up like that, when there are ALWAYS cops hanging out in this parking lot! But at least I didn’t try to drive home! I’m legally blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other!”
I called my husband & he and my oldest daughter came for me. We stopped on the way home & I picked up some eye drops, figuring my vision must just be affected by allergies. Unfortunately, while the drops helped to reduce the pain that came on quite suddenly my vision remained unchanged. The next day was the breast cancer 5K, which I had agreed to walk with my friend Roberta. I fell twice during the course of the walk and could no longer tell myself that it was “just allergies.”
I called my eye doctor on Monday and the scheduler pulled out all the stops to get me seen by Thursday, which is nearly impossible for a busy practice. Over the course of the next seven weeks I had just about every test the doctor could think of– including a biopsy of my temporal artery to rule out giant cell arteritis. And one by one, the tests came back negative. Finally, not knowing what else to do, the doctor said he thought I needed an MRI of the brain. He also told me I needed to get a primary care doctor STAT. (Medical lingo for “like, yesterday.”)
My health insurance had just changed for the forth time in five years at my job, so I started researching the doctors who were accepting new patients. One in particular caught my eye, being an internist, female and within 5 miles of my house, so I called and scheduled a new patient appointment. On hearing my story, the new (to me) internist commented on the scuffed toes of my shoes and asked if I was accident prone. I admitted that I was and she told me that prior to being admitted with MS she also had quite a few unexplained accidents. She also sent me for even more blood work. Pity, that. She seemed so nice. Meanwhile, the hospital called to schedule my MRI and to remind me not to wear anything with metal the day of the exam, and oh, BTW, to tell me I needed to show up at the lab 48-72 hours prior to the exam for yet MORE blood work. I’m afraid at that point I became upset and demanded to know the reason for the blood work. “Oh, just to make sure your kidney function is sufficient for the contrast dye,” the scheduler cheerfully informed me. Great! ANOTHER needle! Didn’t these doctors have anything better to do than torture me???
The day of the MRI dawned bright and sunny, as most desert days do, and I awakened my husband by mumbling in my sleep “It’s cancer” over and over.
A week after the MRI I saw the eye doctor again and after he had his tech perform my weekly pressure reading (See? Sadists, all of them!) he discussed the MRI results with me, saying that the MRI showed lesions consistent with MS and that I needed to see a neurologist and that he had already referred me to one and my appointment was the following week. So I went to see what turned out to be the first of the 4 neurologists I have had thus far and guess what HE wanted? You got it, MORE BLOOD WORK!!! He also sent me for another MRI like test, the name of which I don’t remember, but it was to rule out blockages in the blood vessels of my brain. It didn’t require blood work or IV contrast dye, though, so I was happy. At least until I went back to the neurologist for my results and he said I needed a lumbar puncture. Yep, another needle, this time in the spine, come back in 3 weeks for your results. So I returned to the neurologist on August 18, 2011 and this time someone finally had an answer to the question of “Whatever is wrong with me?” It was MS.