The day started out of fine. I was breathing well and it was the first fairly warm day that we’d had here in the bay area in weeks. I took BART over to the city and started my walk at the Ferry building as I always do. The 5 mile trek to the GG bridge seemed effortless. I racewalked, I stretched at the marina and —I had an abundance of energy. No significant breathing problems or legs cramps, just a sense of satisfaction that the first LSD of the year was under way.
Then on my way back , things got weird. As I was approaching Aquatic park at mile 7, out of the blue,an overwhelming sense of fatigue and dizziness came over me, almost like someone turned my switch off . I felt like I was going to loose consciousness and at the same time I could feel body wanting to fall to the right as if I’d also lost my equilibrium. It got so bad that I finally had to grab on to some railing they have near the bleachers at the park so that I wouldn’t fall completely over. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself , so I stopped for a moment and lowered myself to the ground to get my bearings and try to figure out what had just happened.
I sat there on the edge of the sidewalk doing my best not to look too conspicuous ,but at the same time I was trying to literally shake the dizziness from my head by shaking it back and forth. At first , I thought maybe I had just over done it by walking too fast or maybe by not hydrating enough. But when I stood up and started walking again, I felt the right side of face starting to tingle…that can’t be good I thought to myself . I actually pinched it to make sure I could still feel it. After that, I did a full body check to make everything was working properly…..and everything was, so I resumed walking. The only problem was , I couldn’t walk a straight line! It was as if somebody had wound me up like a top, and let me go. My body wanted to keep falling to the right. I didn’t have the spins, it just felt like my body was heavier on one side. ……..there’s definitely something weird going on here.
At this point I was getting a little concerned. Here I am in Fisherman’s Wharf, wearing only long shorts , a hoodie , and a fanny pack. No money , just a Bart ticket , an mp3 player and my car keys. My equilibrium is totally off, I’m listing to one side and I feel like I’m drunk…….Great!
Nevertheless, all I could think of was getting back to the city center so, that if this was something serious , it wouldn’t be such a big deal to get to a hospital. There’s no way I’m going to call 911 just because I feel dizzy. After all, I’m an accomplished athlete!
So here I go , walking like a spaz along the waterfront, trying to compensate for my right sided sway by leaning towards my left . I can only imagine what people must have thought, (then again, this is San Francisco.) As I got closer and closer to downtown, I’d pretty much convinced myself that this was a little more than just a dizzy spell. Something in my brain was short circuiting and I thought it would probably be better to get it checked out while I was still in the city, rather than getting back on a BART train for an hour , or worse, attempting to drive myself home.
To make a long story short, I managed to wobble my way to the Embacadero, hop on a muni “N” train, got off on 2nd ave and Irving st , took the elevator up to Parnassus, acrossed the street, and proceeded to walk ( sideways) into the ER at UCSF medical center. They agreed with my suspicion that walking sideways was not normal , and after 33 hours of brain scans, echocardiograms, blood thinners, neurological lab tests and physical therapy ……I walked out of the hospital on crutches and finally made it home.
Final diagnosis? TIA Transient Ischemic Attack ( i.e. mini stroke )
The good news is….
I didn’t suffer any paralysis. I just have some mild weakness and some balance problems on my right side and some mild mood changes which they say is normal. As soon as I’m able to walk a straight line without falling over, I’ll be back out there walking .
I was really lucky, because I was evaluated within an hour of the first symptoms ( THE GOLDEN HOUR ) that may have thwarted off a more severe attack.
The not so good news is….
I’m at super high risk now for suffering a major stroke in the next few weeks or months—Bummer. Then there’s the new drugs…. add Plavix and Benazepril to the daily mix. There’s also the extra doctor visits…add Neurology and Cardiology to the growing list of specialists that I have see on a regular basis which eats into my walking time.
The really not so good news…..
Depending on the results of the TEE ( transesophageal echocardiogram) and/or how I tolerate this new blood pressure medicine(it causes muscle cramps), I may be forced to give up long distance walking .
On a funny note….. one of the Physical Therapists who was helping me to walk jokingly said ” I wouldn’t worry too much about walking a straight line , unless of course, you’re one of those weird racewalkers” ……… I was cracking up— If she only new!
So the moral of the story…… If you ever start to walk sideways when you meant to walk straight, don’t mess around like I did, swallow your vanity and call 911 and get checked out.
( BTW….. it took me forever to write this post , as I’m still having some eye to hand coordination problems on my right side . I apologize for any grammar mistakes)