It’s 5pm. The duty GP is friendly, professional and kind.
“Tell me what’s been happening”.
What has? It’s hard to explain the meandering weirdness like Dr Who music in the background.
I know for sure I’ve somehow lost my proprioception on the left; that sense of where your various body parts are, the way you know what your hand or foot is doing without looking or thinking about it. The space and time. I recall falling yesterday, no trip, no stumble, just there I was face down on the pavement so that it barely felt as though it had happened, were it not for the soggy scab on one knee, the grazes on my hand, and the bruise.
I had made an appointment with my regular GP for next week about ten days back, thinking there was no desperate rush. She’s been so kind, tolerating my increasing woes and slumps of depression, noting I’ve had a difficult year, losing my job through osteoarthritis and a recurring back injury; I am peri-menopausal, struggling to make ends meet with a series of zero hours jobs. She’s checked my bloods at least twice, and spent ages being supportive. My thyroid is fine following surgery in October 2014. I’ve started CBT, and feel bad booking in for yet another moan. I’ve been staying with my parents off and on while I let out my cottage on Airbnb in an attempt to pay the bills. Mum wonders about ME.
Today I took a couple of paracetamol and went to work at the local newspaper, the Tavistock Times where I’m a proof reader. I can barely keep my eyes open. My left hand is strange, I can’t feel any sensation. I look at it and it’s someone else’s, dead.
The previous evening, en route to the local pub with my Airbnb guest, concentrating hard in the rainy dusk, my little van kept stalling, and after reversing into the car park I found we were in an unexpected place. How did I get here? I depressed the clutch and noticed the left side of my van, scraped and dinked, wing mirror festooned in micropore tape like a mummy half way through a Hammer Horror; I clipped the bank a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes you hit a substantial branch when something’s coming the other way in the lanes. An unlucky branch, and a perfectly commonplace incident on Dartmoor.
I can reverse a van in my sleep, and, as a paramedic till recently working in a largely rural area, frequently have – plus we had huge Mercedes Sprinters, far bigger than my little VW. I pull slowly forwards and the van stalls again. That’s maybe the fifth time today. The drive shaft broke in January. Maybe my usually reliable mechanics didn’t fit the replacement properly? Might take it back in and get them to have a look.
Why won’t the pub door open properly? Is that my purse on the floor? I bend down to pick it up and smash my left shoulder into the door edge, fumble the purse and drop it again, before hitting the door with my right arm. My purse is soaked. I put it in my left pocket, then stand on it. It’s on the floor again.
Drinking a half of Tribute, I feel a bit better and manage to chat to my guest for ¾ of an hour while my brain defogs. As we get up to leave, I drop my purse. I can’t pick it up and bump my head on the bar. How? None of it’s sudden, more a feeling of creeping depletion. It’s not a drunk feeling, more a detached oddness, half in space.
In the van, I can’t get my seat belt to clip in. I have a denim seat cover and try to work out where it’s obstructing the clip; I can’t and pull the cover up with my right hand before using that to find the clip. We pull away, and stall. I drop my guest back and head slowly into Tavistock, nervous.
I’m so tired, a good night’s sleep might help. But I haven’t been sleeping well for months. And I’ve got this nagging headache, neck ache, vague nausea off and on. Maybe it is a viral infection, one of those that knocks you out for a few weeks?
The osteoarthritis is getting me down too – I’ve been touch-typing for 25 years and suddenly I can’t do it. gobbledegook flies from my fingers; caps lock, numbers and symbols, words meld.
Approaching the mini roundabout, I prepare to change down to second and there’s a flashing glare behind. The following car has almost run into me, but he hadn’t seemed that close, so I’m unprepared. The world outside isn’t moving in relation to the van. I can’t work it out, look down. My left foot which should be straight ahead and resting on the clutch, is listing to the right and on the brake. I’ve done an emergency stop and then not quite noticed.
I raise my arm to apologise. It takes three goes to pull away, stalling between. I make it home, get into the drive at a wonky angle and enter the kitchen to get a glass of water ready for bed. I pick up my Macbook and suddenly it’s flying across the room. It crunches into the step and I know it’s smashed. The screen’s in pieces and the case dented. I’ve only just got it running again after the hard drive died at Christmas. Then I’d had a nightmare getting it set up and locked myself out of two email addresses completely, along with several other accounts. What is it with icloud keychain? I know my password variations, but they don’t work. The old hard drive turned out to be dented, but I don’t know how that happened. Maybe I did drop it, but it seemed okay.
I think back to the other evening. Leaving a meal at a friend’s I couldn’t find my keys. Searched all over, inside and out, in the van.
“Pockets!” shouted my friends.
“I’ve looked!” I have a large keybunch, not easy to lose.
I feel all my pockets for the tenth time, hear a jangle. What’s making that noise? I can’t feel the keys, can’t feel their shape or vibration, have no sense of their being there, no weight against my hip, no sensory reference. With my right hand I locate them.
Then there was the purse, also last week. I’d been to walk my dog and collect her biscuits at Crapstone, and had my purse in my hoodie pocket. I searched high and low. Told Mum I’d have to drive up there tomorrow since I’d obviously dropped it on the moors and it was dark and raining.
“It’s in your pocket! I can see it! You’re worse than me!” She’s laughing.
I can’t locate it, until I feel with my right hand. Then it’s sort of there, but sort of not. I can’t fish it out. I laugh too, but the fear jolts. Is it dementia? I keep forgetting things, lose names, get the wrong words. All on the menopause list of course.
The GP is assessing my neurology; sensation, movement, weakness and so on. I’ve done similar assessments many times. I know how it works; get the history, ask all those little questions, check the basics and start excluding physiological causes from blood sugar imbalances to heart or blood pressure problems, to infections; these can manifest in all kinds of ways. But I know he thinks it’s neurological, coming directly from my central nervous system rather than the result of another illness affecting it. Precisely what I’ve been trying to avoid thinking. My blood pressure, usually excellent, is far higher than usual, but not stupidly so.
“Do you have an idea what this might be?” he asks.
I do, but don’t want to verbalise it and somehow make it concrete. Stroke, MS, a host of scary monsters. A problem with my brain, my mind, myself. Strokes can be funny, I’ve seen the gamut and they can present in unusual and subtle ways but this has been going on for months, and has escalated in the past couple of weeks so it doesn’t quite fit for me. Maybe it is viral meningitis after all? I’m still trying to explain it away with something less potentially momentous.
The doc sends me to sit in the waiting room while he calls the neurologist at Derriford.
I have an appointment for 9.30 in the morning.
“Lynne, you mustn’t drive”. I should have known that for weeks, but still I carried on.