February-12-2020| by: Kerry Jones
I am one of the lucky ones. But, in a way, I think I inadvertently helped make my own luck by contacting the Mayo Clinic when I did.
A little over two and a half years ago, my wife and I flew from our home outside of Kansas City, MO to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit family. When we returned and got off the plane in late May, my memory was almost completely gone except for a few instances from my childhood which, since I was 68 at the time, was a long, long time ago.
I started having seizures. At first, just a couple of times a day, gradually increasing to 20 or more a day. I had frequent feelings of nausea and incredible weakness (I couldn’t walk even an 8th of a block without being completely exhausted.) I contacted my physician and he tried to schedule me with the neurology department. They subsequently referred me to another neurological testing group, but scheduling with them was delayed while they were awaiting insurance approval. In retrospect, this may have been another stroke of luck, because, with my symptoms getting worse, I finally contacted the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on a Thursday or Friday in July. Apparently I used the right buzz words because they responded right away and said, “Can you come in on Monday?” Even though they were an out of network provider on my insurance plan, my wife and I jumped in the car and drove up there.
After being run through a battery of tests and being seen by several doctors, I was diagnosed with LGI1 Autoimmune Encephalitis, and placed under the care of Dr. Eoan Flanagan who began treating me with high dosage prednisone – this was about the first of August. I had my last known seizure in late October, though most of the other symptoms have persisted. At this point, I’m certainly not cured, but am adjusting to a new reality.
My memory is still very spotty. For example, as I am writing this, we are once again in California visiting family. While talking to my daughter, who just recently moved back here from Kansas City, I mentioned that I hadn’t been back to California since this had happened and that I was leery about flying even though I knew intellectually that flying had nothing to do with causing the disease.
My wife gently reminded me that yes, we had flown out here just last year. I have no memory of that. I lived in this area a large portion of my life, but as we drive around, it’s like I’m in a foreign country. I don’t recognize much of anything I see. The funny thing about my memory loss, though, is that I remember people, just not places or events. I’m currently in the process of being weaned off the prednisone and replacing it with Rituxan (I had my first Rituxan treatment last August.)
I have no idea what the future will hold, whether I’ll get my memory back or not. But I’ve determined to not let that impede my enjoyment of life while it happens. It’s hard sometimes when I’m with friends or family when the conversation turns to reminiscing about a past which I can’t remember, but I know there’s nothing I can do about that. My new motto is “Live in the Moment.”
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