Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dementia, the beginning

I was reading over some of my first writings on this blog, and I discovered that I have never written about the first Dementia symptoms. That surprises me, but maybe not. I DO forget things. While my wife has some recollections of memory issues after a severe car wreck, not my fault, I was rear ended at a stop light. Those memories are not in my memory bank. The first real issues I remember is driving down Interstate 64, in Norfolk, a route I have taken almost every day since 1983. I was driving, and all at once, I did not know where I was going, where I was, and where I had come from! It was very frightening! I remember thinking, just keep going and this will make sense, and, about 5 minutes or so later, it all came back to me. I pretty much "Blew it off" and credited it to stress, working too hard, or need of rest. Over the next few weeks, the same thing happened a couple of more times, so I told my wife about it. Naturally, she was concerned and made me promise to see my doctor. Then on a Saturday, my son and I were coming back from a hardware store, and as I pulled up on the freeway, I told my son; "I don't want to alarm you, but I don't know where we are or where we are going." He said; " We are going home Dad." My reply was; "Fine, where is that." It is true, I did not know where I lived. In any case, I saw my GP, a wonderful, doctor who I trust completely. He sent me to a neurologist, who after two appointments of 15 minutes each, dismissed me and said there was nothing wrong with me.

So, I continued on, having memory issues, getting lost, having periods of freight and confusion, and having this "Numb" feeling in the front of my head. After a year or so, I began to experience stiffness throughout the left side of my body. Arm, leg, shoulder, even my foot. I went to see my GP again, and he said, I think something is going on here and sent me to Dr. Mary Bowles, a neurologist who actually does tests! I answered more questions, questionnaires, and had more tests, CT scans, MRI's, X-rays, blood tests, cognitive skills tests, computer based tests, WOW! She and her staff ran be through the ringer for about 9 months. That lead to me trying Sinemet, and gradually, the stillness went away. She then went to work on my memory, and started me on Arecept. I must say, I don't think Arecept helped all that much. Later she shifted me to Razadyne and added Namenda. That made a marked difference in my memory function and made me capable of working and functioning more normally. But, not even those medications are beginning to loose their effectiveness as, I was told they would. I guess I have been on the combination for about two years. Now, I have more problems finding words, staying on task, remembering what day it is, or where I am. I can't remember passwords or learn new skills. I have REM sleep disorder and my wife has the bruises to prove it. My fine motor skills are getting worse, as a Gunner's Mate, I tell folks; "My fine synchro is out of adjustment." But that is just the progression of the Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Alzheimer's, or what ever they want to call it.

The thing I like the most about Dr. Bowles is that she is aggressive and she believes what I say. Of course, my wife is in every appointment and Dr. Bowles questions Linda also on my progress. I have been examined by neurologists from the Veteran's Administration and from UVA, (see other posts) and they all have about the same diagnosis. The neurologist the VA sent me to told me to retire, and enjoy the few good days I had left! A pretty strong and truthful recommendation, that I took.

This has been a long journey, and I really can't tell you when I actually started. All I can do is tell you where I think I am now. In the Navy there was a saying; " The only constant is change, and it is variable." That about sums up the rest of my life, and I am OK with that. At least I am not bored.

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