TGA, we hardly knew ya!

I write a lot of opinions on this blog, but every now and then, I write a little about myself.  This weekend was my daughter’s second birthday party.  It was great.   Immediate family and friends attended.  There was a bounce house and a blow-up pool which the girls loved.  We made a cake that looked surprisingly like Rocket from the Little Einsteins cartoon, and I was quite proud of it.  Nothing was forced, we just let the kids play, and enjoy themselves, and everything seemed to be going well.

I was exhausted, after spending the better part of the last three days preparing for the party, and at 4:30 with the guests and family on their way their respective houses, I was surprised that my wife and I took the time to quickly clean up the party mess and rest a few minutes before dinner.

About 6:45 I pulled up the Joe’s Crabshack website on the computer and talked my wife into letting us call in dinner and picking it up for us.  By 7:00, we had both made our dinner choices, and she was about to call it in when we received and phone call from my sister.  She sounded scared, and proceeded to tell me that she thought something was wrong with my mom.  She had called mom to ask her if we had enjoyed the party, and mom told her that she had not been to a party that day.  This was a problem because mom had stayed with me for the previous two days helping to keep the baby occupied while assisting me with various cleaning projects.  She was the last one leave the house at 4:30.

My sister said that she was going to mom’s house to check on her.  I called mom and kept her on the phone until someone arrived.

My sister had also called mom’s best friend, and she was heading to see about her too.  I called mom, and it was clear quickly that she had no memory of recent events going back at least weeks, though she had no idea that she even had an issue.

She informed me that there was someone at the door.  It was her friend, and I asked to speak to her.  I brought her up to speed, and told her that my wife and I would be on our way to meet them at the hospital.  We got things together, and by the time we left the house, my sister called to inform me that she and my mother’s friend had decided to call for an ambulance.

My sister graciously offered to call her mother-in-law, who had come to her house to keep my niece, and see if we could leave my daughter in her care also.  My sister’s mother-in-law (also graciously) was pleased to keep her, and we were extremely thankful for that.  After seeing that my daughter was going to be OK, we made our way to the emergency room in a town 45 minutes away.

When we arrived, there were five other people in the small curtained ER stall (it was more of a stall than a room).  I was afraid of getting bad service.  It was getting to be late in the evening on Saturday.  Obviously the hospital would not have a full staff on the weekend, and I’ve heard that Saturday night is the worst for ERs.

The most frightening thing was my mother’s condition.  Her personality was there, and she was even bubbly and joking, but it was readily apparent that nothing that was going into her brain was staying there.  Thus began one of the most tiring and scary situations of my life.  She would ask questions.  “Am I in the hospital?”  “How did I get here?”  “Who figured out there was problem?”  “How did she know there was a problem?”  “What time did she call?”  There were other questions, and different forms of these questions.  These seem logical, but the scary part was the fact that she seemed to reset every couple of minutes (when I say couple of minutes, that is exactly what I mean.  It was incessant.), and ask the same questions again as if she had never asked them before or heard the answers.  A friend named Tom was in the room.  Every few minutes, she would look up and see him and say, “Hi, Tom!  How are you doing?” as if he had just walked in the room.

She remembered everything from her life up until the last few months, but recent events up to the last couple of months were completely gone.  The weird thing was that she could respond in the very short term, and would say things like, “I guess I must have gone off the deep end.” or “I must have had a stroke,” but she would forget again in the next minute or so.

I kept thinking about the movie Memento, and this did not help my spirits one bit.

We stayed there for quite a while, and with the events of the day, I began to crash.  I want to thank the two nice ER nurses who provided me with coffee, or I would never have made it.  Near midnight, one of the ER nurses informed us that they would not have a room to admit her to in the hospital until perhaps the next day.  I asked (honestly) to her and my sister and brother-in-law if we needed to go to another hospital.  The nurse left, and we continued to talk.  She came back (in less than five minutes) and informed us that they were indeed preparing a room for my mother, but it could still be a few hours.  I call sorriness on the room situation, since I find it hard to believe that one simply materialized in a few minutes time in the middle of the night.  They just did not want to go through the effort to get her one ready.

At this point, we realized that we needed to come up with a plan, and that it would not be practical for all of us to stay there all of the time.  I offered to stay the night, and my sister and my mom’s friend would come back in the morning.  My wife went to my sister’s house to spend the night, and I settled in for what I knew would be and extremely long night.  I had lost my relief pitchers, and now I was left to answer all the questions on my own for the next several hours.

At one o’clock, the first positive sign came when she looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “’A’(my sister) is pregnant, isn’t she.”  She had not remembered this earlier, so I saw this as a positive sign, but then she was right back to the mantra of questions.  Later she asked how long I had been thee, and I told her.  She then asked me if my brother-in-law, my sister, my wife and her friend had been their earlier.  I saw this as more significant, because it had been and hour since they had gone home, and she was retaining nothing that long.  She followed that up by returning to the mantra, but she made the same statement two or three more times in the next hour.

Another encouraging turn was that when she would ask a question, she could often see the look on my face, and say, “I’ve asked that before haven’t I.”  I saw this as progress, because up till now, it seemed every thought was an original one.

At 2:30, they finally moved her to a room in the ER.  They asked me to leave the room for a few minutes in order to get her ready for it.  I returned at 3:00, and they got me a pillow and a blanket.  Mom started in on the mantra again as if I had not been gone.  I looked at her and said, “Mom, I could answer your questions, but you are going to forget what I say in two minutes and then ask me again.  What I would really like is for you to try and get some sleep so that you can start to heal.”  She looked at me, and said, “I understand what you are saying, but could you humor me and tell me one more time.”  I had heard this before in the evening, but I said, “OK, but I want you to try to get some sleep after I tell you.”

She asked the same things as before, and I answered them, but then she said, “So, did I seem out of it at the party?”  I thought, “Bingo!”  Things began to flood back, and we spent the next hour and a half talking about the previous day’s events, and helping her to rebuild things.  She would still ask questions repeatedly but she was a thousand times better than she had been the night before.  We got a couple of hours sleep before we woke up at 7:00, and her friend arrived.

The next day she continued to get better, but she could not remember anything during the time she was messed up, and oddly she still repeatedly asked about the things that happened during this time, as if she could not retain and organize the facts that we supplied, but she could remember everything after she started getting better.

My sister relieved me, and I went home for a couple of hour sleep.  We all gathered in her new room at the hospital that evening, and she was demonstrably better.  The best news of all was that the CAT scan and MRI showed no damage.  She stayed through Sunday, and was diagnosed by two separate neurologists with TGA, Transient Global Amnesia.  I looked it up, and it is a trip.  It also describes what occurred to a T.

We were told that there is a 50% chance that it could happen again in her lifetime, but it has never happened to anyone more than twice.  Of all of the possibilities, this rare event was actually the best one, and I am thankful, but I will never be able to think fondly of TGA, our mysterious visitor that showed up for a short while and scared the crap out of me.


One Response

  1. Hi,
    The same thing happen to my sister. It has happened a second time, (about 1.5yrs apart) & she is always thinking that it is going to happen again.
    Which doctor was it that told you it never happens more than twice? Thanks for sharing. ~ J

    My not so updated blog…

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