A Precursor?


Shortly after I was christened with a diagnosis at the age of 48, I began to wonder if there had been signs that something was brewing that I hadn’t noticed. Then the treadmill incident came out of the blue like a bolt of lightning with no prior warning, and it seemed odd that something like that would just happen for no reason. I asked everyone I could if they knew of anyone within the family that had MS, and came up with a big goose egg. So I scoured my memory to see if I could remember anything that could have been a sign that something was coming, remembered the woozy spells that used to plague me, and wondered how in the world I could forgot those.

Back in my twenties and thirties, I used to get these episodes that had no name or explanation that I called woozy spells. They are hard to describe, but what would happen is I would get this feeling in my head like a switch had been turned, followed by a feeling like all the blood was draining from my head. Think of a balloon that has a not so slow leak and you will understand what I mean. My vision became impaired, as a curtain of yellow descended over my eyes with sparkling stars flickering about. This yellow fog evaporated after a few seconds, and I was left feeling like utter shit with a head and body hangover.

These little bastards came in clusters, occurring several times over an entire day, and sometimes while I was asleep. Each new blast made me feel more hungover and wrung out than the previous one, and Advil would only do so much. I distinctly remember being in a department head meeting one day taking about something while one of these popped out of the blue, and I had to strain real hard to continue my train of thought while I couldn’t see two feet in front of me and my head felt as if it was being sucked into a black hole. I worried it might be a stroke of some kind, although I had no idea what that felt like, but dismissed the idea because I could still talk, raise my arms, and things of that nature. It took two to three days to recover from them and feel normal again.

I would get whatever these things were every three of four months like clockwork, but I never saw a doctor, even though K implored me to. Remember, I was young and felt bulletproof. Besides, what the hell was anyone going to do to prevent them? Maybe deep down I didn’t want to know.

Then one day the mother of all woozy spells occurred while I was driving. I was coming home from Stop and Shop one afternoon when it hit me. In order to understand the significance of what happened, you first have to understand the route I drove to the store.

Back then I lived on Main Street in Portland. I would drive over the Arrigoni Bridge, which spans the Connecticut River into Middletown. Then I’d take the back streets to avoid the busy Route 9 intersection, and travel along Newfield Street into Cromwell and soon turn left into the Stop and Shop parking lot. On the way home I would turn left out of the parking lot and hop onto Route 9, which was less than a quarter mile away. I’d be on Route 9 South for about five miles and take the Portland exit  at the stop lights directly below the bridge, and drive back over the bridge, onto Main Street and home. This circular route was about ten to twelve miles in length.

On this particular trip, I was a less than a mile from the bridge when it hit. I could see the stop lights at the intersection below the bridge, which loomed large in my windshield. The next thing I remember is being in my car on Route 9, but further away from the bridge. I could not see the intersection or the lights, and I could see only a portion of the bridge. My head was pounding, my body felt like it was in mud, and I was shaken to the core. The only thing I could think of was “How the hell did I get here?

The answer was obvious, although I still can’t believe it these thirty years later. I had blacked out, yet still managed to arrive where I was without injuring myself or anyone else. I had taken the turn at the stop light under the bridge, then drove the back roads one more time past the Stop and Shop parking lot and back onto Route 9 before I realized where I was. This trek spans at least eight miles, has numerous stop signs and stop lights, at least three right hand turns and takes about fifteen to twenty minutes. To this day I don’t understand how I did it. It’s a fucking miracle, quite frankly.

Nothing of this magnitude ever occurred again, and I didn’t tell a soul about it for years. The woozy spells ended in my late thirties, and I never gave them another thought. I did tell my neurologist and asked if these were precursors of the MS brewing, but he didn’t think so. He said they sounded more like ocular migraines, which made sense once I looked them up on the internet.

That closed the book on these things until today. I still don’t definitevely know what they were, why they occurred or what they mean, and I think I will leave it that way.  You see, my parents both passed in 2015, my Dad of a massive stroke that he succumbed to four days later, and my Mom to a cerebral hemorrhage she died from hours after it occurred. It isn’t that I don’t think about them because I miss them, which I do. But they lived until the ripe ages of 96 and 92 respectively and led healthy independent lives until then. We should all be so fortunate.

No, I don’t think about them because what happened to Mom and Dad are an established part of my family’s medical history. Both seem to be more in the orbit of whatever it was that was happening to me back then compared to ocular migraines, and that is a path I would prefer not to dwell upon.

Author: Steve Markesich

I am loving husband, a doting father, a Red Sox fanatic, an aspiring novelist and MS advocate. Feel free to check out my stevemarkesich.com web site.

25 thoughts on “A Precursor?”

  1. Is something going on that is making you think of this now? or is it because you have a bit of free time on your hands? I hope all is well and that you are enjoying your pool and beer…try NOT to think too much, because I know from experience THAT will give you a headache 😛

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I love personal stories and would like to hear more of Steve, so you’d better start thinking about trips down memory lane. Please.
        As for that beer Grace mentioned…do you drink sometimes? Is it ‘allowed?’How do beer and MS get along?

        You’re a fighter, Steve, and a great story-teller, just like Billy.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I drink more than sometimes. Most days actually. As a matter of fact, I am currently sitting under an umbrella on my pool deck on a beautiful summer afternoon having a cold beverage.

          Most of the time I have something at night, more for anxiety and general aches and pains than anything else. I recently enrolled in the medicinal marijuana in our state and will start doing that next month instead. Smoked quite a bit of it during college and my 20’s. I have heard it really helps. I am sure I will be writing about that

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Definitely, but from what I understand a lot of the options available don’t necessarily get one high. I still have a 20 year old living in the house to whom we have repeatedly emphasized not to get involved with drugs (so I’m a hypocrite as I never considered pot in that category) so I have to walk that fine line as far as what I get and how I take it. Plus he loves sweets, so if I got some gummy bears and he found them, sure as shit he would down the entire stash.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I will let you know. Grace told me of a place she heard of from someone who goes to the dispensaries that they call the folks behind the counter budtenders. What a hoot!i will definitely post about my initial experience. From what I understand there a at least a dozen options. It will like being a kid in a candy store

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Beer, wine and MS get along fine. So does the hard stuff as long as I don’t go nuts. What it does not get along with is my balance, which is terrible on a good day. Can’t get too tipsy or Humpty Dumpty will fall down

          Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve also blogged on this. I had some incidences that were prior to my diagnosis and my first big attack in 1998. I didn’t have your episodes, different things but I believe MS was there before the diagnosis.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well written and rendered, my friend. Like Bojana said, I love these personal story posts, these collective walks down memory lane. And beer, I love beer.

    But that story of your lost eight miles is freaky. I guess you had the auto-pilot going, and thank god for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Freaky isn’t the word for it Tom. Somebody or something was watching out for me, that is for sure. Sometimes I wonder if I imagined it all, but I know what happened and remain amazed I didn’t kill somebody or myself

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All of your posts are always pretty fantastic, but it was nice to read this more personal story. Sometimes a trip down memory lane just makes us think a little too much, but it can also be enlightening at the same time. I am very happy you had some type of auto-pilot going on and you were safe!!! I do believe a little bit of alcohol is good for all of us at times, of course I do only drink on the weekends if at all. I honestly do not notice anything different because of the MS, of course I was only 19 when I was diagnosed and really did not drink. Sounds pretty crazy doesn’t it?! Thank you for sharing Steve!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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