I have a huge respect for anyone who decides to follow a path into any medical profession. From the ground up these are the people who keep us ticking over until the next mystery illness comes along. GP’s are fantastic and do an amazing job of dealing with everything from sore fingers to full on melt downs. My GP, Doctor B is a remarkable human being. Let’s not start a debate about poor pay and working conditions but you can probably tell I love my NHS so don’t mess with them or I’ll come knocking. (Imagine me doing my best Bricktop or Alfie Solomon’s impression whilst saying that).
Now as this journey opens out we can discuss whatever you like. We can talk about symptoms of depression and stuff like that. Things to look out for, anything. But today let me tell you about the day I met Doctor C Neuro Consultant. Here is an extremely talented human who it would seem has dedicated her life to understanding how the brain works on both a psychological and surgical level. This lady has more letters after her name than a countdown conundrum. As soon as we met I knew instantly I was in safe hands. We talked about my medical timeline, what medication I’d tried, my mood and relationship with the people and world around me. I was showing all the signs and symptoms of chronic depression but something didn’t sit well with Doctor C. One of the really wicked things that was affecting me was terrible memory loss. I could remember all the bizarre stuff and would have been an asset to any pub quiz team, but short term memory was and still is to a degree a bit shit. One of the main prompts to seek further medical attention was after ‘The Strange Incident of the Man and the Missing Car’. One morning I took a drive into town with a shopping list of bits to pick up. To cut the story short, I forgot I had the shopping list and proceeded to walk home, completely forgetting the car in he multi story car park. I made it home then got in my wife’s car and went to pick her up from work. On return she noticed the car wasn’t in the drive and asked me where it was. It must have been stolen. I was at the point of calling the police when I found the parking ticket in my shirt pocket.
So, the medical examination continued. I was presenting signs of pseudo dementia and Doctor C decided to arrange for every test under the sun. MRI scans, Cat Scans, blood tests and a spinal tap. To the uninitiated a spinal tap is a procedure where a long thin needle is poked into the area surrounding the spinal cord. A number of samples of spinal fluid are taken away for analysis. It’s an uncomfortable thing to have but it’s a great way of finding any nasties floating around your system.
I got a phone call one afternoon. It was Doctor C. She mentioned that the blood and fluid tests had come back and both showed high levels of a particular antibody present in my body that were working against me (anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis). Her next question worried me. Could I come down to the Neuro department in Southampton and spend a week in intensive care so they can carry out a programme of plasma exchanges? The quicker we do this the stronger the chance of recovery will be which will limit any lasting damage to your brain and the rest of your body.
It had taken over 5 years of trying every known depression related medication and now here is someone telling me that my immune system is creating something which in turn is attacking a part of my brain (limbic system) which is presenting itself with all the classic signs of depression and at the same time interrupting things like memory, decision making, mood and all the other day to day things we take for granted.
All very difficult to take on board but that was the day I won my first rosette. Up to this point the world sees people with depression as weak folk who need to pull themselves together, cheer up and get on with life. As we all know this is not the case but, I could now proudly say I had a brain disease/injury that explains why I am the way I am. I could wear my newly presented rosette with great pride and just focus on getting well again.
I think that enough for now. Join me next time and I’ll tell you all about the inner workings of plasma therapy and how I broke the expensive hospital equipment. Oops.