Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Funny Story I Promised!

Air conditioners, Hot Peppers, High pillows and the Psychiatrist

If you had a headache that started with a major pop in the neck near the base of the skull, followed by the worst pain you had ever had in your head, followed by complete blood in the whites of your eyes, what would be your diagnosis? What kind of doctor would you see for these symptoms? What kind of tests would you have done?

Here’s our story. Serious but sooooo funny in soooo many ways!

Two weeks ago my husband, Matt was doing some pushups as part of his exercise routine. (oh, what a buff man he is!) As he came up on his last one, he heard and felt a pop in the right side of his neck, followed by the worst pain he had ever had in his head, followed by the whites of his eyes completely turning blood red. When it happened it was kind of one of those surreal moments that you just think, “Well, that was strange.” He continued to have a headache for the next day, so we thought we should probably ask a medical person’s opinion. Before I go into the rest of the story, let me tell you that we live in a major city in Africa. In this culture it is easy to get appointments with doctors and all visits are done in the evenings.
We first saw an orthopedic doctor at our schedule appointment for 9 pm. He told us that he didn’t know what had happened but that it was not a muscle in his neck. He then told us that if it were him, he would get and MRI and MRA brain. We left his office at 9:30 and called the scan lab and they had an appointment at 10:15 pm. We headed across the city to a scan lab to have an MRI and MRA brain. The technician came out and said all looked good and sent us home.
The headache continued and with the advice of a medical friend here we made an appointment to see a neurologist. This appointment was scheduled for 10 pm that evening in downtown. We entered a moldy smelling office with a friend and were greeted by the doctor 15 minutes later. We told the doctor the whole story, he asked to see the scans and then he looked at Matt for a minute or two having him touch his nose and follow his finger. He then said, “You have what we call a tension headache.” We went over the incident again to make sure he understood what had happened and that we could not see the whites of Matt’s eyes when this happened. His reply was, “You know when you get angry your eyes can turn red.” “You can also get a headache from sleeping on a high pillow.” Then he proceeded to say that the headache was probably from studying Arabic so long in the air conditioner. I have no idea what he said after that because there was no need!!! 
The headaches continued with the pain going from severe to mild. By this point we had been on the phone with doctors and radiologists in the states trying to get their opinion. Their concern was that Matt had had a subarachnoid hemorrhage. No one knew what we should do-all were researching. In the mean time, we had some of our local friends offering to talk to doctors that they knew. One of our local friends talked to a doctor that she highly respects and he said, “Some people that eat hot peppers can have really bad headaches.”
Then some more friends had some relatives who knew a “good” neurologist. He agreed to make a “house call.” He arrived with his little black bag, heard the story, took Matt’s blood pressure, had him touch his nose and looked in his eyes. He also flipped through the scans much like you would a stack of cards. He then said, “You have a headache. You are perfect. You may just be anxious.” He left and we still had no answers for what had happened. We started to feel a little helpless and at the same time silly. We know people have headaches and we know there are many reasons for them. We could not find answers to the initial incident.
An hour after the “house call”, our Arabic language teacher came by to say hi and check on Matt. She looked down at the receipt that was written in Arabic from the “house call” doctor on the table and said, “Why did you see a psychiatrist for your headache.” Hmmm…guess that wasn’t the right doctor.
Needless to say, we were done seeing doctors here for answers.

Side note: We have seen doctors here for other minor things and Stacey has even had gall-bladder surgery here. All of our medical care has been excellent. But for some reason, there are not too many experts for the brain.

So, the doctors in the states thought that they needed to have Matt evaluated in the states. The fear was that he had a subarachnoid hemorrhage. After seeing a couple of doctors in the states and having more tests run, it turns out that he had an “exercise induced” migraine. We are told that theses two things look very similar and the only way to tell one from the other is a spinal tap. Of course, nothing can be easy….Matt had a reaction to the spinal tap and it made him worse than before!

Here we are two weeks after returning to the states and he is feeling great! We are so thankful for the good diagnosis. The doctor told him that it could happen again and if it did to “STOP IT!” (Not much different advice from the doctors here! )

Now we are waiting to return home. We thought it would be this week but have learned that there are no flights available until after Christmas. So, we will enjoy our time with family and friends during this holiday season! We are so thankful for many things….Matt’s brain is good (even though some of his friend may argue that!), we can return to our home in Africa, we got to spend Thanksgiving with family, we get to spend Christmas with family, Matt can now go back to eating hot peppers, studying Arabic in the air-conditioning and sleeping on the pillow he loves. He is even cleared to exercise again!LOL! One thing we do know for sure... when things get crazy and life seems “up in the air” we know THE ONE we trust in! HE is so faithful! May HE be GLORIFIED in our lives in ALL THINGS!