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Friday, 14 June 2013

April-May 2012: Results or Red Herrings??

Result?? Suzie's MRI scan revealed degeneration of the spine - progressive but not malignant or life-threatening. She was referred to the specialist Spinal Unit and we waited to hear from them for a consultation to explore the possible treatment options and the long term prognosis. Eventually we received a letter from Sue's Consultant telling us that the Spinal team agreed Sue's MRI scan showed 'age related changes' to the spine and that surgery wasn't an option. Diagnosis achieved; no further action required; Consultant's job done!! 
Ok? Well, actually, No! We weren't convinced.
At my insistence a CT scan was carried out, but this just served to reveal a further 'red herring' of cerebrovascular damage and ischemia, but again, not enough to explain all of Sue's symptoms or the rapid progression of them.
We suddenly felt like we were back to square one, with more questions than answers, the most disturbing one being 'Are they missing something?' If this was purely 'age related changes' why had she deteriorated so rapidly? Less than a year earlier she'd been playing badminton twice a week, walking normally and leading a full and active life. Now she could barely get out of a chair without help, she couldn't walk properly, write legibly, talk clearly or do many of her previously regular activities. She'd had a few falls by then and was also showing signs of 'vagueness' and loss of facial expression. All of this in the space of 12 months seemed a far cry from the gradual onset of 'old age' that I'd seen in others. Was I right to be concerned that there was something more to this than the normal ageing process? - Not that I could really get to grips with even thinking of Suzie in those terms!! I was certainly not ready to just sit back and let everything be attributed to 'her age'.
It was with immense shame and guilt at this point that I acknowledged that I had probably been the last person to notice how significantly Suzie had changed. Her symptoms had appeared and worsened so subtly that, being with her all day every day, I'd simply evolved with them, gradually helping her more and more with the basic tasks of day to day living and taking over many of the household tasks that she'd begun to find too difficult. It was only when other people started commenting on their own observations of her that it really hit me how very much she had deteriorated.
It took another visit to our GP to push the investigations on to the next stage. Like me, she also felt that the cause of Sue's symptoms went beyond age related spinal problems and she immediately wrote back to the consultant expressing her concerns and asking for more thorough tests to be done as a matter of urgency. She arranged for a comprehensive range of blood tests to be carried out and asked for the MRI scan of Sue's brain (which had previously been deemed unnecessary) to be rescheduled.
The journey of medical discovery was now well underway and would very soon lead us to full enlightenment, treatment and cure…… wouldn't it????