Friday, February 24, 2006

The Sum Of Our Years

This is my friend Carl in the hospital. A stroke put him there. No more fixing shoes in his shoe repair shop that he's owned for the past 40 or so years. He'll likely never walk unaided again or have enough use of his right arm and hand to operate the machinery or even use the hammer.

About five years ago I have vague recollections of waking up in the rescue truck myself. I'd had a grande mal seizure in my sleep, with no previous history of seizures. They kept me for a few days and had me on some heavy doses of anti-seizure drugs. They gave me scans and tests, asked me a million questions about a possible head injury, my family doc shook his head in amazement when I told him that the nerologist had told me not to drive if I wasn't on the medication. His advice was that he thought I shouldn't be driving on the medication. I was told that I'd have memory loss from before the seizure until sometime afterwards, not complete, but big gaps in what I'd remember during that period. It turned out to be about a two year hole in my memory, with just scattered recollections of what hapened during that time. Then the neurologist decided that it had been a year since the seizure.Time to see what happens if I stopped taking it. A couple days later I had another seizure.

Back on the medication again! But the stuff fuzzed up my thinking a bit. I spoke with my family doctor, I read a bunch of medical texts on the subject, I talked with physician friends, and with my ex who is a doctor. I gradually reduced my daily doseage until one night I had a mild seizure. The neurologist thinks I'm nuts but I have a clear head again on the minimal dose. Oh, I get the occasional lightheaded dizzy spell, and my short term memory is lousy, but I know a lot of "healthy" people my age who couldn't tell you what they ate for lunch today.

Carl's mind is clear. His speech is no longer slurred. His body is improving with the daily therapy and a lot of effort. Hopefully he'll get around with crutches soon, but he'll never repair shoes again. I still stop in and visit him every week or so but I sure wish it was at his shop and not the nursing home.


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