Thursday, February 27, 2014

Time marches on

My parents got married on February 28, 1970 when I was eight years old. They were wonderful parents to me and they were married for 43 years until they passed away 13 days apart in September of 2012. Happy Anniversary! I miss them a lot. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Grandmothers and the Northern Lights

When I used to visit my Grandmother Agnes Dunham in Kalispell, Montana, I remember her telling me that she had “floaties” in her eyes. She described it as “the gel in the eyes have ‘floaties’ meaning there are dark spots in the eyes.” She continued describing the condition saying it is “like having a piece of lint on a camera lens.”

For some reason, I have always remembered her description. I have always had “floaties.” I have always ignored them but if I concentrate, I can see my floaties.

Because of my strokes and the loss of vision on my right side, I am very conscious about my eyes. When I first had symptoms before my strokes, I had 7 of what I thought were migraines. My vision on my left side seemed wavy and on the right side, on the top I had auras like the Northern Lights.    

I now know that those headaches and auras are classic signs that you might have a stroke. Even though I had an MRI because I was concerned, they did not find anything, and I had my first stroke three days later on January 10, 2012.

After the “big” stroke, I lost part of my right visual field. For me, I see fine, but it is like a horse with blinders on the right side. I do not notice that I do not have right side peripheral issues.

When I am falling asleep, I see prisms like stop signs on my right visual field. I hoped that shapes were my eyes healing. I still see those, but I just do not notice anymore.  

Last May, I had an “incident” and the doctors and nurses told me "it was NOT a seizure."   My neurologist said I should take anti-seizure medication “just in case.” I hated the side effects, and my regular doctor agreed I should stop taking that medication. And I did after consulting with my neurologist.

Fast forward to January 20, 2014 last month, I had a full blown grand mal seizure. It started in the Capitol building and I walked to my office three blocks away. I did not remember anything after my office when I woke up at St. Al's in intensive care.  

I realized I had the same symptoms like in May. The symptoms were different than my stroke symptoms.

When I had "not-a-seizure-just-a-brain-incident" in May and the grand mal seizure last month, I had an aura. It centered on the bottom of my right eye, and I had two vivid perceptions like a cartoon bubble. In the bubbles, I was seeing a memory of two seconds ago. I did see a slight aura on the top of my right visual field but not pronounced like when I had strokes.  

After the seizure last month I have also noticed that my right “pinkie” finger is not working like it used too. When my big second stroke happened, I was essentially paralyzed making my right arm useless. It came back soon because of acupuncture. But now, since the seizure, I have issues like numbness with the pinkie finger, tremors in my hands, and my left eye lid spasming slightly.

Part of it, I have two anti-seizure medications in my system.  I am hopeful that when I stop taking one of those medications and I get used to the drug, it will even out. 

Everyday is a new adventure! 



Monday, February 17, 2014

Tremors and brothers

It's been one month since my seizure, and I am trying to figure out how to deal with the side effects of the anti-seizure medication.

First day the doctors prescribed Keppra. I didn't like the side effects including sores in my mouth, being dizzy, feeling like I was buzzed like a drunk, and a kind of weakness in my arms.

That week I complained to my doctors about side effects. The doctor said that Keppra is the best new drug they like to use. I was adamant to change. Reluctantly they prescribed Dilantin but I had to wean off of Keppra.

I have been reading about the side effects of Keppra and Dilantin. The two things that I noticed right away: I have tremors in my hands and tremors in my eyelids. 
I continue to be plagued with weakness with my limbs most notably on my right arm where I was paralyzed initially after the stroke happened.

When I was shaving this morning, it was difficult because of the tremors.

Yesterday, my son asked me to help him to let retrofit a Nerf gun. I needed to use a Hacksaw and series of drills and drill bits. I was determined to bond with my son on that project. For two years my son has been so patient and so helpful considering his childhood is changed forever because of my medical issues.

I did complete the project but is incredibly difficult. He had no clue that I had some problems completing the task. I had tremors. I was confused sometimes about the way the drill would work. Which way to turn the drill?  

Tools were very intuitive for me. In our garage I have so many tools including a table saw, miter saw, Skil saws, and a whole bunch of specialized tools. 

I remodeled houses. One of my best jobs was building houses with my brothers. I am proud that I am one of the “Dunham Brothers.” Now, it seems that my brothers accompany me when I am hospitalized!

I did complete the project with my son. But it seem like it was slow-motion. I had to concentrate on every step of the way. Considering how the project went I was kind happy. It was slow and deliberate like I had short-circuits in my brain. But I did it. I don't know how I did it but I did it.

"Concentrate." That term has a new meaning for me. I am scared to use my tools. Now I'm scared to shave!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Imagine Dragons and a 9 year old memory!

Our son experienced his first major concert last weekend: Imagine Dragons. 

This was basically his 9th birthday present, and he danced the night away!

My wife often works concerts for the BSU Taco Bell Arena, and she arranged that he had the opportunity to meet the band! 

I could not go with him because of my recent seizure, and I am grateful that my wife could take him. I think that will be a wonderful memory for them.

My first real concert when I was 10 was the Carpenters on the College of Southern Idaho campus. My stepdad was the Baldwin Piano dealer, and he tuned the Carpenters piano. We had great seats!

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to attend so many great concerts:

Journey, the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Loverboy, Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick, Rod Stewart, Pat Benatar, Elton John, Bryan Adams, Joan Jett, Heart, Dolly Parton, John Mellancamp, the Cowsills (sorry….I had no choice and I was a kid), Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, Boyz 2 Men, Greenday, Cats on Broadway, Mamma Mia, etc!

Tina Turner was my favorite! She yelled "Are you ready for me Boise!" She was ready!

I wonder what our son will remember about his first concert! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Depression, strokes and seizures

Just over two years ago, I had two strokes.  Now, I had a seizure about two weeks ago.  Those brain incidents have caused me to reassess my life in so many ways.

I never thought about my mortality. I knew of course that I would die someday, but the concept of my demise was so foreign to me. I thought I would be much older. I thought I would be healthy throughout my life with some life-ending issues at the end of my life. 

I assumed I would have great health for a long time and enjoy my retirement with a full life of travel and hobbies like woodworking and writing. My wife and I would drive cross country in a motor home. We would travel to Europe. We would enjoy our son who was a gift when he was born when we were in our early forties. I had so many dreams about helping him with homework, exploring the possibilities of life, coaching his teams, and telling all that I have learned in my life.

But now, reality is setting in. Certainly, I am “getting better.” Everyone including my doctors says I am a miracle.  However, “getting better” depends on your perspective.

I know that I am down. I know the new anti-seizure medication I have to take for life will work. Soon. I know that the medications have side effects including depression and mood swings.   I am a very intelligent guy despite my strokes and now seizures.

But, this is just so hard. Every day is a struggle.

My hobbies are gone because I cannot read well now. I cannot use power tools ever. I cannot drive for three months because of the seizure (if ever), and the prospect of our family driving cross country is a distant dream. I was a wonderful writer, however, because of aphasia this blog post is almost impossible to compete. Last night, my wife helped our son to get ready for a social studies test. I cannot help him at all because I cannot read aloud; I cannot speak well, etc.  I feel useless.

I am on so many boards because I have knowledge and I want to make a difference. However, I often think I cannot do the work like I want. I have now realized that I was taking everything for granted…my intellect, my insight, intuition, and instincts. Now, I second guess myself every day wondering why I try to persevere and fight.

Of course, I cannot give up. I have realized that I have a depth of tenacity that surprises me every day.

But, it is still hard when you wake up and realize that every day will be a struggle to do even mundane things. Doctors need to be a reality check and they are good for that. They are great to list my limitations. I know also what I have lost, and I know I should be incredibly grateful.

Everyone including me knows “it could have been so much worse.”

But, I miss the life I expected and hope for. 

I do know that it could be worse. So many people have more issues than me, and I should not complain. But it is hard.