Patsy Porco

My New Excuse for Everything

In Humor, Medicine on January 12, 2015 at 1:14 pm

A few days before Christmas, I developed a horrendous pain in the right side of my face that waxed and waned in rapid cycles. Each time that it waxed, it did so harder than it had in the preceding cycle. I initially thought that the pain was caused by a sinus infection–the kind that makes you think that you have a toothache when you don’t. After 24 hours, the pain had become excruciating–an exquisite pain, as some writers describe it. This exquisite pain landed me in the emergency room. It didn’t actually propel me there (my son drove me), but it was the catalyst.

I was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, a facial nerve condition, and was given drugs and told to make an appointment with my regular doctor the next day. My regular doctor was on vacation so I saw his substitute. She ordered a battery of blood tests and told me to get an MRI on my brain. She suspected that I had had a stroke. She gave me in-office stroke tests and I passed them, but she still wanted verification because I was slurring my words. I blame the oxycodone (prescribed) I was taking at the time, but I’m not a doctor, so I scheduled the test.

The MRI was uneventful, once the nurses covered my eyes with a washcloth to ease my claustrophobia. The MRI machine was open-ended, which didn’t matter at all because my head was in a vise and I couldn’t see the opening. In my mind, my head was in an enclosed tube. However, the washcloth and closing my eyes calmed my initial hysteria. I was in there for almost an hour and I think I entered a trance-like state. In the last five-minute photo session (the brain scans were done in groups with a brief break between each one), I fell asleep and jerked awake, which ruined those images. I had to have those pictures taken again. But, all in all, it wasn’t so bad, only loud. When I got off the table, I was told that the images and report would be sent to my regular doctor.

When I saw my regular doctor, who was back from vacation, he was unaware that I had even had an MRI. He left the examination room to search for it in the hospital database. In a matter of minutes he returned with the report, which he must have read on the walk back from the computer. He acted, however, as if he were fully caught up on my status. His cursory glance at what was going on in my brain worried me, until I persuaded myself that he was a speed reader. He told me that the scan was fine and that I hadn’t had a stroke (which was a relief) and I didn’t have a tumor (which would have been good news, if I had even considered that possibility).

I received a copy of the MRI and the report. I will now give you the best advice you will ever be given: Unless you are a doctor, do not read your MRI report. I read mine and, among other conditions that sounded scandalous, the worst was mild atrophy in several areas of my brain. Brain atrophy. My doctor might not have been concerned, but I sure was. Since I had planned to work from home that day (after my appointment), I emailed my boss that I had brain atrophy and needed the rest of the day off. Wouldn’t you think that that was the best excuse ever for not being able to work? Well, my boss was totally unfazed, and not because she had already suspected this outcome. She was unmoved because she immediately texted her husband, a neurologist, who told her that all MRIs mention brain atrophy and that I shouldn’t be concerned. There went my request for sick time.

I don’t believe that all MRIs show dead areas of the brain, but mine does, and I was told not to worry, so I guess I won’t. I’ll probably forget about it anyway, like I forget everything else, but now I can blame my forgetfulness on my brain atrophy. None of my friends are neurologists, so I expect them to be very impressed.

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  1. […] « Before My New Excuse for Everything January 12, 2015 […]

  2. I also have had an MRI that reports brain atrophy. “At a normal level for patient’s age” – Is that supposed to make me feel better?

  3. I’m glad they ruled out all the horrible stuff, but is your head/face better now?

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