My eye doctor saved my life

I found out about six weeks ago that I have Myasthenia Gravis, a rare long-term condition that causes muscle weakness that comes and goes. It most commonly affects the muscles that control the eyes and eyelids, facial expressions, chewing, swallowing and speaking. But it can affect most parts of the body, usually the arms and legs and occasionally the lungs.

So far, I seem to only have the ocular kind. I have trouble keeping my eyes open and I see double if I don’t wear an eye patch to block one eye. Either eye. It doesn’t matter.  This is a lot of fun when your left eye gets tired so you switch the eye patch to the other side to rest it. You can see people trying to get up the nerve to ask.

I’d been seeing double for a couple of months and writing it off as just getting old and having a lot of eye strain from too much writing. Then one day I stopped to get gas and punched a pump because I reached for the illusory handle instead of the real one.

I called Haike and Humble and they were going to set me up for an appointment the next week until they asked about my symptoms and I started explaining them. Then they said to come on over right then. I have to admit, I was a little amused that an eye doctor was telling me to hurry.

Dr. Jennifer Owens gave me a check up and asked who my primary care physician was. I said “Well, Dr. Baldwin delivered me.” She said she meant who was the last doctor I went to and I had to admit that was pretty much my last doctor’s visit. The old dude slapped me on the butt and I got on up out of there and never went back.

So she took it on herself to make an appointment for me with Kyle Bruyninckx in Mangham.  He asked a few questions and then scheduled an MRI for that afternoon. Now by this time, I’m beginning to get a little nervous. I don’t like doctors to begin with and I really don’t like finding out I’ve got something that makes them start using phrases like “as soon as possible” and “just to be sure.”

So I get an MRI at Richardson Medical Center at 4:30 from a tech who stayed late to do it because whatever was wrong seemed to be the kind of thing that made doctors get really antsy. I got a call from Dr. Bruyninckx in my car on the way home from the MRI. I live 15 minutes from the hospital.

The MRI showed a possible mass in my brain. So they scheduled two more CT scans to get a better look at it. Meanwhile, Dr. Owens called and told me she’d gotten me an appointment with an with a specialist in Shreveport, again, as soon as possible just to be sure.

He’s said the CT scans were “unremarkable,” gave me a bunch of eye tests and then put a couple of rubber gloves filled with ice on my eyes. The ice apparently puts the chemicals that cause the drooping eye lids to sleep, so if you can open your eyes a couple of millimeters wider when they take them off, that’s a good sign you have MG. They took the ice off and Dr. Vekovious and his nurse both flinched back and said “Wow.”

So that’s where it stands. He told me to wear an eye patch to deal with the double vision and after a blood test to confirm it, he gave me a prescription for prednisone and mestinon. Within two weeks of taking the meds, my double vision was gone and I was feeling normal again. Yesterday, he switched the prednisone to cellcept. I braced for the deathly side effects that these meds are supposed to cause and so far have none of them.

I still am not a fan of doctors and hate going to the hospital or the doctor’s office. But I have to admit without these three doctors, I’d probably be dead. I’d have just kept closing one eye so that I could see and fighting off the fatigue until I ran into a culvert or the muscles that control my breathing decided to stop working. That’s usually what happens to guys like me. We just keep ticking until we run down and die like a cheap watch.

I don’t know that I’d have looked for a primary care physician on my own and I certainly wouldn’t have looked for a specialist. I owe a special thanks to Jennifer Owens for taking my health more seriously than I do.

If Kyle Bruyninckx hadn’t rushed me into the MRI before I knew what I was doing or had decided to wait a few days until we could get my insurance straightened out, I’d have probably blown off the first test.

If the staff at Richardson Medical Center hadn’t been so good at what they do, I’d have never made it through an MRI, three CT scans and more blood work than I can remember.

Finally, if Bryan Vekovius hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong with me on the first visit, I’d have given up on the whole process before the second visit. This is really remarkable because MG is usually misdiagnosed as MS or ALS and then when those tests come back negative, people go years without a diagnosis and it just gets worse.

I was really lucky that I hit three doctors who are amazing people who do great work.

So, yeah, I’ll admit it, my eye doctor saved my life.

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