Last week I took a very weird trip. The first thing I remember is sitting in a hospital room, my daughter Sarah telling me to read the papers in my hand and at the same time plying me with food--a burrito, chips, a soda. I kept reading and rereading the story my daughter handed me, trying to make sense of the words on the page:
“Mom you woke up this morning feeling disoriented (about 6:30 am). You called Don. He called me. I called the paramedics. I met you at your house and the paramedics decided to bring you to Northwest Hospital by ambulance. This morning you dressed yourself and have great physical response. Not a big stroke or something. Maybe something small & localized.
At 10:00 a.m. this morning you will have an MRI that will last about 45 minutes. They will check for a small stroke. (You have no bleeds.) Dr. Hooker has glasses and a moustache. He thinks you have global localized amnesia (?) which he sees about once a year. It is rare but people recover and have normal function after the event (just can’t remember week or so around the event). Don called your work & they know you aren’t coming in. Don will probably fly up soon. I will be here at the hospital with you. You are going to be fine. I love you. Your daughter, Sarah.
Don is flying up and will be here this afternoon (3 pm?). I wrote this down so you can remember what happened. The Dr. feels like this is not dementia, just an isolated memory problem from a small brain (stroke like) thing. They’ll know more after the MRI. You’ve always been calm and lucid in conversations in the moment. I will always be here nearby.
Update. (12 pm)
After the MRI the Dr. came in and told us there are no bleeds or tumors in your brain. You respond normally & remember people, surroundings etc. Good news! The neurologist will come and speak to us--likely it is transient global amnesia which means you will recover normal memory but not much about the event itself or a week or so surrounding the episode. He sees this about once a year, very rare. You’ll be ok. Your brain looks healthy and actually exceptionally ”young“
*The neurologist will come and see you later this afternoon to see how your memory is c\coming. You can remember further back--4th of July but still foggy on last week. Memory will continue to improve. Dr. will determine if you spend the night for observation. Don is on his way. You spoke on the phone here at the hospital. Relax & Know you are ok.
Discharged from hospital at 1 pm. Call for neurologist appointment after 2 pm for follow-up. Symptoms should lessen and resolve in the next day or two with no lasting problems.”
It’s now almost a week later. I have the neurologist appointment later this morning. Here’s a description of what happened to me:
Transient Global Amnesia
And here’s the story I pieced together of last Wednesday’s events. I still have no memory of that day--except for fleeting images--until I remember reading and rereading Sarah’s story of what happened. What a clever thing for Sarah to have done (apparently remembered the movie Memento).
I called Don about 6:30 am. I was confused and knew something was wrong. Don was alarmed because I had no short term memory, I kept repeating myself and asking the same question. I was particularly concerned because the back of my very green house seemed to have turned white. So it seemed that I also must be hallucinating. (Footnote: the back of the house was white. I had hired college students to fix the peeling paint, they had started the day before, and I had neglected to tell Don of the project.) When he rang off to call Sarah, I called back and started the story all over again, not remembering that I had just called. From there to the hospital Sarah tells you the story.
Don also called the office--left a voice mail on my boss’s phone and a message with one of my co-workers. Unfortunately, my boss didn’t pick up her messages. And he left the second message on the phone of the “wrong” Robin. As I began missing important meetings--my boss’s staff meeting, a follow-on meeting where I was helping with a presentation we had worked on for the previous four days--folks got worried. Freda in my office went to my house. My car was still there. But I didn’t answer the door. She went around to the back. The painters were there but had seen nothing. She looked inside the bedroom--bed made, no Susan. Finally folks talked to Margie at the reception desk, who had talked to Don. And put him through to a Robin in our group. They looked in her office and saw the phone blinking red. They called Robin at home, had her pick up her message, which was from Don. She gave Don’s number to my boss’s admin. She finally contacted Don at about noon. That’s when they learned what had become of me. They had imagined me unconscious in the house, wandering about the streets. . . . . . . .
I was discharged from the hospital in the early afternoon, still pretty vague about what had happened and what was happening. Sarah and I went to a park and waited for the time for Don’s plane. We picked him up, drove to my house. Things slowly began settling into place. Memories of the previous days mostly returning. That night I settled into read. I had been “reading” two books--reading one on my Kindle and listening to one on my ipod. I couldn’t remember the plot of the Kindle book (I was about 60% of the way through), the plot of the audiobook came back when I replayed the last five minutes. By morning I could remember the plots of both books.
And over the past week, my memory has been settling in around the remaining hole for that morning. Still weird lapses here and there. Things that just won’t stick or quite return.
Somehow this experience wasn’t frightening. Left me feeling a bit mystified and quizzical. How slight our tether to “reality” can be I guess. I knew who I was. I knew who people were. I managed to get up, shower, go through all of the details of getting ready for the day, even making my bed. I was dressed and put together when my daughter and the ambulance arrived. But my ability to maintain short-term memory was totally gone during that period. A very short loop, round and round.
Not sure the lesson. Still left wondering about that.