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05/20/2018

After a Fall

 CHAPTER 92 Visions

 

As you may know if you read Brian Trumbore's columns on this Website, the past few weeks have not been good ones for yours truly.  Could the underlying reason for my problem involve the fact that for the past 50 or 60 years or so I have started off my day with a large glass of orange juice blended with a banana, followed on most occasions by a mix of cereals with raisins in a cup or so of milk?  But let me describe what happened.

 April 19 began ominously when, in the wee hours of the morning, I found my wife on the floor after trying to get up out of bed without ringing her cowbell to alert me to assist her.  A call to our wonderful volunteer rescue squad drew prompt assistance returning her to her bed and she wasn't hurt.  In the late afternoon that same day, I had carried a tray up the stairs to serve my wife her usual ginger ale and a snack.  As I was getting ready to serve her, I suddenly found myself on the floor, narrowly missing hitting my head on a piece of furniture.  My legs had just collapsed and I do not recall feeling dizzy or faint.  I managed to crawl over to a Life Alert button hanging next to the bed and both Brian Trumbore and the rescue squad arrived on the scene, this time taking me to the ER of our local hospital, where I was admitted and spent the next four nights.  I underwent a battery of tests including various X-rays and CT scans.  But easily one of the weirdest days of my life occurred the day I had an MRI of my brain, to check for the possibility of a stroke.

 I had experienced an MRI for some reason I've forgotten many years ago and was prepared for the loud noises and claustrophobic conditions in the machine.  However, spending what I was told was 25 minutes in the machine with an assortment of loud thumps, bumps, whines, etc. proved extremely disorienting.  So much so that I felt as though I was being twisted and turned and when I was emerging from the machine I thought I was lying on my stomach looking down at the faces of the operators of the MRI machine.  Of course, I was actually on my back looking up at them.  Relieved to be done with the experience, as I was being wheeled out of the MRI room the fire alarm went off!  This froze all the elevators so I spent the next 45 minutes on the gurney with this very disturbing alarm sounding repeatedly.  On the other side of a screen was a lady on another gurney begging to go back to her room.  I tried to convince her that I was in no condition to assist her.  Finally, the alarm ceased and I was back in my room, anticipating a much more relaxing afternoon.

 Not to be.  My blood pressure was almost 200 over some other high figure and a drug was injected in my IV to bring the pressure down.  It turned out that they had deliberately withheld my blood pressure medication in order to address a kidney problem resulting in or from a high potassium level.  About an hour later, the real weirdness began.  I was lying with my eyes closed when I began hallucinating, marked by the sudden appearance of a bunch of elves or strange figures dancing all around me.  I opened my eyes and they were gone, but on closing my eyes they were back again.  Open eyes, they're gone.  Close eyes and this time four hags, ugly looking women. were in front of me, closing in on me staring intently.  The women were in vivid color and in fine detail, with wrinkles covering the evil face of one in particular.  Open eyes, they're gone.  Close eyes, they're back but fading.  Open eyes.  The end of the hallucinations.

 Or was it?  It was about this time and especially later, when I was transferred to a rehab center, that I became keenly aware of a problem that had actually started to appear a few weeks before my fall.  The problem is an ever present background of red dots or red lines in a pattern of connected ragged hexagons or other geometrical forms everywhere and all the time.  For example, as I've been typing this column, I've noticed nothing unusual.  However, when I stop typing and look at the screen, there is the very faint red line pattern, which gets more intense as I stare at it.  Looking at the rug or the wall, which are a light beige, the pattern is quite clear and, on further staring becomes quite red.  When I'm watching TV, the picture may become blurred and the faces distinctly pinker or redder than normal.  If I'm holding a sheet of paper, the ragged hexagons, squares or other forms are typically less than the size of my little fingernail, while looking at a wall or ceiling farther away the dimensions increase to an inch or two.

 When I was in rehab and mentioned this problem, I was taken to an ophthalmologist and all she found was some macular degeneration and cataract formation, both of which I already knew I had years ago.  When I got back to rehab I mentioned all this to my physical therapist.  She Googled eye problems and came up with something called Charles Bonnet syndrome, which seems to fit my situation quite well.  This syndrome, first described in 1760 by Swiss naturalist Charles Bonnet, involves the brain, not the vision per se, although visions are certainly a key feature and the syndrome is more common among the elderly with reduced or declining vision.  It's akin to the situation where someone has a missing limb, say all or part of an arm or leg, but still has sensations of pain or other feeling as if the limb were still intact.  If I do have this syndrome, my errant brain will continue to supply me with this peculiar all encompassing pattern of red dots and lines of varying intensities dependant in part upon my ability to ignore their existence.  Hopefully, my brain has gotten rid of those dancing creatures and ugly hags peering at me.  I can live with these dots and patterns.  Googling did reveal that some who have the syndrome do see figures ranging from little people to flowers to insects. 

 Oh, what about the orange juice and bananas, two of the best sources of potassium?  Raisins and milk were on a list of foods to avoid because of significant potassium content.  I thought potassium was good but learned that my levels of potassium were high and fluctuating and the fall may have been due to a kidney problem, which can apparently cause dizziness.  While in the hospital and rehab center, my potassium level was sufficiently high that on occasion I was awakened to drink some yucky stuff to bring the level back down.  This may result in my doctor placing me on a low potassium diet.  I'm practicing by drinking cider and cranberry juice but will sorely miss my orange juice and bananas, as well as a host of other things I love that harbor significant amounts of potassium.  I await the results of a blood screen to see what's in my future.  A visit to a neurologist is on tap to discuss that red stuff and other matters. 

 Well, I'm sorry to have burdened you with my medical problems but I had never heard of Mr. Bonnet and hope that I may help someone out there cope with any sudden appearance of dancing creatures or expansive background patterns that won't go away.  Now to address a month's worth of unread mail and other stuff that piled up during my hospital and rehab stays.  I won't promise when I'll post the next column but will aim for July 1.  (Incidentally, for those readers who may have been surprised to find out from our editor's Week in Review columns that I am StocksandNews editor Brian Trumbore's father, I have revealed on a couple of occasions in the past that Allen F. Bortrum is a pen name for Forrest Allen Trumbore.  It occurs to me that in these days of Google, some readers may have Googled trying to find evidence that a Dr. Bortrum really worked at Bell Labs and found none!  I'd also like to thank Brian and Harry Trumbore, our Lamb cartoonist, for their extended efforts moves into our house to help care for their mother during my absence.)

 Allen F. Bortrum



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-05/20/2018-      
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Dr. Bortrum

05/20/2018

After a Fall

 CHAPTER 92 Visions

 

As you may know if you read Brian Trumbore's columns on this Website, the past few weeks have not been good ones for yours truly.  Could the underlying reason for my problem involve the fact that for the past 50 or 60 years or so I have started off my day with a large glass of orange juice blended with a banana, followed on most occasions by a mix of cereals with raisins in a cup or so of milk?  But let me describe what happened.

 April 19 began ominously when, in the wee hours of the morning, I found my wife on the floor after trying to get up out of bed without ringing her cowbell to alert me to assist her.  A call to our wonderful volunteer rescue squad drew prompt assistance returning her to her bed and she wasn't hurt.  In the late afternoon that same day, I had carried a tray up the stairs to serve my wife her usual ginger ale and a snack.  As I was getting ready to serve her, I suddenly found myself on the floor, narrowly missing hitting my head on a piece of furniture.  My legs had just collapsed and I do not recall feeling dizzy or faint.  I managed to crawl over to a Life Alert button hanging next to the bed and both Brian Trumbore and the rescue squad arrived on the scene, this time taking me to the ER of our local hospital, where I was admitted and spent the next four nights.  I underwent a battery of tests including various X-rays and CT scans.  But easily one of the weirdest days of my life occurred the day I had an MRI of my brain, to check for the possibility of a stroke.

 I had experienced an MRI for some reason I've forgotten many years ago and was prepared for the loud noises and claustrophobic conditions in the machine.  However, spending what I was told was 25 minutes in the machine with an assortment of loud thumps, bumps, whines, etc. proved extremely disorienting.  So much so that I felt as though I was being twisted and turned and when I was emerging from the machine I thought I was lying on my stomach looking down at the faces of the operators of the MRI machine.  Of course, I was actually on my back looking up at them.  Relieved to be done with the experience, as I was being wheeled out of the MRI room the fire alarm went off!  This froze all the elevators so I spent the next 45 minutes on the gurney with this very disturbing alarm sounding repeatedly.  On the other side of a screen was a lady on another gurney begging to go back to her room.  I tried to convince her that I was in no condition to assist her.  Finally, the alarm ceased and I was back in my room, anticipating a much more relaxing afternoon.

 Not to be.  My blood pressure was almost 200 over some other high figure and a drug was injected in my IV to bring the pressure down.  It turned out that they had deliberately withheld my blood pressure medication in order to address a kidney problem resulting in or from a high potassium level.  About an hour later, the real weirdness began.  I was lying with my eyes closed when I began hallucinating, marked by the sudden appearance of a bunch of elves or strange figures dancing all around me.  I opened my eyes and they were gone, but on closing my eyes they were back again.  Open eyes, they're gone.  Close eyes and this time four hags, ugly looking women. were in front of me, closing in on me staring intently.  The women were in vivid color and in fine detail, with wrinkles covering the evil face of one in particular.  Open eyes, they're gone.  Close eyes, they're back but fading.  Open eyes.  The end of the hallucinations.

 Or was it?  It was about this time and especially later, when I was transferred to a rehab center, that I became keenly aware of a problem that had actually started to appear a few weeks before my fall.  The problem is an ever present background of red dots or red lines in a pattern of connected ragged hexagons or other geometrical forms everywhere and all the time.  For example, as I've been typing this column, I've noticed nothing unusual.  However, when I stop typing and look at the screen, there is the very faint red line pattern, which gets more intense as I stare at it.  Looking at the rug or the wall, which are a light beige, the pattern is quite clear and, on further staring becomes quite red.  When I'm watching TV, the picture may become blurred and the faces distinctly pinker or redder than normal.  If I'm holding a sheet of paper, the ragged hexagons, squares or other forms are typically less than the size of my little fingernail, while looking at a wall or ceiling farther away the dimensions increase to an inch or two.

 When I was in rehab and mentioned this problem, I was taken to an ophthalmologist and all she found was some macular degeneration and cataract formation, both of which I already knew I had years ago.  When I got back to rehab I mentioned all this to my physical therapist.  She Googled eye problems and came up with something called Charles Bonnet syndrome, which seems to fit my situation quite well.  This syndrome, first described in 1760 by Swiss naturalist Charles Bonnet, involves the brain, not the vision per se, although visions are certainly a key feature and the syndrome is more common among the elderly with reduced or declining vision.  It's akin to the situation where someone has a missing limb, say all or part of an arm or leg, but still has sensations of pain or other feeling as if the limb were still intact.  If I do have this syndrome, my errant brain will continue to supply me with this peculiar all encompassing pattern of red dots and lines of varying intensities dependant in part upon my ability to ignore their existence.  Hopefully, my brain has gotten rid of those dancing creatures and ugly hags peering at me.  I can live with these dots and patterns.  Googling did reveal that some who have the syndrome do see figures ranging from little people to flowers to insects. 

 Oh, what about the orange juice and bananas, two of the best sources of potassium?  Raisins and milk were on a list of foods to avoid because of significant potassium content.  I thought potassium was good but learned that my levels of potassium were high and fluctuating and the fall may have been due to a kidney problem, which can apparently cause dizziness.  While in the hospital and rehab center, my potassium level was sufficiently high that on occasion I was awakened to drink some yucky stuff to bring the level back down.  This may result in my doctor placing me on a low potassium diet.  I'm practicing by drinking cider and cranberry juice but will sorely miss my orange juice and bananas, as well as a host of other things I love that harbor significant amounts of potassium.  I await the results of a blood screen to see what's in my future.  A visit to a neurologist is on tap to discuss that red stuff and other matters. 

 Well, I'm sorry to have burdened you with my medical problems but I had never heard of Mr. Bonnet and hope that I may help someone out there cope with any sudden appearance of dancing creatures or expansive background patterns that won't go away.  Now to address a month's worth of unread mail and other stuff that piled up during my hospital and rehab stays.  I won't promise when I'll post the next column but will aim for July 1.  (Incidentally, for those readers who may have been surprised to find out from our editor's Week in Review columns that I am StocksandNews editor Brian Trumbore's father, I have revealed on a couple of occasions in the past that Allen F. Bortrum is a pen name for Forrest Allen Trumbore.  It occurs to me that in these days of Google, some readers may have Googled trying to find evidence that a Dr. Bortrum really worked at Bell Labs and found none!  I'd also like to thank Brian and Harry Trumbore, our Lamb cartoonist, for their extended efforts moves into our house to help care for their mother during my absence.)

 Allen F. Bortrum