Friday, March 18, 2011

A False Alarm?

Jeans and Chucks
Monday and Friday were eventful bookends to a decidedly mundane week. On Monday, I managed to get a 94 on a French test, which is always nice, and on Friday I had tests in Psych Research Methods and Biology. I'm not confident about my grades on those tests, but I'll find out about them next week.

The more concerning event happened Monday afternoon during Biology. As I was sitting in the auditorium taking notes and listening to the professor, I realized that my left leg had become numb. Since the auditorium seats are always cramped, I thought my leg had just fallen asleep from being in a bad position. Unfortunately, I couldn't move my leg at all. It felt heavy, as though it suddenly weighed 500 pounds! After a moment, I discovered that my left arm was also numb and heavy and that I couldn't move it, either. Thinking that this was not a good thing, I made sure to test my right leg and arm, both of which seemed to move normally. Considering that my seat is in the middle of the row, I couldn't exactly get up and leave in the middle of lecture, assuming that I could have even walked with a dead weight for a left leg. So I just sat there and continued trying to observe what was happening to my body. I struggled to move my left side, but couldn't make any progress. Eventually, I began to lose focus on the room, and I couldn't hear anything that was being said. My head fell down and I went unconscious for about five seconds before snapping back to reality.

After returning to consciousness, I felt groggy and still couldn't focus on the room or the sound of the professor's voice, but that seemed to return within a few seconds. By another minute, I was able to regain control of my arm and my leg, though they still felt slightly weak, almost like what they should have felt like had they actually been asleep. The whole event took perhaps a minute or two from beginning to end, and after class was done I walked to the library and did some reading for classes. I wondered why I had experienced such a bizarre thing in the middle of class, but I supposed it might have been poor circulation or a response to lack of sleep during the previous weekend. I did Google my symptoms a couple of times during the week, and even though the results of my search weren't good (one search came up with a mild heart attack, another with a mini-stroke), I didn't really think about going to a doctor. It wasn't until I mentioned what happened to Matt and Aimee from my Research Methods class, and had them laugh at me and tell me that I was crazy for NOT having gone to a doctor immediately after it happened, that I decided to at least stop by NCSU's Student Health Services building and talk to someone about my symptoms.

I went to Health Services after class today and was checked out by a physician who interviewed me and kindly poked and prodded me with a light scope, listened to my internal organs with a stethoscope, tapped my joints with a hammer to check for reflexes, and made me perform some minor physical resistance tests to check for weakness in limbs. My blood pressure and temperature had already been checked by a nurse. Everything seemed within normal parameters. The physician confirmed that my symptoms were indicative of a mini stroke, except that my rebound time of a few minutes wasn't consistent with that diagnosis, since even a mini stroke typically requires a few hours for full recovery. She didn't seem to be concerned with the possibility that I had experienced a mild heart attack, either, since I didn't express any sense of physical pain during the event. She concluded that perhaps I had gone through something similar to partial sleep paralysis, since I had gone without adequate sleep over the weekend. Essentially, she told me what I had already suspected to begin with.

Granted, I suppose it is nice to have some confirmation that I'm not dying, or in need of long term monitoring or changes to my lifestyle. Still, I'm not generally one for going to the doctor unless it is a life threatening emergency, although I admit that the older I become the harder it will likely be for me to easily distinguish between what is or isn't life threatening. And little things like this can, and sometimes do, put some fear into me to change my ways, at least for a little while. I guess I'll probably start trying to eat a little better or exercise more for a few months. They determined my current weight to be around 220, and I'd rather this false alarm not turn into some harbinger of things to come.

Have fun and keep living life... with an emphasis on the "keep living"!

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