The first week of 2012 Tim had the opportunity to ride the Dragon Challenge at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. Little did he know, he was living a metaphor for the near future. Just two weeks later he found himself on a different kind of roller coaster.
A week after our return from a vacation to Orlando, Tim developed an ear infection. His treatment included steroids, antibiotics, and even blood pressure meds. Two weeks into this treatment, he mused at the dinner table one night that the left side of his face was experiencing numbness. I had noticed that his left eyelid was a bit droopy, so immediately my "worst-case-scenario" mind rushed to all types of diagnoses - none of them pleasant.
That night as we lay in bed and Tim joked about his facial numbness, I finally said to him, with what I am sure was a very severe expression, "Please take this seriously. We don't work without you!" The next day, with some additional encouragement from his coworkers, Tim did go to the doctor.
It was at this point that the cart he was riding crested the first hill of the coaster. Forty-five minutes after he texted that he was at the doctor, he texted that I needed to come pick him up...he had fainted twice. By the time I got to his doctor's office, he was as pale as the linoleum floor he was lying on.
Cue big, stomach-lurching drop as the coaster speeds out of control. Ambulance ride, emergency room, tests, scans, doctors, and a lack of diagnosis. He came home, returned to work, and continued to experience headaches and facial numbness. Just as one hill leads to another, one test led to another, and the MRI led to an MRA, which finally led us to a diagnosis.
Dissected carotid artery.
He called me at work to tell me, and we both raced home and poured over the Internet for the next hour trying to understand what this meant. The short answer: Tim is very lucky. This condition is apparently extremely rare in someone his age, and it is usually found after a stroke (or worse). Tim did not experience a stroke. All of his other medical issues led us down the path that led to a diagnosis before this happened.
The vascular surgeons we consulted believe that his artery will heal on its own in time. Tim is taking blood thinner as a cautionary measure, and in three months he will have another scan to check the progress of its healing. Until then, he will have to take it easy (which is proving to be not so easy).
We are learning a lot through this experience - both of us. (I will write a bit more about my journey in a subsequent post.) While I am one to usually avoid roller coasters at all costs, this is one ride that I'm glad to share with Tim. When it gets to one of us, the other is there to encourage, "Hang on. It will be over soon!"