Welcome 2021: Massive Upheaval on So Many Levels
The first week of the new year comes with multi-faceted challenges.
Posted Jan 10, 2021
As the events at our nation’s capital unfolded on Wednesday, I was working from home, making my numerous telephone calls and documenting. Some of my co-workers and I keep a chat going during the work day. Being a telecommuter, it lessens the feeling of isolation, allows us to ask each other questions, and at times, with the help of a gif, eases the stress of working with people who are severely and persistently mentally ill and who lack some of the basics we take for granted.
Pieces of what was happening at the Capitol were appearing in the chat, courtesy of my co-workers. We’re not supposed to have the television or radio going when we work (and though it’s never been explicitly expressed, we’re probably not supposed to have our personal laptops or iPads open either). One of my friends who is from Trinidad said what was happening was reminding her of the 1990 coup that took place in her country. She had to shut the television off.
My work station consists of three screens; two large monitors, which are on stands, and a smaller screen from a tablet, which sits on my desk. The tablet was given to us with the idea we’d take it out into the field during pre-pandemic days. I couldn’t stare at this set-up for too long because on the prior Sunday I’d suffered a corneal abrasion. I’d woken up Sunday morning with pain in my left eye that no amount of rinsing or eye drops could relieve. I went to four urgent care centers before I found one that had less than a two-hour wait due to COVID testing. The one I finally settled on had opened at 8 a.m. and stopped testing for COVID at 9 a.m. The doctor at the urgent center told me she didn’t see anything in my eye but was going to treat it as if I had a corneal abrasion. She prescribed antibiotic eyedrops.
I met some friends for brunch, but the pain in my eye kept getting worse. Later in the evening, after the urgent care centers had closed, I decided to go to the emergency room. I was frightened because it was my eye, potentially my vision. I had no idea what was going on. Fortunately, the ER I chose had an ophthalmology set-up right there. The physician’s assistant I initially saw observed the corneal abrasion immediately. I wondered why the urgent care doctor had missed it. He requested an ophthalmology consult and she found a foreign body adhered to the inside of my upper eyelid. Every time I blinked, this either speck of dirt or makeup was continuing to scratch my cornea. I was flabbergasted that the doctor at the urgent care center had overlooked this as well. She gave me a sample tube of ointment and sent a prescription to my pharmacy
The next morning, I followed up with my own ophthalmologist as recommended and she advised me to take a day off from my screens. Resting my eyes helped enormously, and with the medication, I felt better on Tuesday. She warned me that healing would be a process as the cornea is extremely sensitive with abundant nerve endings. By Wednesday, I was still improving but also still sensitive and had to take frequent breaks.
Wednesday, I also noticed the toes on my left foot went numb, but I didn’t think anything of it. I also had hiccups later that night, which can be a little-known warning sign of an impending stroke, especially for women. I was finally able to fall asleep but woke up at 3 a.m. with numbness in my left arm and leg.
I headed over to the ER for the second time in less than a week. They did a CT scan with contrast, which was negative, but in the case of a stroke, CT scans are not always reliable. Since it was the middle of the night, I saw a neurologist by tele-health which was an interesting experience. He said I couldn’t get tPA, the clot busting drug, like last time because, due to the numbness in my toes, the window had passed.
Around 8 a.m., I was sent up for an MRI. I didn’t hear anything until I was admitted around 11 a.m., but I’ve been around hospitals enough to know that no news is good news. If something was wrong, they would have come told me right away. Finally, the neurologist, the same one who had taken care of me when I was in the ICU in August came to talk to me and confirmed the MRI was negative. To hear the words come out of his mouth was still a relief.
He said that we have to figure out what’s going on. I’d been in the ER in September for the same symptoms for what they told me was a TIA (transient ischemic attack), but now he wasn’t so sure that’s what it was. He recommended I follow-up with my outpatient neurologist within a couple of weeks. When I called his office and tried to explain the situation, no one would listen to what I had to say and I couldn’t get an appointment until mid-February. Hopefully, the same symptoms won’t reappear.
I have to admit, I’m pretty scared. There’s a mystery in my brain and so far no one can figure out what’s going on. In some ways, the brain is still a black hole. There’s so much about it we don’t know. I can only hope my neurologist, who I think is pretty smart, can figure it out.
Thanks for reading.