Sunday, February 22, 2009

All Tested for Now

Getting Testy:

The MRI is done, and it shows what we had feared. Damage. Permanent damage. Enough for the Neurologist to definitely classify at least one of the attacks I've had as a stroke rather than a simpler TIA. The Cat Scan I had pretty much said the same thing but the MRI shows the newly empty sections in glorious, cavernous detail. The good news is that the scan showed no signs of a clot, tumor or other unwanted bit of nastiness. In fact, my "right cerebellum is unremarkable", so there's that.

So, what this means. My neurologist is obviously concerned that I am not just suffering from Migraine Induced TIA as has been the assumption we have been running under since September 2006. His reasons for doubting that diagnosis now is because with Migraine TIA's, it happens predominantly in Women and there is no damage. Well, I am not a woman, and there is definitely some damage.

That is why he is having me see a Cardiologist. It will be up to the Cardio Doc, to rule out any circulatory issues (clots and such) as well as to look at the possibility of a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). A VSD is basically a problem with the tissue that divides the ventricles of the heart and because of the complications, can cause stroke.

The Cardio Doc, took about another gallon of blood to test for another billion conditions that can cause stroke. Then he performed an Echocardiogram and some ultrasounds of my Carotids and various other spots. Hopefully they find nothing, but at the same time I kind of hope someone finds something. I desperately want some answers.

I will see the Cardiologist again in about a week for all of his results and then the Neurologist again the following week. So, until then I'm supposed to be the patient patient, plod along and wait. One bit of good news I received from my neurologist the last time I saw him was regarding my arm. I asked him what the prognosis of getting normal function back and he said "your young enough, it should come back eventually". No time frame, no promise. But some hope.

I'll give them another couple of weeks before I hound them again with questions of beginning BJJ again. But I will not wait to begin trying to rebuild function in my arm. I saw my 8 year old niece last night and I had not realized how much strength I had lost until she asked me to pick her up when we were playing. It was terrible feeling like I was limited. I have to believe that working on this arm will help rebuild those damaged pathways.

UFC Fight Night:

So Dr. Evil and his son came over to watch the fights last night. It was good to see him. We have not spoken much since I've been out of the gym. We watched the fights, traded stories about the gym and even had a spontaneous light roll on the living room floor afterword. I suspect its always kind of like that isn't it. You get BJJ guys together and inevitably, somehow, a roll will begin for no good reason.

It was funny. And again, painfully obvious that my arm is junk in its current state. A big thanks to Dr. Evil (enough Doctors already) for giving me a couple minutes of BJJ during this ordeal. Thanks to everyone for their support.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I am back from my miniature vacation. I took my wife to San Francisco this weekend. I surprised her with the flight out, hotel and good tickets to see Wicked (the musical) up there. We had a fantastic time, and despite being delayed at LAX by a broken plane by almost two hours, everything went pretty smoothly.

We were able to hang out around Fisherman's Wharf, have lunch at one of her favorite places and just relax a bit. The show was great (just like the many times we saw it in LA) but the SF fans were pathetic. They didn't know to applaud when one of the principal characters entered for the first time, many of the great jokes fell flat, and the ovation at the end was kinda painful to get out of them. I must say, I was a bit disappointed in the SF fans.

I think my wife had a good birthday. I hope she was really surprised and enjoyed it.

Now we are back:

So, the saga continues. I had my MRI this morning and tomorrow afternoon I will once again meet with my neurologist to review the results. We will also be looking at the results of the tests he ran on the few gallons of blood he had taken out of me last week.

Wednesday, I go to see the cardiologist. According to my neurologist, I have a handful of fun sounding tests to undergo with the cardio doc, including a camera being shoved into my heart. We'll see. I'm sure I'll learn more Wednesday and go from there. All I can do is roll with it and trust that these guys know what they're doing and will find the answers we need to help me get back on the mats.

I need to get some activity going. It has been difficult lately with the Dr.'s appointments, work, and the trip I just took my wife on for her birthday. Hopefully some of this rain will pass soon so I can get some cycling in. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pressing on....In Suspense

So on Monday I did one of the hardest things that any Jiu Jitsu players can do. I suspended my account at the gym. I didn't cancel it, I suspended it. While I am in limbo about my medical status and the permanence of my arm's wonkyness, I thought it best to not tempt fate and allow myself the chance to find a way to defeat this problem once and for all. I want to get better, hopefully regain some of the lost sensation / strength in my arm and make a triumphant return to the mats! I had to leave the gym just as the guys started warming up because it was just too much.

Tuesday I had an appointment with my normal neurologist. He is on a mission. He was more motivated than I have ever seen him. After we talked and reviewed my charts he was determined to find out what is wrong. I told him that I am seeing a cardiologist next week. It turns out that it is the same cardiologist that he sees personally. He called the cardiologist from right there in the room and told him what he wants him to look for and what he wants done to me. Basically a stress test and a bubble test (which I guess involves a camera being sent down into me to look for a clot traveling between the ventricles).

He also ordered blood work to test for anything that could possibly cause strokes in a person my age (33). The list he wrote was comically long, everything from Lupus to arthritis to insert random condition here. They must have taken a quart of blood, all in easy to extract single viles.

He is sending me for an MRI (Monday morning at 6:30) because in his words "CT scans are a waste of time and money with conditions like yours, they show damage sure but they don't show much else". I have a follow-up with him on Tuesday at 3:30 to review the blood-work and MRI, then its off to the cardiologist for that bunch of fun on Wednesday.

Sounds like a fun week huh? At least I am planning to get away this weekend. My wife's birthday is this Friday HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETIE!!! So I am taking her out of town. I'm not telling her where, but we are going to get away from home for a day or so and hopefully relax and recharge.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Stroke of.....Just a Stroke

A bit ago, I wrote a post that touched on a bit of the medical stuff I grapple with outside of the gym. In this post ( I talked a bit about my migraines and the mini-strokes I've suffered because of them.

Up until now, these events have come and gone without any real consequence. The T.I.A. (mini-stroke) happens, causes whatever effects and then within a few days everything is back to normal. Now, I have had a wide range of different symptoms result from these attacks; ranging from the most severe case of loss of speech, to the minor hassle of dizziness and disorientation. But the affects have always been temporary and cleared up within a few days.

Now, there has been a game changer. I just had another one this past week and unlike the others, it seems this time I did not emerge unscathed. I remember the moment of the attack. I remember the feeling of disorientation and dizziness. Then there was a numbness, weakness and tingling running down my right arm. It sort of feels like I slept on it wrong and it's now waking up.

After the dizziness and disorientation wore off, the feeling in the arm remained and I knew that I had just been thru another T.I.A. and the arm thing would be the lingering symptom. Like I said earlier, normally these things clear up after a few days....normally. Not this time. After about a week of feeling this same sensation I knew something was not as normal, so I went to the urgent care to make sure I was not in any serious trouble. I told the Doctor of my history and he sent me for the requisite Cat Scan. Now, I have had many Cat scans and MRI's because of this condition and they always end the same way, with the Doctor telling me that there is no lasting damage; to go home and everything should be ok in a few days.....not this time.

This time, the Doctor told me that I had two areas of infarction in the Basal Ganglia region of the brain. An infarction is a fancy term for loss of blood. This is where blood flow to these two areas was pinched off and they died. That's right two areas of permanent damage. The scary thing is in the fact that I have no idea what this could mean for the future. If I have a TIA in a region of the brain that controls vision for instance, I could permanently lose some or all of my sight. That is a frightening prospect.

I am hitting my doctors harder than ever now. I am determined to find the best answers I can. I don't know what this means for my BJJ. For now I think it means that don't know what it means. I know that my arm is bothersome and I am fearful of ALL blood chokes for obvious reasons. I know that my wife and neurologist have warned me away from it before. I know that I love it and I want to do it. I know I will do whatever I need to do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

At My Desk; Remembering Helio and 100 Burpees

At My Desk:

Ok, so I've reached my breaking point, need to vent and this is my forum in which to do it. It has now been about three weeks since I have last trained. And I am going mad. As I type this I am sitting at my desk, yes that's right SITTING at my desk in cubicle hell. It is 5:33 pm right now and I wont leave here until at least 6:00 when guess what, BJJ class starts.

The past weeks have been murderous. I have mentioned before how the program I work on has been transitioning from one phase into another and with that change comes some intense increase in effort in the short-term to ensure that this new contract is being established correctly and will sustain the program throughout its lifetime.

That is all well and good, but the amount of time a hand full of us have spent on it (all salaried by the way) has been just crazy. We all worked so very hard to ensure that this new phase of the contract got awarded and now we are the ones who are charged with ensuring that it gets set-up. I guess the important thing is to take a step back and remember why I am doing this.

Now, I can neither confirm; nor deny that I have anything to do with the image above or that all of the blood, sweat and time away from the gym has been spent on making it the best damn aircraft it can be.

Today however I am especially upset. Today it was all my fault. My alarms are set to go off at 4:00am. I awoke at 6:30 to the sound of my wife's alarm clock. Being that she is in a much less "forgiving" job, of course she gets the first shower. So, I didn't get to the office till after 8:00am. My still being here today is all my fault. And that infuriates me. I was sooo ready to get back to the mats today. So one flogging for me!


The last time I posted I wrote about the untimely passing of a former boss and colleague, Steve Barton. The very next day I went down to a memorial service for him. I was awkward to see old co-workers but at the same time it was very nice. It felt good to pay my respects and to recognize the impact he had on my career and on my life.


On the subject of loss, of course I cannot write a post today without recognizing the passing of Grand Master Heilo Gracie. Like so many others, I never met the man but he and his brother Carlos have had a profound impact on my life. I remember watching UFC 1 on a videotape I rented from my first job (yes I was a video store clerk) and being amazed at this scrawny kid named Royce plowing thru the bigger guys.

From then on, I knew Gracie Jiu Jitsu, I knew Helio Gracie. Though I have only been formally training in his art for a short while, I have known of many of its fundamentals for years. As any martial artist in any other art must know the fundamentals of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Helio and Carlos created a game changer, they forced a fundamental shift in the strategies that martial artists must use simply by knowing of the existence of this art. Thank you for your contribution Helio, I will do my best to honor your legacy.


Tomorrow is another day. I am donating blood at work in the morning. At lunch, we are doing an all you can eat sushi gorge to celebrate the winding down of a very long cost estimating class. I have a handful of meetings. Finally I have the second to last session of that aforementioned cost estimating class. As of this moment it is scheduled to run from 4:00 - 5:00. Optimism is high that it will not run over, and that I will make it to BJJ for the 6:00 start time (against the advice of the red cross who does not want you doing strenuous exercise after giving blood).

100 Burpee Challenge:

One more thing, a while back another blogger I read named Valerie ( who I highly recommend mentioned something her crossfit gym was doing and being the age of copy / paste, I have instituted it with my friends. Neil, Kris and myself have started the 100 Burpee Challenge. Today is day #1. Wish us luck! I will keep everyone posted on our progress as we go. Thanks Valerie for the idea.