Monday, March 31, 2008

Anatomy of a brainstem symptom

I just ate supper, slowly, while drinking lots of fluids in between bites. Felt okay, but stood up and felt that familiar sensation of food traveling veery slllowwwly down my throat. This causes me to feel nauseous and the lower part of my back to hurt. It's hard to get a breath and I feel hot and flushed. I sat down in front of the computer where my personal-sized fan is and now have it turned onto me, but the food still feels like it is down in the center of my chest, moving slowly or not at all. My ribs sort of hurt and I feel woozy and a bit light-headed.

I get up and take several spoonfuls of applesauce. I eat 50 oz of applesauce a week because of swallowing problems. I still feel the pressure, the back of my head hurts, the palms of my hands have that "neuro" ache in them. I take in some deep breaths and walk around a little, but still that feeling of pressure. I'm not choking, the food is further down than that.

Earlier I took a nap and when I first laid down, I had breathing problems then too. I did some work today that was very low-impact, in fact, one might think NO impact, but I imagine the position of my head caused the odontoid (part of the C2) to press into the front of my brainstem and thus, this sort of event happens.

Now, something new, my left hand is tingly and painful and it is streaking up my arm. I wonder if this has something to do with my heart. Because heart stuff is also a sign of brainstem compression. I don't feel the pressure of the food anymore down low in the esophagus, but feel some food now up higher, near the back of my throat. I'm guessing that the backed up food passed on down and what I'm feeling now is the food that was behind it (sorry if this is grossing anyone out).

Now I feel a pinprick in the right frontal area of my brain, not bad, just "there." Though the left hand went normal for a minute, it again feels strange and another pinprick in the right frontal lobe. I'm going to get up up and put some loose clothes on. Walk around a bit.

I put my dishes into the dishwasher and now, 45 minutes after my last bite of food, I still feel some presence of food going down the gullet.

60 minutes after my last bite of supper, I feel "all clear." Good thing the dessert cart didn't come around, huh?

[note: I just wrote this out as it happened for my own records and for anyone who might be interested. Brainstem compression controls autonomic systems like swallowing and breathing and heart function. I'm not sure, but it "feels" to me like it affects the muscles that control the swallowing/moving food toward the stomach, as well as the muscles that move the diaphragm.

I also wanted to mention this for family and caregivers. I have a wonderful husband who really listens to what is going on with me and will question me when he sees something not looking right (like just now). But what I wanted to mention is that sometimes, a sufferer might mention they are going through something like this NOT to whine or complain, NOT expecting you, the friend or family, to fix it or do anything about it, but to just let you know in case the whole event keeps
progressing, you pass out and end up in an ambulance headed to the ER. In the midst of something like this, it's impossible to know if it will end soon or if it will progress. If the sufferer didn't mention it to someone, and did pass out, it would be helpful (we presume) for someone to know what was happening leading up to faint.]


invisibleglue said...

Thanks for this. I have two daughters; one with reverse motility; never thought of it as a possible spinal cord compression issue. thanks for that thoughth.
when it gets bad, similar to what you experience, she takes liquid zantec; she says it kind of freezes her esophigus and gives her a window of painless swallowing.

By His Grace said...

There's so much we learn from each other. I'm glad, then, that I wrote that out step by step as it happened, I myself would never have remembered all of that, even now. I glad it might have helped you. I'll be praying for you and your daughters!
By His Grace