Monday, July 25, 2011

A shock but not a surprise

6:47 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve to an appointment with his new neurologist, Dr. Sovory, at the Riverside Medical Clinic on Day Street. Not only did we need to meet the doctor referred by our new medicare primary care doctor, but we're seeking help with the sporadic twitching and jerking Steve's experiencing now.

I quickly filled out the paperwork, and then it was time for us to go back and for Steve's brief mental acuity test given by the nurse.

She opened with asking him how old he was, and his birthday, but he didn't know. The same with the date, day of the week, the year, the season we're in, even though she said things like, "It's hot now," and even game him the names of the seasons to pick from. He couldn't give her his address, or the city or county where we live. He did know to say "California," however.

The nurse said three simple words: "apple, table, ball," and he couldn't say more than apple, and that after several repetitions. Counting backward from 100 was immediately out of the question. When it came time to "think of a sentence and write it," he just went blank, but Steve's never been one to randomly enjoy imagining things. (He used to be creative in physical problem solving, however). I suggested he just write one word, hoping for the best, even though his writing ability is long gone. Even signing his name is a monumental struggle. He made a short wavy line, maybe an inch long. On the same paper, he was tasked with copying a line drawing of two intersecting boxes, quite simple. Instead of logically using the open space below, his hand kept going up to a narrow space under the picture, almost as if being closer to it would help. But nothing was drawn.

I had been finishing my makeup and not even looking at him so he wouldn't look to me for any sort of signal or gesture, and it soon became hard to keep back the tears. Both the nurse and I kept saying, "It's all right, Steve, " just keep going. His face was turning red and he said a phrase he repeats almost daily, "I'm falling apart." It reminds me of his late brother Larry, when he lost his ability to move, saying, "This is the pits," from the chair that became his total environment.

When the nurse left to go get the doctor, we both shed a few tears.

Since we had the drugs with us, the neurologist asked what a couple of them were for. Lovastatin, a heart medicine, was prescribed to keep blood circulation going to the brain. Lamictal was prescribed for him many years ago, after he'd stopped Wellbutrin, for emotional instability that was causing uproars and problems in the family. It's made a huge difference in all of our lives.

Dr. Sovory suggested that with the paranoia, fear, anxiety, rages and outbursts Steve was prone to, that she wants an EEG and MRI done of his brain, because the inherited dementia may have something to do with a defect in the frontal lobe. She also wants to do a spinal tap. Maybe it's not Alzheimer's. She considered the relative suddenness of his inability to follow instructions at work he'd been doing with great success for 35 years, every year of it in the plastics industry as a maintenance mechanic. Alzheimer's is known to develop very slowly.

Does this give us hope? I will be interested to find out what brain imaging reveals. Dr. Sovory said this is definitely for information purposes, not to seek a cure. No one in our family is seeking a medical cure, because we know that only the Lord can heal the unhealable! But if there's a way to stop the twitching--and I was handed a prescription for Clonazepam with a schedule to begin it gradually after the brain tests, because it will affect them. Praise the Lord, she will give us some generic Aricept to tide us over the times when there's no money to refill the brand name version for a few days each month--it just comes up at a bad time on our fixed income schedule, and withdrawal symptoms appear after the first two days, which we found out once to our dismay... never again! My Mary Kay earnings were timely last week to prevent any trouble while I was gone.

As I ponder all of these scientific advances, I just stand in awe of the Lord who created all of our brains, healthy or fatally flawed. Psalm 144:3-4 reminds every one of us to be grateful to Him:

LORD, what is man, that You take

knowledge of him?

Or the son of man, that you are

mindful of him?

Man is like a breath;

His days are like a passing shadow.

As I advise my children, and told the neurologist, live your life to the fullest, get your education, (which exercises and grows the brain's connecting synapses), follow the Lord's leading, and trust Him with every aspect of your life!


  1. Hi. I am new to the blog world but found and have followed your blog for a couple of weeks now. I have started a blog of my experience with early onset alzheimers with my dad. I remember him doing the same tests your husband had to do and how frustrated he got and how heartbreaking it was for both him and my mom. I am so thankful there are others like us that are trying to get awareness out for this genetic disease. I will keep you in my prayers.

  2. Thank you, Sheryl. Empathy is a quality that cannot be overrated!