January 10, 2009

Kerstin's Brain - Part I

With the holidays now behind me and the New Year in front, I have a bit of time to reflect on the past week. On the 27th of December I began to experience some mental problems that lasted until the 28th. The problems were severe enough to get me hospitalized and unique enough that they remain undiagnosed. The symptoms were similar to a stroke or a psychotic break with a loss of language skills, vision, and hearing. Accompanying these were numbness, nausea, and loss of fine motor control. It is still undiagnosed, so if anyone has any idea please leave a comment.

At 4 PM on December 27th Ilana and I were shopping for a dishwasher. We were discussing various models with the sales representative in the store when I felt a warm sensation and springiness in my legs followed by a pins and needles sensation. The feeling rose into my belly and torso. It took about a minute for the pins and needles sensation to get to my torso and by that time, I took Ilana aside and told her I thought we should leave. We excused ourselves and as we left the store the prickly feeling rose into my head.

When we got to the truck in the parking lot, the feeling had passed. We debated whether to go home or to the hospital. While we discussed what to do next, another wave or pins and needles came over me, along with numbness in my hands. We decided to go to the ER in Augusta, which was luckily only a 5 minute drive away.

On the way to the ER it became more difficult to use my hands. I had trouble adjusting the thermostat controller in the truck and at the check-in desk at the ER, I struggled to get my ID out of my wallet from my back pocket. I was able to sign in to the hospital, but Ilana needed to fill out the forms for me. We were asked to take a seat in the waiting area. I remember a pissed-off kid with a bloody head who had some kind of winter sporting accident and an older lady in a wheelchair hooked up to an oxygen bottle ahead of me.

I don’t remember what was showing on the TV in the waiting room, but I was commenting on some aspect of the show and how it related to larger media theory and how that related to various social trends and patterns (the basic TV programming is rubbish and it is everywhere conversation). I began to notice I was having greater and greater difficulty speaking. It started with a fumbled word or two, and then advanced to an incorrect word said in place of the one I intended to say, then I was suddenly unable to say the words I wanted to.

I didn’t realize I was speaking gibberish immediately. The words I wanted to say were lined up in my brain and were correct, only after uttering them did I realize that something was wrong. The ear is a very poor evaluator of word appropriateness when the brain thinks everything is okay, so there was a conflict between the two. Another disconnect was with my brain and my mouth. I could tell my mouth was not making the correct shapes for the words I wanted to say when they were wrong. However, It wouldn’t be until after I said something, listened to what I said, felt it in my mouth, and then re-thought about the sentence that I could tell if the words that were spoken were the correct ones. If the words were not correct, I wouldn’t be sure exactly what I’d said because I was so preoccupied listening to what I was saying that I couldn’t remember what I’d intended to say. This is how things were for me for most of that night in the hospital.

The 'switch was flipped' in the waiting room when I was talking with Ilana. Selecting words became a little difficult and when I said something that didn’t seem like what I wanted to say, I tried to correct it. I then noticed Ilana had a very worried look on her face. She went to get a nurse. I grabbed a pen and paper thinking if I was unable to talk properly, perhaps I could write coherently. The note I wrote Ilana was not much better than my speech. My numb hands made writing problematic and I started to have trouble with my vision (things would go in and out of focus, making most objects in the room look smeared), and I couldn’t pin down the words I wanted to write.

(This is Ilana’s perspective at this time: Kerstin was talking coherently in the waiting room for the most part, when suddenly he started spouting random words in mid-sentence. Words like “fish” and “tank” were repeated a few times, but I don’t remember exactly what he else said. I panicked and rushed over to the attending nurse at the desk, where I sputtered between sobs “He just started spouting gibberish. I think he’s having a stroke.” She quickly whisked us into an isolated holding room, probably because I was visibly shaken at this point. I suspect she didn’t want my freak-out moment to disturb the other patients. This is where Kerstin wrote his infamous note. I was crying a lot and Kerstin tried to comfort me with it.)

I wrote the following words on the back of a STAT Registration Request form:
“Its kind of kind of body oot of body-ish I wish I had better penpenship This”

The note explained:
I could tell my penmanship in the note was lacking when I wrote it, but at the time I did not know the words I wrote were doubled up and were not the words I intended to write. I believe I wanted to write “This is kind of like a mind out of body experience.” since I was feeling numb and did realize my state of consciousness was abnormal. I think now I was flummoxed by the words “kind, like, mind” being so close together and that’s where the note went wrong.

It's taking some time to recollect this all, but I will try and get the rest of the Augusta Hospital adventure written soon. See Part II to read what happened after we entered the ER.

1 comment:

Aaron Hobson said...

Cool brain picture. I want one. I have a pretty far-fetched theory, a result of recent late-night movies. You could have a slow-acting version of the T-virus (see Resident Evil 1, 2 or 3). Options are grim if this is the case. I recommend not biting Ilana or Alden. Ilana, if Kurt becomes a zombie, they recommend shooting the head. This could be tough. The alternative is to hang on until Resident Evil 4 and hope they find a cure.