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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Dec. 2012: Symptoms, Side Effects, or Something Sinister?

By the beginning of December Suzie was a couple of weeks into her trial of Sinemet (the Parkinson's medication) and, I have to say, those two weeks had been pretty horrendous. She had already been suffering from increasing anxiety, which was hardly surprising considering her unexplained incapacity and the continued uncertainty about its cause or prognosis. However, anxiety is also one of the common side effects of the Sinemet, so it could be that this drug was responsible for the most dreadful panic attacks that Suzie was having, especially at night. Some nights I'd sit beside her bed, stroking her head and gently reciting Psalms until she fell asleep, because she couldn't settle on her own. She would frequently wake up during the night in a sudden state of terror, convinced that she couldn't breathe, and terrified to go back to sleep for fear that she would stop breathing in her sleep or that she would wake up paralysed.
Suzie's breathing was getting worse but, in view of the fact that every movement she made took a huge amount of effort, it didn't seem entirely surprising that she was frequently getting out of breath. It was also another possible side effect of the Sinemet so was this the reason? Or was it yet another manifestation of her mystery illness, or even a symptom of something else?
So........ Suzie was frequently getting out of breath, which was exacerbating the severe anxiety and panic she already felt; and the panic attacks were making her feel unable to breathe, which was making her panic even more; and I was trying desperately to discern how much of all this was caused by a physical symptom and how much was her panic response to it, and, most of all, what could I do to alleviate these dreadful and terrifying symptoms. Another visit to the Doctor's seemed the only sensible option so we made an appointment.
Dr. C. was very thorough, but numerous blood tests, heart and lung function tests, ECG, physical examinations etc. all failed to identify anything physically wrong with Suzie's heart or lungs. A chest x-ray was arranged and a Ventolin inhaler and breathing mask were prescribed, but they didn't help at all. 
An appointment had already been arranged for January 24th 2013 with the senior Neurologist at the hospital. We just needed to hang on in there and get through one day at a time until then.
Amidst all this trauma we continued to be amazed by the way in which God continued to uphold us throughout it all. Many 'spontaneous blessings' served to shed a glimmer of light into a dark day..... A drive out in the country during a bit of unexpected winter sunshine; a friend who 'just happens' to pop in for a cup of coffee right at the time when I really need to go out and get some shopping but Sue doesn't want to be left alone; An encouraging Bible verse that just seems to appear out of nowhere, but says exactly what we need to hear at that very time. Not least, after over 20 years of being responsible for cooking Christmas Dinner for my family, I was told that, this year, I was having a day off! My daughter insisted that I was to have no responsibility for anything other than making sure my wine glass was kept topped up!! She and my son would plan, prepare and cook dinner (for all 10 of us!!) and it was going be such a blessing for me to be able to spend Christmas Day free to focus my whole attention on making sure Suzie was comfortable, happy and well cared for.
In the event, their provision of our Christmas catering proved to be even more of a blessing than I could ever have imagined because, in the days leading up to Christmas, Suzie's illness took us to a dramatic new depth of concern.