Cultures & Observations

Taiwan - 02/01/2007

And My Heart Goes Boom, Boom

What gives with me?
I'm continuing to see my stomach doc as we try to regulate (or reevaluate) what is going on inside--all I've found out so far is that the ulcer is gone and that I continue to produce too much acid. And so it's been for the past year, but... (Will get back to this later). A few months ago I noticed that the ring on my left hand was too tight. My slow increase in weight, I assumed, did not make me notice it. So I removed it uneasily. I then also noticed a loss of sensation on that arm, left one. Was the blood trying to circulate anew? I wait and after a while nothing changes-still feels numb. Did I create some permanent damage? I go see a neurologist and I am told I need to be tested. Off to the lab I go. At one point a new doc tells me that he is going to insert a needle, attached to a machine, between my thumb and forefinger and that it will hurt a lot. He says, I'm going to test the nerves so maybe quite a bit."  Now, one must remember, or be told, that a Taiwanese 'maybe' is not a 'maybe' meaning possibly yes or possibly no as we are accustomed to use the word. A Taiwanese maybe is, more often then not, a yes when they want to use it as such or a no when it is intended as so. And in this case this 'maybe' means 'YES'. Getting ready for the expected excruciating pain I say OK and the doctor begins to insert the needle. The three nurses squirm a little and back up. I'm thinking this guy is going to first call the Taiwan Hydro Power Company to expect a surge in electricity and then zap me with a zillion kilowatts (or is it volts?). I assume he didn't mention that I will, in the process of being electrocuted, lose my hair since there isn't much there to start off with. So I get ready, and his words 'relax' based on what he just told me and the nurses reaction, makes it difficult to do so. But I try. With the needle in, he starts working on it gradually and I begin to feel a small electrical wave of a sort going through it and into my hand. I assume he is going to gradually increase it so I could adapt to the eventual and inevitable big zap. And so it is, the electrical energy is increased, or so it appears to me, and I continue to wait while trying to 'relax'. The sensation still minor, as if it's coming from a ‘C’ cell battery like those we use with a radio. And then, and then, and then, and then it's over. That was it. Nothing. What was the 'going to hurt' and the nurses’ reaction all about?

Later, in thinking about it, I assumed the doctor scared me so as to get me nervous on purpose so that the nerves would react more appropriately. When I saw him again and told him this I saw what may have been a small reaction in his face to this but what he said is, “It could hurt.”

Anyhow, the lost sensation on my right arm, according to the test results and my assumptions told to him, had nothing to do with the ring on my finger but rather my awkward sleeping position, which is to sleep on the side with my arm up to my head and my hand twisting back under my head. Now this made sense to me however, not fully, (remember this later) since I had been sleeping this way for quite a while. So I tried to change my sleeping habits and this change with the possible help of some pills eventually, within about a week or so got rid of the problem.
Was it over? No.

And the stomach acid? Will get there soon?

A month or so passes by. I am now off to the eye doc to see if I could once again do recovery surgery for my eye—which had gone back to its previous state as was before the 2nd LASEK (laser eye surgery) op. We schedule a second operation in two weeks time. Meanwhile I continue to use eye drops for the muck my eyes seem to be creating. Muck, of course being my words, the eye surgeon’s words were different but I can't remember them. Anyhow, 'muck' will do since me saying the bantarienuembaldcous-thing-a-ma-gig would not make it understandable to any reader.

The day before the surgery I am on my computer. I look at the time on the monitor and it says 00:20. And then, and then something strange. I stop whatever I was doing sensing that something is going on in my body. Just as suddenly, as me being aware that something weird was going on, I begin to see blurry, feel dizzy and I could sense that these two irregularities are rapidly increasing. Next thing I notice is that, just like the movies showing someone who has been drugged with poison, I see completely double.

I am somewhat scared wondering what I could possibly do: Dialing 911 will probably not work since my questionable Chinese may mean they have to put me on hold and get an English speaker. And I know I may not have that much time, besides as I look at my watch I can't see it too well so dialing those small numbers on a cell phone will probably not be doable. Tick, tock, on to the 3d, second since my double vision and dizziness, other alternatives begin to pop up: Going downstairs and grab a taxi may not be a good idea either since I can faint in the stairs and possibly hit my head and do more damage. But staying put isn't good either since it is the middle of the week so if I faint no-one will notice 'til it's too late so maybe the stairs are a good idea after all. Could I make a phone call after all? Could I try? Could I call a friend? Which one? Who lives close by? Should I just knock on a neighbor’s door? At this hour?
Ten seconds have gone by. I think about my eye doctor, the surgery, avoiding the possible truth that I am having a stroke or a heart attack, and that maybe something went wrong with my eye/s. I close one eye and all is in focus and single. I do the same with the other and the same 'positive' results. I'm thinking this is a good thing, or is it?

I get up, slowly, head to the washroom and see if I can see anything--moving not such an easy task at this point but quite do-able. Once in the washroom I notice nothing. What was I expecting to see? Red eyes perhaps—four of them?

I go to the fridge and get some water—“Yeah that’s what I need, I’m probably dehydrated from all the sun and heat I got in the Sahara desert 10 years ago.” Hell, I don’t know why I decided to drink water but somehow I thought it could help. The next thing, still thinking my new eyes were the problem (avoiding, but well aware of, the ‘other’ possibility), I put eye drops in my four eyes. Luckily I only had to put drops in two of them since the other 2 were automatically added to.

And then my dizziness quickly faded away as well as my double-vision. Now what?

I sat there thinking about what had just happened and all the possibilities and choices or lack of.

I relaxed a little doing nothing, then thought it best to turn off my computer and go to bed. But falling asleep was not easy since it occurred to me that maybe just maybe it could happen again and maybe this time, being asleep, I may not wake up. Besides, how does one see double and feel dizzy while sleeping?

Morning comes. I am awake, alive and seeing single. I go see my eye doctor and tell him all. He takes a look and tells me it has nothing to do with my eyes and sends me to the hospital to get checked for my heart. Once at the hospital I get moved to the top of the list and the heart doctor sends me to the neurologist, who then sends me to another neurologist since he’s too busy or something.

I tell my story to this neurologist which was the same one I had seen for my arm and he now confirms my suspicion—that  my loss of sensation on my left arm two months prior had, in all probability, nothing to do with my awkward sleeping position. Key word here being—stroke.

I get more tests done later that week and the results are positive or should I say negative, that is to say all is good—no clogged arteries, slightly high cholesterol but being slight nothing to worry about or demand a change in lifestyle.

Of interest and confusion, what he had to say was this: “What you had was a minor stroke but seeing the test result you’re doing well and have nothing to worry about however, if it happens again contact me right away? So I’m thinking, Ah really! You mean I should not just sit there and do nothing? He also said that, "If it does happen again I should test one eye and then the other." I said, "I did that when I saw double." And he replied, “Yes, do it again and if you see well on one eye (As I had) or see well on the other eye (as I had) then come here quickly. That is not good.” This perplexed me. “Seeing well is NOT good?” I asked. “That’s right”, he said. I repeated, “If I see double in one eye or the other it is good but if I see single it is bad?” Again he said, ‘That’s correct.’  Still thinking that we have a possible communication problem (remember the ‘maybe’ thing) I repeat it using different words and once again he confirms it.

Then I tell him, "But that is what happened the other day. I saw single and you are saying that is bad." He said, "Well your tests results show no clogging or anything wrong with the veins around your neck so no problems to report however, if it happens again let me know." Now I’m thinking, do I dare ask a third time? With my brain on speed dial I now ask him another question. "Check your computer and you will see stomach problems, mainly acid. Is there any connection there?" He says, "Yes, maybe. (That damned ‘maybe’ again) And could we assume with more assurance that perhaps the previous problem with the loss of sensation in my left arm had nothing to do with my bad sleeping position." He says, "Yes, maybe very possible." (No comment). I continue, “The left arm is connected to heart problems and stroke somehow, right?”
“Yes” he replies (Why am I doing all the thinking for him? Should we switch chairs?). And one more time I had to confirm the seeing double on one eye is a good thing, thing.

I leave. A day later I get a sudden pain in my heart but I’m thinking it’s possibly nothing. It’s just a food thing, which is a heartburn thing, which is a stomach acid thing, which is a………. And the kids sing, “The hip bone is connected to the back bone. The back bone is connected to the shoulder bone. The shoulder bone is connected to the….”

And then it was my birthday

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