Body Betrayed | Body Disabled

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Emergency Room at Erlanger Medical Center

We arrived at the emergency room early afternoon. I was barely able to walk in with
Cathy's help. It was uncomfortable to sit still, so I alternated between sitting and standing. The triage took me very quickly. After an initial assessment, it was not long before they took me back into an exam room.

The doctors did a good and thorough job of examining me. Blood work and neurological exams were the order of the day. Guillain-Barre Syndrome was a real concern for me and the doctors.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is an acute nerve inflammation that causes nerve demyelination and varying degrees of paralysis.

My mother was one of the 500 or so people who developed GBS from the Swine Flu Shot back in the 1970's. She spent forty-seven days in intensive care and almost died. Could there be any genetic predisposition toward GBS in me?

One characteristic of GBS is loss of deep tendon reflexes. My ankle reflexes were reduced, but my knee reflexes were OK. Therefore--according to the ER doctor--I could not have GBS. The best way to diagnose GBS is through a spinal tap and search for elevated proteins in the spinal fluid. A spinal tap was never ordered, so there is no way of medically confirming the presence or non-presence of GBS. I have since learned that it is possible to have GBS and intact reflexes--it's not common, but it does happen.

Since the ER doctors were convinced I did not have GBS, they began looking for other disease processes. I told the doctors about the tetanus shot, but they said there was no possible connection. An EKG was ordered to check for heart abnormalities; there were none. A CT Scan with contrast was ordered to check for brain abnormalities.

I am very allergic to the IV dye they use in CT contrast scans. I voiced my great concern to the doctor, but he said they would pre-medicate me and I should be OK through the process. I had been pre-medicated for IV dye on a previous occasion when dye was injected into my shoulder to check for rotator cuff problems--but the dye was not injected into my vein back then.

I was given a large dose of steroids, and the equivalent of ten Benadryl--I was a happy boy! During the CT Scan, I did have a mild reaction. As the dye went in, my lungs felt like they caught on fire. They were able to quickly give me additional medication intravenously that stopped the reaction.

Before the CT Scan, a physical therapist came in to help evaluate my physical strength and movement abilities. I was shocked to see just how weak I had become. Just a couple of years ago, I could bench press 275 pounds, I could leg press over 600 pounds, I could curl 75 pounds with each arm. I was one of those people who have been naturally strong all of their life. If I wanted to move anything, I just grabbed it up and went.

The therapist look like she weighed about 100 pounds, fully clothed and dripping wet. She stood in front of me as I was seated on the bed. She reached out both hands before me and told me to place my hands against her's and push her away. No problem! I could push someone her size through the wall into the next room.

In the words of Gomer Pyle, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!" I could not budge her no matter how hard I tried. I had lost almost all my strength--and I did not even realize how weak I was. I know what Sampson must have felt like! In further strength testing, she could hold my legs down with one hand. She could push my arms down even though I was pushing against her with all my might. Where is my spinach when I need it? Wow! I was shocked!

The head ER doctor and the hospital neurologist did not think I was that weak. I tried to convince them that I had always been very strong and should have pushed the therapist--and themselves--through the wall with very little trouble. In the hospital's neurologist's final report, he states, I do not notice weakness in the patient . . . the patient is able to exert force with encouragement . . . this leads me to believe this condition is stress related.

Why could they not understand how weak I was? Why do so many doctors jump to a conclusion of stress when they have difficulty making a diagnosis? Why do so many doctors not listen to what their patients are saying; after all who knows their body best? This is very frustrating.

They admitted me to the hospital on Wednesday, June 17, 2009 about 5:30 AM.

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