Getting back in the shop

They say you should never take your life for granted and in the past few weeks I’ve learned that lesson well. It started a couple of weeks ago when I was having trouble seeing out of my left eye. It was cloudy at the bottom right of its vision field. At first, I thought it was a dirty contact but after I replaced the contact my vision didn’t improve at all. Concerned, I went to see my optometrist so she could check it out. She dilated my eye and took pictures of the inside and found nothing wrong. She told me to take some Advil for the pain and come back in a week.

A few days later, the pain increased and my vision decreased, so I went to the Cincinnati Eye Institute to have more tests done. The doctor examined my eye and conditions and told me that what I have is more likely Optical Neuritis or inflammation of the optic nerve to the brain. Nothing is wrong with the eye itself, just that the message from the eye is not reaching the brain. He told me to come back in the morning to take a vision field test to get a better diagnosis. I came back the next day, took the vision test and it confirmed that it was Optic Neuritis. The bad news was Optic Neuritis is often the initial episode a patient has who will subsequently develop Multiple Sclerosis later in life. He told me that I needed to have a MRI done to determine if there were any white-matter lesions on my brain. He also said that I need to see a Neuro-Opthalmologist in a few weeks to see if I regain any vision.

At this point my wife and I were freaking. I’m 38 and don’t go to the doctor because I rarely get sick. But the thought of developing MS during my life was not something I wanted to accept. I kept thinking about my life with MS and the limitations it would bring. Not being able to move my arm or the loss of my legs scared me to death. How was I going to work with wood? How would I ever keep my job as a sales rep having to travel around and build displays? What would eventually happen to me and how would my wife take care of me? It was a very stressful time for the both of us.

A few days later l stopped in and had my MRI done. They sat me down on the machine, strapped me in and put on a helmet on my head that made it feel like I was scuba diving. I laid inside the machine for 40 minutes as they took numerous pictures of my brain. The sound was horrible as it felt like I was in some strange space alien testing contraption. The only good part of the experience was they pumped in Sirius Satelite Radio; BB King’s Bluesville through some headphones. I listened to Albert King’s “Born on a Bad Sign” during the procedure and started to cry. I felt my life was coming apart at the seams and nothing would be the same again.

After the MRI, I waited for the doctor to call me back to inform me of the results. The doctor’s assistant called and told me that the MRI came back “abnormal” but wouldn’t clarify what that meant. My wife got on the phone and asked if the doctor would call us himself so he could clarify what the abnormalities were. A few hours later, the doctor called and said that they had found scattered white-matter lesions on my brain and with the symptom of Optic Neuritis, that it was likely that I would have the possibility of developing MS during my life. I asked if I need to be on steroids and if I did, why do I have to wait three more weeks to see the Neuro-Ophthalmologist? He said he’ll call the doctor and see if they can schedule me in sooner. The next day, the Neuro-Ophthamologist’s office called and scheduled an appointment the following morning.

So my wife and I got up and went to the doctor’s office first thing in the morning. By this time I’m devastated and not expecting any type of good news. My wife and I spent hours looking up symptoms of MS and Optic Neuritis on the internet over the past few days. The only symptom I had was vision loss, otherwise I felt fine. How could I have MS? I’ve never had any symptom of falling down, dizziness, numbness or tingling in my hands or legs my entire life.

The doctor came in the room and asked me how I was doing. He dilated my eye to get a better look at the optic nerve. He told me that my optic nerve was very inflamed and there was some hemorrhaging. He also told me that the white-matter lesions on MRI were old and not in the right spots to be causing my Optic Neuritis. Apparently white matter-lesions are common as you age and sometimes you can develop a white spot for every ten years of life. Considering I’m nearly 40 years old, that made sense. He said that what I have is Atypical Optic Neuritis (AON). This type has no association with developing MS. AON is sometimes brought on by an infection or virus. He asked me if I had a cat. I told him I did. He said sometimes people can develop cat scratch fever (even without being scratched by a cat) that can cause AON. He told me to go to the hospital and have some blood work done. There they will be able to determine why I developed AON however he cautioned, sometimes a person can develop it for no known reason. It just a fluke. I expect to get the results on Monday. If  the blood work confirms it is an infection, they will prescribe some antibiotics for me to take.

I was relieved that I wouldn’t develop MS during my life but I’m still concerned about my vision loss. When it started a couple of weeks ago, my vision kept getting worse over the course of a few days until I lost 95% of vision in my eye. Only in the last few days has the vision been getting any better, but I still have 90% vision loss. Optic Neuritis usually last 6-8 weeks in people then usually goes away. However, I have Atypical Optic Neuritis which may last just as long if not longer. Also, because I have AON, there’s a chance I may have some permanent vision loss once the swelling ceases. The doctor said that the majority of people with AON do regain all their vision but in some cases, some do not. He put me on steroids for the next month and I have to go back in a couple of weeks for a check up. Hopefully by then I’ll have the majority of my vision back.

This morning I went downstairs to my shop and started picking up some tools again. I stopped for a few weeks as I have been too afraid to work with only one good eye. I messed around drilling a new hole in my workbench for a placement of an overhead swing light. It wasn’t much, but it was the first step on the road to recovery both physically and emotionally.

I never really took my health for granted. Well maybe I did since I don’t have a primary care physician yet. But all I know is that I will never take my life for granted again. The things we do everyday just seem so mundane that we hardly ever think anything will change but when you have a health scare like I do, it wakes you up quick. Even though I’m not out of the woods yet being legally blind in one eye, I’m hopeful I’ll get better soon with good medicine and a lot of prayer.

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6 Replies to “Getting back in the shop”

  1. Hi Mike,
    I always enjoy reading your posts, and you are absolutely right – we are all guilty of taking our own health for granted.
    Hope you get back in your shop soon,
    cheers,
    Richard

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