A lot of things happened for me in July 2014. I met my boyfriend’s family, I got my fourth concussion, and Matthew told me he loved me… all in the same week to boot. This being my fourth concussion meant recovery took a lot normal than the first three. The long version of how I got this particular concussion goes as follows: I think I hit my head on a white surface possibly while playing a game with Matthew’s nieces. I wasn’t drinking or popping pills either, I’m just a klutzy gal who has hit her head a substantial number of times too many. When my friend Robyn rushed me to the emergency room a few days later for throwing up and losing control of my eye movements I finally started to realize the severity of hitting my head. I have supportive friends, incredible parents, and a phenomenal boyfriend who all contributed to my wellbeing like wolves in a pack (for their fellow wolf friends; obviously in most cases a pack of wolves would not be very kindly or caring of a human).
By November I had really started feeling like myself again, except for the two or three occasions when Matthew and I would have sex in one particular position. Even though it was quite the crowd pleaser, we stopped having sex in that position from the indescribable pain that would shoot throw my right eye (the same eye that felt like it was going explode the night I got my concussion). I made a surprise trip to his house for his birthday, and even though I could only stay Thursday night I was happy to see my love on this special day. After we were in bed, we started talking, then kissing, and out of nowhere he leaves to get some water, but it’s his birthday so I let it happen. When he gets back we snuggle up, and start kissing; instead of being a rationally adult who uses discretion I gave him the green light to go for the position we recently retired. It was his birthday, and if the celebration of life isn’t a good reason to break the rules, then my name isn’t Elizabeth.
Since I was the one who insisted that I was “okay” to have sex that way for his birthday I felt that it was only right to suck up the shooting pain searing through my right eye. Instead of getting up to walk it off I continued to stay in bed playing it cool. It’s not like it felt as though my eye was going to rupture or anything. My tune quickly changed when my eye started bugging out. It was shaking so hard I thought it was trying to pretend like a Polaroid picture or a salt shaker. I told Matthew who could read the pain on my face like words on a screen, and he offered to take me to the hospital. Being someone who hasn’t had a primary care physician since I went to the pediatrician, I politely passed. We both went to sleep and aside from being exhausted when I woke up the next morning, I was right as rain.
A few weeks later, we were cuddling and talking in bed when I rolled over to snuggle up in his big arms. Somewhere between facing the window, and rolling to see his handsome face, I lost my vision. With the exception of huge black spots with hints of colors around their edges I couldn’t see anything. Granted, the lights were off, but they had been off for quite a while and my eyes had adjusted. After I rolled over there wasn’t a shape to be seen. I explained this to Matthew who did his best to distract me and hold me tightly until I was able to fall asleep. Falling asleep fearing that I might wake up blind was the cherry on the cupcake of weird post-concussion occurrences, and within the next month I made a follow-up appointment with my neurologist.
The day of my appointment, Matthew brought me and my list to the doctor’s office where I explained all of the strange things that had been happening to me: my dizziness, excessive headaches, the eye pain and spastic eye movements from sex, and the loss of sight. After I told her about my symptoms, re-explained that my mom had suffered from two freak aneurysms (not the hereditary kind) and confirmed what birth control pill I was taking, the neurologist gave me a script for an MRA. An MRA is much like an MRI, but it’s used to check for bumps, lumps, clots, etc. that are smaller than, I believe, 0.05 mm.
Now, I had made my yearly gynecologist appointment for the same month as the neurologist, but due to my work schedule and overtime issues I had to change it to the following month. All of my overtime also prevented me from setting up my MRA appointment since the office is always closed when I’m not working. Regardless, the other day (now four days before my gyno appointment) while I was changing my birth control packs, it occurred to me that I’ve never actually read the little information packet that comes with the pills. I began reading it and quickly started learning new things, like that loss of sight, temporary blindness, dizziness, and headaches are all possible side effects of this particular pill. This made me chuckle, out loud, in an empty condo, all by myself, because when I had told the neurologist about my symptoms she dismissed almost all of them… including my blood pressure of 180/60 that particular day. I decided that when I went in for my yearly appointment I would mention these symptoms and see if maybe, just maybe, they were related to my birth control pill and not because of a head injury from which I had basically recovered.
Earlier today when I went to the gynecologist, I went with a full bladder and determination to remember to ask about my weird “symptoms” of late and their relation to my pill. I managed to make it there in exactly 35 minutes, and a solid 15 minutes before my appointment was scheduled. I updated my address, my insurance, and then begged the woman at the front desk if I could use the bathroom. Upon promising to leave a urine sample, she gave me directions. Not to be overwhelming graphic, but not only did I fill one 10 – 14 oz cup completely, I could’ve undoubtedly fully filled another 3 – 4 cups with ease. After finally be lead to the examining room, I got my blood pressure taken and was left to put on the fresh scented robe and wait. While waiting, I noticed that my legs were incredibly dry so I hoped off the table, grabbed some lotion from my purse and took the time to moisturize my legs. A few minutes later Isabella came in the room and carried on a humorous conversation while the prodding and poking occurred. When she done, Isabella told me she had to retake my blood pressure since it was so high. I explained that my dad hadn’t been feeling well, and that at 4:30 am my mom had taken him to the Emergency Room. While she was filing out my chart and getting everything ready to check my blood pressure, I told her about the issues with my eye, the sex thing, the dizziness, and how dismissive my neurologist had been about it all. After checking my blood pressure twice, Isabella told me that I have medically high blood pressure. Naturally I asked if I was too fat, which I’m sure all 25 year old women ask when they’re told they have high blood pressure. Isabella reassured me that I’m not too fat (if only my grandmother had been present for that one), and explained that I had to stop taking my birth control pills immediately. Based on my previously mentioned issues in conjunction with my abnormally high blood pressure, Isabella said if I were too keep taking them I would almost certainly have a stroke one day sooner, rather than later.
She checked my blood pressure one more time to see if it returned to normal since telling me I’m at a high risk for stroke after I explained about worrying about my parents sitting in the hospital. Shockingly, it had only gotten higher. Isabella then left and told me to meet her out front. She instructed me to see a physician (one I could make my primary care one since apparently the gyno I see once a year doesn’t count…) and then borderline harass the MRA people until I get an appointment with them, and then return to her for a follow up visit. After I had Isabella write my instructions down, I said goodbye to my good family friend, who is a nurse there, and who managed to calm me. Once I vacated the doctor’s office, I left Matthew a voicemail that ended in minimal breathing and the sound of choking back tears. Then I drove to my mom’s house where I threw away my birth control pack, and sat with my mother for two hours working on a puzzle discussing the life/death situation of my dad and my medically high blood pressure.