We would not have to wait long. During the summer of 1998, my in-laws came out for a visit. We rode the Durango-Silverton steam train, saw Garden of the Gods, and Pikes Peak and toured one of the mines at Cripple Creek. After getting home on the evening of our visit to the Royal Gorge bridge, my husband started complaining of numbness in his left foot. We wondered if he had pinched a nerve while walking.
He brought this new symptom to the attention of his doctor. This time the doctor referred him to a neurologist at the United States Air Force Academy. He began reviewing his records and decided that he had Tarsal Tunnel syndrome, which is the foot version of Carpal Tunnel syndrome, in which the tibial nerve becomes compressed as it travels through the tarsal tunnel in the foot. It leads to tingling and numbness. Since we had done a lot of walking in our sightseeing, it made perfect sense, so he was fitted with a shoe insert that would keep his foot at a certain position while he walked, thereby relieving the pressure on the nerve.
After wearing the insert for several months, it became clear that it was not helping the numbness in his foot, so he once again saw the doctor. This time he was sent to a PA Practitioner at the local Air Force base. Several possibilities were discussed, including Multiple Sclerosis.
As I look back on the early visits to all those doctors, it was as if I were watching a bizarre movie, where none of the scenes made any sense….like some sort of medical puzzle. As is typical of the military, we were always lucky if we could get in to see the same doctor, and it wasn’t unusual to have to change doctors because of reassignments, either by the doctor or the military member. At any rate, it wasn’t unusual to spend part of the visit recounting your entire health history to a new doctor. In my poor husband’s case, that history was becoming a bit long. As the PA reviewed his recent health history, he decided to do an MRI.
Another aspect of the military is that you get used to anything…..when he told me that the MRI was at 11 pm, I didn’t bat an eye. Of course I couldn’t go with him, since we had 2 small boys at home, and no one to come stay with them. At the follow-up appointment to read the MRI, the PA showed him a spot…..on his brain. His exact words were: “Son, you’ve had a stroke”. It was a Trans Ischemic Attack, or TIA. The doctor began asking him if he had had any weird headaches, any unexplained symptoms of any kind. We were scratching our heads, trying to think of anything…..anything at all. The only odd occurrence that came to mind was on New Year’s Eve, 1993, when he had woken up in the middle of the night with a blinding headache. He sat up in bed and yelled because it was so painful, and I thought I would have to take him to the ER because I was afraid it was an aneurism. However, here we were in 1998, with the diagnosis of a stroke. Would it have taken five years for the first symptom to occur? Even more bizarre was the fact that a stroke had occurred in a 34 year old man. No one could give us an explanation. Once again, we were left shaking our heads and thinking, “well, that’s weird”. Once again, we wandered, clueless, back into the demands of our busy little family.