Thursday, June 03, 2004

Potentially Lethal

I went in to the doctor this morning to have my neck/shoulder/head checked out so that I could hopefully find out what's wrong with me. I was a little leery of having a decent diagnosis since the doctor that I was assigned to was a family practitioner, but when I was in his office waiting for him to come in I noticed that he also was certified in sports medicine. This relieved me a little because I injured myself while I was lifting and it was affecting me while I was active.

He asked me a lot of questions and poked & prodded me a lot. Probably checking to see if it was a pulled muscle or something. I don't really know since I'm not a doctor myself. After I told him that the pain I had came on after I became active and not from using my shoulder, he asked me some more questions about my pain and where it was at. Since I would get a throbbing shoulder/neck pain that would then cause a headache he believed it was one of two things.

The first, which he is pretty sure it is, would be that I have exertion migraines. These migraines come on when I do active work. The increased blood flow causes swelling and expanding in the area I pointed out, which causes pain. To counter this I would have to take a prescribed drug to nullify the pain before I exercised. This wouldn't be too bad. I could live with it.

The other thing it could be is a little more scary. It could be a serrated carotid artery. Apparently there is a 10% chance that it could be this. What this means is that I have build up on my artery in my neck and it has come loose, flapping inside of it. One of three things could happen if it is this. The piece of build up comes off and is reconstituted into my bloodstream and I'm basically cured. If that doesn't happen, it could come off and partially close off my artery causing a stroke. If that doesn't happen, it will then come off and completely close off my artery causing instant death by brain aneurism. That's some scary stuff to think about.

The doctor didn't think that I had a serrated carotid artery because I am in good shape and have a normal blood pressure. Also my headaches haven't been causing any problems with my vision, which would show a partial closing of the artery. The fact that I've also had some slight nausea associated with my headaches leads him to believe it is more than likely just migraines. Just to be safe, however, I am scheduled for an MRI and and ultrasound for Monday, June 14th.

Until my MRI the doctor said just to be safe that I should not do anything active at all. If it is a carotid artery then the increased blood flow from exercising might raise the risk of it coming loose and clogging my artery. So for the next 10 days, I have been ordered not to do anything active. I'm going to go nuts! I haven't been able to do anything active for the last week and I feel so fat and gross because of it and now I won't be able to do anything for another 10 days. Well, I foresee a lot of tv, reading, and video games in my future. I'll just have to adjust my diet accordingly so that I eat less to avoid excess weight gain.

I also sense a lot of anxiety over the next 10 days. Even though it's only a small chance (1 in 10) that I could have a life threatening ailment, I'm still worried. Right now I feel fine, but I have 10 days to worry about what could potentially be wrong with me. Anyone who's read this site for any period of time knows how much I fear death and just knowing that there's even a slight chance that I could potentially die is a little bit nerve wracking. If anything this will help me to truly enjoy every moment of the day over the next couple of weeks.

Some funny things I've thought of, however, are some of the odd ways I could die via a serrated carotid artery. What if I am really constipated one day and I grunt too hard and it causes me to die. Wouldn't that be the worst way to go? Sitting there on the toilet taking a dump... Or what about simply getting nervous about something? If I suddenly have a bunch of work dumped on me and as I stress out about it I keel over onto my laptop... Man, there's so many crappy ways to die.

My friend Neil Swanson called yesterday to talk to my mom about his wedding pictures and we talked about dying. He has made the decision that he wants to die in a grand way, something that "will make the front page of the paper" as he so eloquently put it. I think that's the way I'd want to go to--doing something grand, like saving a baby from a burning building or saving Kristin from terrorists or something like that. Who wants to die taking a dump or walking up some stairs or by just falling over? Not this guy. Let's just hope I don't have to worry about dying at all in the near future. I know that's what I'll be praying for.

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