The Man with Half a Brain……

18 Apr

‘Surprisingly, this article isn’t about the Chancellor of the Exchequer but I’m sure he would meet the criteria.  It’s about me, the man with half a brain; well almost……’

Background……

On a sunny June morning in 2011 I was out with my Mother when something strange happened to me.  My memory is a little vague in the lead up to and aftermath of the events of that day but this is what I do recall.

We were walking down the street about 300 yards from home when I began to feel a bit dizzy.  I sat on the floor, thinking it would pass and may have been as a result of my tendency towards being somewhat manic.  It didn’t.  Then I remember my vision becoming altered, which I apparently reported to my Mother.  Having dabbled with some hallucinogenic substances in my youth I can safely say the visual disturbance was like no ‘trip’ I’d ever experienced.  Next, I remember not being able to make sense of what was in front of me; I could see it but it was like looking at a 2D picture of the world.  The next thing I remember was waking up in an ambulance and not knowing where I was or what had happened.

My Mother later relayed the series of events to me.  She told me I had said ‘everything looks weird’, then my eyes rolled up into my head and I had a seizure which went on for around two minutes.  It was described as what one imagines a ‘classical’ Epileptic seizure to be; arms and legs twitching uncontrollably, foaming at the mouth and making strange noises.  To me this was a blank, for my Mother it was quite distressing and worrying.  A concerned passer by called for an ambulance and we were taken to A and E at the local hospital……

Diagnosis……

The doctors performed a CT scan, extracted the obligatory blood sample but didn’t take an EEG which, as I have now discovered due to the surprise of a specialist mental health nurse, was a strange omission for a patient presenting with my pathology.  The result was relayed to me at the time as being as ‘small’ benign cyst as the possible cause.  They suggested keeping me in over night but I felt okay and, knowing what it’s like to lay in a hospital bed, unnoticed, waiting eons for a doctor to discharge you, I made the decision to go home.  A follow up appointment was made with a Consultant Neurologist a couple of weeks later.  The only apparent damage at that time was a lump on my head and a few grazes as the result of keeling over and ‘tweaking’ on a pavement in shorts and a T-shirt, plus a feeling that I had pulled the muscles in my arms and legs, presumably as a result of the spasms.

Until the follow up appointment I had not seen the CT scan.  Perhaps now is a good time to refer you to the image (below).  It isn’t the actual scan of my head, as you don’t get a copy without some considerable expense, it is a ‘photo-shopped’ approximation but I assure you it’s fairly accurate.  Taken from the bottom looking up, the large void is in the left hand side, level with my ears, extending toward my eyes.

CT Scan - Cross Section

CT Scan – Cross Section

My Mother attended the appointment with me and explained the bits I was unaware of.  I gave them all the information I could with regard to the lead up and weird visual stuff.  There were two consultants present and they did what I assume is the usual ‘follow my finger’ stuff and shone lights in my eyes.  It was when they turned on the monitor to show me the CT scan that my alarm bells rang.  As they scrolled up and down the images I stopped them and asked them to confirm that I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.  They confirmed that I was and that the large black area that filled almost one quarter of my head was the cyst.  However, the cyst was benign and ‘unlikely’ to have caused the seizure.  Instead, it was concluded, that a reduction in prescription medication was the culprit but they would monitor the cyst to check for any changes.

Now I’m not a neurologist but I know a little about CT scans.  Anything suspicious like a tumour shows up white, like normal brain only with more solidity.  Anything containing fluid shows up black like a cyst, so I wasn’t particularly worried that I was imminently about to keel over and die from a brain tumour.  But the presence of a large black void in your head is unnerving and it did seem to be somewhat of a coincidence that a seizure caused by a reduction in medication just happened out of the blue and was in no way connected to the cyst.  Still, off I went happy in the knowledge that they intended to monitor it; until that is I received a letter explaining their diagnosis and discharging me without any follow up appointments……

The Un-Merry go Round……

I have had quite a lot of experience with doctors, in particular with mental health issues that have worsened over time.  And, despite having been prescribed more different types of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications that you can shake a proverbial stick at, nothing has alleviated my suffering.  During this time, which is around 20 years or so, every symptom, emotion and behaviour has been blamed on mental health issues.  Despite endless attempts to get help from the medical establishment it is like being on a merry-go-round where any alteration in one area is blamed on another, to the point at which I’ve stopped seeking help because it seems like a pointless exercise but then I had an unexpected revelation……

Perhaps I’m not Mad After all……

During a recent circuit of the merry-go-round I was referred to the local Community Mental Health Team for (yet another) assessment.  In my last encounter with the mental health specialists they stated that I had ‘too many complex factors impacting on mental health’ which I interpreted as ‘you’re too mad for us to do anything with’.  However, this time around the lady who did the assessment was startled to find out that I had a brain cyst that was not being monitored and she was the one who asked if I had ever had an EEG?  Having explained the many varied and strange symptoms I experience she though I should be referred to a Clinical Psychologist to establish any possible link.  Over that past few years I have had problems with my memory, blackouts and have been prone to rapid and dramatic swings of emotion, including having an extremely short fuse; all well documented symptoms of a brain cysts and all previously blamed on depression, anxiety or as the side effect of taking, or not taking drugs……

‘So maybe there is some light at the end of the very long and debilitating tunnel through which I have been travelling for so long.  The prospect of brain surgery doesn’t fill me with joy but if I can be put back to how I was before this all started 20 years ago, count me in……..’

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