What’s Wrong with … Doug?

Okay, here’s the deal …

Last Tuesday (May 27) I was falling asleep in a meeting. Now, bear in mind, I often fall asleep in meetings, but not usually in meetings of only a few people and where I am one of the key participants. I excused myself and went home sick.

(As I think about it, a week earlier I had been complaining that muscle pain all across my upper back—I thought from weight lifting—had lasted more than a week, and when I sat down to do chest flies, I discovered I couldn’t put much pressure on my left arm in the direction required.)

The next few days I took half days off, plus one full day, fighting a low fever (1 to 1.5 degrees above normal), working when I didn’t feel in that brain-dead state that fever brings on.

Meanwhile, I started having more and more stiffness in my legs, especially after sitting down for a while, and developed a pain in my fingers, particularly around the proximal phalanges.

Thursday I got in to see one of my two N.P.’s at Nashua Primary Care, and she explained that it was probably viral, and ordered a slew of blood tests, including a Lyme disease titer, because a number of the symptoms matched Lyme, even though we had not observed a tick bite or the infamous bull’s-eye rash from one. The only abnormal result was a slightly elevated sed rate, which indicates inflammation of some kind. However, Lyme disease antibody tests can be negative for several weeks even when symptoms have begun to present, so I have a retest in three weeks.

Monday had me phoning the doctor’s office again, explaining that the difficulty walking had gotten much worse beginning on Sunday. Questions and answers went back and forth throughout the day and the next morning, but around noon Tuesday (day 8 of fighting the fever), after confirming some swelling in my left leg (which I was completely oblivious of, but which Nichelle spotted right away), they referred me to the emergency department at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. (I wasn’t even up to playing World of WarCraft on Tuesday morning. Tragic.)


(Enterprise E sick bay drawing courtesy of www.ex-astris-scientia.org.)

The primary reason for going to the E/R was because such swelling can be caused by a DVT (I would explain, but that would save you the fun of some Wikipedia research) or a blood clot in the lungs.

More blood was drawn. Twice, actually, the first batch turned out to be unusable. (I warned them not to expose it to sunlight or tachyon radiation …)

Nichelle dropped me off, and brought everyone by when she picked up Isaac and David from school. Shortly thereafter, as I was being wheeled to the Radiology department (my first trip on a gurney since infancy), both Isaac and David asked, “If you die, can we have your World of WarCraft gold?” Weasels.

The ultrasound and X-ray didn’t turn up any clots; however, the chest X-ray showed an enlarged heart (and you all thought my heart was two sizes too small), so in addition to still having a problem with whatever is causing me to be unable to walk, I’ll be visiting a cardiologist soon.


Admit it, this is more like what you expected.

The hospital gave me a tapered dose of prednisone, which, for 23 hours, allowed me to hobble a lot faster. It was a delight to wake up this morning and be able to move my legs with almost no difficulty, especially as on Tuesday I was nearly completely crippled, and the pain in my hands was so bad I couldn’t even open a soda bottle. But around 5:00 p.m. today the leg pain when moving set in again, and I was back to smaller steps (although not nearly as bad as Tuesday).

I have an appointment to see my own N.P. tomorrow night. I’ll have a cardiology appointment as soon as my doctor’s office can arrange one. (They are remarkably adept at getting a squeeze-in consultation; I’ve seen them turn an 8-week wait “even if your doctor refers you” into a three day one.) Possible causes for the enlarged heart are an infection in the past that caused tissue damage, or—as I learned about through my own research today—a completely benign condition called Athlete’s Heart Syndrome (see also this article) which sometimes develops in people who do a lot of cardiovascular types of exercise.

Ignoring the enlarged heart and going back to the original symptoms, I called my sister Cindy last night and learned that my niece Jenn had exactly the same symptoms, and is currently recovering finally after a round of antibiotics. The only test that she had come back positive was one that indicated an exposure to strep at some point. This matches a bacteriological diagnosis, rather than a viral one, but her case baffled her doctors for a while, and, they too suspected Lyme disease.


The weasels just want my gnome engineer Mortalan character’s gold if I kick.

Being sick like this has made me appreciate much more how difficult it is for those with movement-related disorders or painful problems like arthritis. I also have a much better understanding of just how difficult it was for Nichelle all those years when her vitamin D deficiency left her debilitated.

Still, I find many blessings. Kronos’ sick time policies are excellent, and the superb insurance for which they are paying means I do not have to worry about the medical bills. I can work from home to coordinate with going to appointments or on those mornings when I’m not sure how well I’ll feel, and keep up with work e-mail, etc., even when too sick to go in. I get to experience my children’s delightfully twisted senses of humor in a time that might have been stressful to them. Nichelle is a constant help to me as well. I continue to benefit from (and am particularly grateful for) the large amount of time coordinating my case that my N.P.’s Celine Fortin and Rebecca Cooper-Piela and my “nurse-on-the-phone” Fran have put in.

I am glad God doesn’t want my life to get too boring.

(The saga continues on the post entitled Day 13.)

5 Replies to “What’s Wrong with … Doug?”

  1. Welcome to MY world! After all the same test over and over I’m still “in perfect health”! (Even tho the chest pains and lymph swelling continues!) Hope they can fix you faster than they’ve been able to help me! Hey doug? does the food Nichelle makes for you smell of almonds? Just a thought!

  2. Doug,

    I had no idea you were going through all of this. I will definitely be praying for you, as will my whole family. Please keep us up-to-date on what’s going on.

    Oh, and don’t pass off lyme, even if you get negative results. It’s notorious for false negatives!

  3. Man, thought this was where we were suppose to list things that are wrong with you! Ya mean I spent the last 3 hours writting them all down and now I can’t post them??!!

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