Sunday, 27 June 2010

MS update June 2010


Well, it's been an interesting month and I'm not talking about the world cup! I posted before that I had developed numbness from the waist down; well, that's resolved to a great extent, or to an extent that I don't notice it too much. If I touch my legs and feet there is still 'altered sensation' but, I think my brain has just got used to it and I can drive and have been back at work. When I had just developed the aforementioned numbness I happened to have my annual review with the specialist MS consultant, which was good. I explained the situation to him and he didn't say that he would have to review the diagnosis of primary progressive MS (PPMS), but explained that, these diseases don't necessarily fit into the man-made categories that academics like! So, he ordered an MRI scan to see if there had been any significant change in the brain scan. I'll have to read up on this as I imagined that more would be seen on a scan of the spinal cord, but, the outcome is the same in any case.

So, I went for the MRI scan and it really is no bother at all. You just lie very still in this long metal tube that buzzes and makes clicking noises. This time a contrast medium was used to highlight different parts of the brain. When I went for the review appointment just a week or so ago, I asked the consultant if I could have a few of the images for my own photo album - so here they are! (remember to click for the full-size image)

The front of my head is to the top of the picture.

This is the same view of my head but with a contrast medium injected just before the scan was taken. All the blood vessels and 'sinuses' are highlighted.

This is a view from the side of my head a 'sagittal' view. If you look to the front of my head (that's on the left of the picture) you'll notice that my nose is missing. It's OK, though, they added it in at the back (look where the red arrow is pointing!), at least they got it in!

More complications!

So, where was I? Oh, yes. The numbness in my lower half began to recede. It's not away, but, I can live with it. I wanted to get back to work (this would be at the beginning of May), so, I saw my GP and arranged that. The day after I saw my doctor, I began to get tingling in my right hand! Oh no! It has got steadily worse until all the fingers are affected to some degree and the palm of my hand too. More worrying for me is the fact that the 'motor function' (that is the strength and dexterity of control) seems to be affected too. So, writing is difficult. I can do it, but, slowly and only for about half a page. From a dental point of view, I can't teach or treat patients as I can't take the risk, so, I spoke to our Head of School and told him what was going on. The dental school has been really great to me throughout all of this and allowed me to pursue a desk job, really, for the last two months and will review matters at the end of July.

Up to date:

Well, things are much the same. I can drive and hold a cup, but trying to do anything more delicate than that is difficult. Interestingly, the consultant said that since I have had two 'relapses' in quite a short time that he is keen that I try some of the 'disease modifying' drugs which are available. Great, that just means popping more pills? Actually, no. I've got to inject myself approximately every two days! I get my own syringes and needles, etc., and after I've been trained to do it (a dentist!!), I've got to make this a disciplined and regular part of my life. The MS nurse sent me a link to a website with several demonstrations of patients doing there own injections...Mmm. I know, I know..I'm a dentist and have been injecting patients for years and years and now, well, I'm not too keen at having to inject myself! Do you have sympathy for me? No, I didn't think so!

A New MS Friend:

I was at a dental study day recently, when I got chatting to a very nice lady whom I've spoken to before, but not for some time. She had obviously discovered that I've got MS and revealed to me that her daughter who is in her early 20s has MS too. She mentioned a few things relating to her daughter, and it came into my mind that I'd like to be in contact with this young lady and quiz her on her own experience. So, we've exchanged quite a few emails in just a few days. To say she's been helpful and informative is an understatement! I don't think I've 'met' anyone so knowledgeable on MS ever. Jenna, thanks! You've been a great help!

Armed Forces Day, 2010

I like to finish with a photo. We went to the Glasgow Armed Forces Day to show support for our serving, injured and veteran soldiers; and, especially to pause and remember those who have given their lives in the many past and present conflicts. It was good to see all those who turned out for the events in George Square. After the speeches, marching, an amazing flypast of a Dakota (four times!), there was music and a dance group called the Kennedy Cupcakes doing some 1940s routines. Predictably, Matthew got his photo taken with them!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Loch Tay Crannog Centre

I've been interested in crannogs for years. I read about what Stephen Lawhead imagined life would be like in a crannog in his fictional Celtic trilogy. Since then I've discovered that scores of crannogs remains have been discovered in Scottish lochs. A crannog is a dwelling place built on stakes or perhaps an artificial island on water. The remains are plentiful. Even as locally as Loch Lomond, it had been known for a long time that some of the islands appeared to be man-made. A couple of the conglomerations of stones are easily visible at the east end of Loch Tay. These are bronze age dwellings. On Loch Tay, a crannog has been reconstructed as a tourist attraction and also as a means of raising money for the continued underwater excavations which are revealing a wealth of artifacts.
This photo is from the Royal Signals Association website and it's a lot better than the pictures I took!
There is a small museum at the centre with some of the artifacts that have been recovered from the loch. The difference between land archeology and underwater archeology is that under water much of the organic material is preserved, such as wooden objects or a bracken floor that collapsed into the water. They're recovered everyday wooden utensils and some of the large timbers that would once have supported the crannog. Because of the cold they give you a blanket cape to wear and give you the guided tour of the place. I loved it.
After seeing the reconstructed crannog, the guide (a girl called Marion) demonstrated several ways that bronze age people would have cut wood, ground corn or made fire! That was amazing. She spun two bits of wood together until there was literally a tiny mound of smoldering sawdust. This was then put in a 'fire bowl' of fine wood shavings, and straw, etc. She then began to gently blow and blow and blow. I thought she was going to be smoked into failure, but, she persisted until the flames burst into life - and we were all really impressed! For anyone interested in Scottish history and archeology it's a great day out. The historians and archaeologists can only speculate why crannogs would be built in the first place. Could it have been for security? Well, possibly, but there weren't all that many people around in those days to be a threat. Could crannogs have been built to protect their farm animals and the people themselves from wild animals - wolves and bears? Possibly. But then, I discovered the real reason! Twenty-feet out into the water...there are no midges! These bronze-age folks weren't daft!

Matthew returns home..

It was a great delight to welcome Matthew home after his time in Afghanistan in the armed forces! I photographed him as he walked up the platform at Glasgow Central Station dragging his army box behind him with all his belongings in it. Susie and I felt a huge relief at his safe homecoming after what must have been an arduous six months. I know a lot of friends and family are glad to see him home too. I thank you for all your prayers over this last tour of duty. They are so very much appreciated.
I really hope and pray that Matthew's time at home will be restful and refreshing. I think it's important to know that there is a haven of rest where the soul as well as mind and body can recover in peace without troubling. It's important to know that home is still there! Remember the prodigal son in his hour of deepest darkness and despair, coming to his senses and saying "I will arise and go to my father's house!" He just knew that his father's house would still be there! A place of stability and refreshing peace. I hope Matthew finds that here at home.

Summer's here!

Let's forget about the winter now that summer's here! It's a glorious day today with that lovely warmth in the air that makes it feel so summery (if that's a word). I sat outside this morning with a book and a cup of tea. Who could ask for more?

Health update I had another MRI scan a few days ago which followed on from my episode of numbness from the waist down. It's a strange experience. They make you get changed into 'scrubs' - the sort of pyjama clothing that hospital staff work in these days. They also make sure there is nothing metallic on you or in you (like a stainless steel repair to your bones or clamps to blood vessels) that would heat up during the scan. Ear plugs duly placed and then your head is well and truly clamped back and sides with a weird basket-like contraption over your face that looks like a Norman knight's helmet. Thereafter, you are slid into the large tube head first and told to lie as still as you can. A squeezy rubber bulb is given to you in case you feel you urgently have to get out of the MRI scanner. Actually, it sounds worse than it is. Some patients understandably find it a bit claustrophobic as it's like lying in the locker above your seats on an aeroplane, but, I could fall asleep quite easily if it wasn't for the noise. Once they start the scan, it buzzes every few seconds: a grating metallic noise that I think would be intolerable without the earplugs. The whole process lasts about 30 - 40 minutes. This time I was taken out midway through to give me an intravenous injection of a contrast medium which will no doubt show the MRI in glorious technicolor! So, that was that. I go back in a fortnight to hear what the consultant's got to say about it all. I'm going to ask him if there's any way I can get some of the images to post here! I've seen them before. The MRI takes 'cuts' or 'tomographs' every few millimetres through your head. The one I really don't like is the section through brain and eyeballs. It looks disgusting!
I did manage to get back to work a few weeks ago and our management have been very accommodating in allowing me more suitable work while I'm still coping with some numbness. Bless them all! And I mean that.