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Carmen Ruggero

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Inform Yourself
by Carmen Ruggero   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, March 12, 2006
Posted: Friday, March 10, 2006

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Carmen Ruggero

Reviews, Critiques, Goals, and Hurt Feelings
A Living Experience
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With this article, I am hoping to prevent others from going through the same ordeal. It also explains my frequent absences from the den.

It pays to be to be smart when it comes to our own health. We
need to learn to inform ourselves. Otherwise, the consequences
may be very serious indeed.  Like many patients today, I listen
to my doctor, but I also research my condition and ask
questions based on my findings. There is nothing to be ashamed
or afraid of in that.

About five years ago, I was taken to the hospital. I was suffering
from a total lack of energy.  Even though I was able to move, I
felt very lethargic and disoriented. The emergency doctor found
nothing wrong, said I was a little dehydrated, gave me a glass of
water, and sent me home. It was the most expensive glass of
water I’ve ever drunk.

This happened over a weekend, and I followed up by going to my
own doctor on Monday. She was a new doctor to me. I had seen
her only once before, for my yearly physical.

I told her I was very stressed out, that I had been depressed for
some time, and couldn’t sleep nights. I also told her I was
disoriented at times and lost track of my thoughts. She
explained it made sense that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I was
suffering stress. In response to my hospital visit, she said it
appeared I’d suffered a mini-stroke, but just to be sure, she
scheduled a brain scan.

On that first visit, she gave me a shot of Valium.  She finally
sent me home with a prescription for Paxil, and a bag full of

Now, Paxil is an effective antidepressant, but after doing a bit of
research I found out it is a very addictive drug and not one that
should be prescribed arbitrarily.

The brain scan came back normal, but it showed, in the doctors
own words, “a very tiny shrinkage in the lower region of the
brain.” Based on that “tiny shrinkage,” she made a preliminary
diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and scheduled further testing
of my brain.

Thank goodness I am and proud to be stubborn. I would not
accept such diagnosis. I did some research. Alzheimer’s is a
progressive degenerative malfunction in the part of the brain that
controls thought, memory, and language; mental ability
continues to diminish, despite treatment. There is no magic pill.
As far as running further tests on my brain, the only sure way to
determine whether Alzheimer’s disease is actually present is
through the examination of brain tissue during an autopsy. I
wasn’t ready for that one, so I took the Paxil into the bathroom
and had a memorial flush.

Since that preliminary Alzheimer’s diagnosis five years ago, I’ve
written in excess of 200,000 words worth of fiction, not counting
my novel, now on the final stages. Twenty-five thousand words
published in a short story collection, and forty-five thousand on a
sole-author collection scheduled to come out in July. I have won
awards for both fiction and poetry. Might I have been

However, my sleep problems continued, and they have worsened
in the last three years. Work and other problems again made
stress a factor. My ability to concentrate diminished
considerably and, consequently, affected my performance at
work, and my ability to write. I sought the advice of one other
doctor, who gave me sleep medication, but it only worked for a
while. I started experiencing severe palpitations, hyperventilation,
disorientation, and memory lapses. I started to believe the
Alzheimer theory and was scared to death to think I was losing
my mind. I desperately ignored my symptoms and struggled to
carry on with my job as if nothing was happening.

Many times, I was taken to the hospital emergency room with
the same old symptoms: lack of energy, stress, anxiety, and
my heart pumping like that of a race horse. No cause was ever

I went to yet another doctor, one who knew how to listen
carefully to what I was saying.  Again, I told her about
experiencing depression, and to my surprise, she put me on a
heart monitor. I wore the monitor for twenty-four hours, and in
that time, it showed something that had never been detected in
an electrocardiogram: an irregular heartbeat. The condition
known as tachycardia is an abnormally rapid heartbeat that can
be as high as 200 beats per minute. My heart pumped up to 170
times per minute at irregular intervals. Surprisingly, it was
mostly during the night while I was supposedly asleep. In my
case, it was corrected through a surgical procedure which
stabilized the heart’s rhythmic function. However, that’s not
where the story ends.

About three months afterwards, symptoms returned.  Again, I
ended up in the hospital. My surgeon explained that my heart
was working properly after surgery and that I was experiencing
symptoms of anxiety and depression identical to those of a
heart dysfunction. He advised me to follow up with my family
doctor, took some blood tests, and prepared a report for her. In
other words, my family doctor could have easily prescribed an
antidepressant drug and let it go at that, but she didn’t; she
knew to monitor my heart just in case, and she was right.

Now I was back to square one. Anxiety and depression were the
symptoms that had impelled me to seek medical help five years
before and those symptoms had been diagnosed as Alzheimer.
As my family doctor was on maternity leave, I would be seen by
her associate. Thank goodness, he was as intelligent and
attentive as she.

My family doctor’s associate did give me medication to reduce
stress.  After a while I felt better, but something was still wrong.
I told him that I still couldn’t sleep. I told him about falling asleep
during the day. With that information, he sent me to be tested
for sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder that commonly affects more than 12
million people in the
United States. Its name comes from the
Greek word apnea, which means "without breath." People who
suffer sleep apnea literally stop breathing during their sleep,
often for a minute or longer and as many as hundreds of times
during a single night. My test revealed that I had stopped
breathing eighty-eight times during a five-hour period.

The most obvious outcome from the inability to achieve deep
stages of sleep is to experience excessive daytime sleepiness.
A person with sleep apnea does not enjoy restorative sleep, and
this can have very serious consequences. I travel thirty minutes
each way to work and back. After a while, dozing off while driving
became a frequent hazard. I’d fall asleep in the middle of a
phone conversation, and on the job. I once fell asleep while sitting in my boss’ office, talking to him. Sleep deprivation can
also lead to personality changes, mood swings, decreased
memory, a sudden lack of energy, and depression, all of which I
have experienced. Sleep apnea can also cause strokes or heart

Perhaps the ‘mini’ stroke that first doctor said I’d suffered five
years ago was a calling card that should have been taken
seriously. I don’t know if there is a direct link between sleep
apnea and tachycardia. In my case, it might have been a
separate issue. But there is no doubt in my mind that I have
suffered physically and emotionally for five long years because
two doctors simply did not know about this common disorder
and made far-fetched and mistaken diagnoses, instead.

As there are symptomatic similarities between depression and
some heart malfunctions. There are also some symptoms
caused by sleep deprivation, such as lack of memory, language
impediment, and disorientation, very similar to those of
Alzheimer’s. There is one major difference: patients who
experience sleep apnea respond to treatment and continue to
lead productive lives. I needed neither a psychiatrist nor sleeping
pills. I just needed a little oxygen.

I feel lucky to be alive. I could have killed myself while driving. I
could have killed someone else. I could have suffered a stroke,
or heart attack. No less tragic was agonizing about the thought
of actually losing my mind and believing the day would come
when I would no longer be able to read or write.

Disorientation and lack of memory doesn’t always spell
Alzheimer’s. It pays to be informed. It pays to relate to our
doctors exactly what and how we feel, and to insist on further
treatment if we don’t feel the situation has been corrected, or
properly diagnosed. Yes, dementia threatens as we age, but it
doesn’t mean it has to happen. Not to me. Not today.


©Carmen Ruggero 2006


Web Site: The Yarn Spinner

Reader Reviews for "Inform Yourself"

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 7/17/2007
well said
Reviewed by Regis Auffray 11/3/2006
Thank you for being so kind as to share this vital information, Carmen. Love and peace to you,

Reviewed by Jill Carpenter 7/4/2006
Carmen, I hope you write many thousands more words, and win many awards. This was an excellent article. Like you, and Ogre Ed's dad, I think many of us have had experiences with trying to communicate with doctors, and came away without the correct diagnosis. It is so important for people to be informed. I once had a doctor who got angry at people who did too much research about their own symptoms. He bitterly hated the Internet because there is too much misinformation on it, and he felt that people would make bad decisions because of it. He may have had a point, but patients have a right to be informed, and to participate in their treatments.

Anyway lest I ramble on too long, I just wanted to let you know that this was a great article, very well written (as always!).
Cheering you on!!!! : )
Reviewed by Cynth'ya 3/13/2006
Girlfren' ain't it great to learn stuff that the almighty doctors (a few of 'em ain't TOO bad) are too closed minded to succumb to their humility hidden under their golden halos and Einstein hairdos? It was great worshipping with you Sunday night, and I know that our Wednesday night ladies class will be all the way live-wired since I sort of got "drafted" to lead the class. You will then see me in action the way I relate to people when I do my public speaking. (But with just us girls there, it's gonna get a bit crazy. Hope I don't lose my good standing with the church elders who already think I'm nuts!) LOL
blessin's, saving this for when I goof up and stay up longer than I should. (I'm so hardheaded, but I DO have a tape recorder. Eyes starting to sting, better get off this computer. . . . it's my addiction you know. . . writing!)

Reviewed by E T Waldron 3/11/2006
Carmen I'm so glad you were able to be properly diagnosed at long last!My sister suffered from sleep apnea.At one time she had to wear some sort of contaption that fit around her ears sort of like an oxygen mask, each night. It's supposed to keep one from loss of breathing. Anyway I hope you will see some improvement now.I love your attitude! "Not me Not today" that's the best any of us can say!
Take care!
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 3/11/2006
Thanks for sharing this very informative piece Carmen!!

Good to read you again sis!!

Keep the faith and all will be okay !!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 3/10/2006

An excellent, informative write; you may have saved many stress and anxiety, and perhaps saved their lives...well done, BRAVA!

(((((HUGS))))) and love, Karla.
Reviewed by Peter Paton 3/10/2006
I concur with the board below completely Carmen
And I am so glad and relieved that you have finally been properly diagnosed by the Grace of God, and are on the road to full recovery
I also think Linda'a suggestion of an air filter in the bedroom is a
very good idea, there are so many allergies in the atmosphere and fabrics, that can adversely affect your overall health
Reviewed by RD Larson 3/10/2006
My gosh, I am glad you found out what the problem has been. I've known you most of the five years and we've talked on the phone. I am looking forward, my dear friend, Carmen, to meeting you! Because I know that sleep apnea can be cured and you'll feel better, I know you will write a zillion words. You are a great and talented writer. I want to visit with you some day face to face. I bet I make you laugh! Remember I'm your left foot. Or right foot! If you're facing me. Or is it the other way around? Great great news! I'm so glad for you!
Reviewed by Phyllis Jean Green 3/10/2006
B R A V O ~~ !!!!!!!! You took the intelligent route, and our health system does not make it easy. Instead, sets up roadblocks
at every turn! SO happy to hear that you have found relief. . .and escaped the clutches of brainwashed physicians who would have put your through God-know-what-all. . .maimed or even killed you in the process! Couple days ago I saw the movie about the special diet for epilepsy that Meryl Streep did for the second time. I had forgotten how much the mother she portrayed had been put through by doctors and insurance companies+++. They refused to t h i n k about alternatives that had been p r o v e n to work. Evidence was not in the form of formal research studies, but even if it had been. Carmen, you have not only done yourself a tremendous favor, you have
done every potential victim of an overentrenched, essentially blind "Big Doctor" a great service. Keep spreading the word!!! Not that I need to tell you. To the contrary!!! Just gettin' carried know me. I really am excited for you. A n d for the rest of us. I recently had to stand up for myself re potentially dangerous medication. Were it not for the educational efforts of
people like you -- thank God for the Internet, right? --, I might
have meekly gone alone. Revolution has come!!! I am going to start gathering azmmunition -- do more research, that is. We have to
speak LOUD and OFTEN. MILLIONS OF LIVES ARE AT STAKE. THANK YOU AGAIN, and C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S. Love always. . .and then, 'Pea'xOx
Reviewed by Jerry Bolton (Reader) 3/10/2006
It is SO GOOD TO READ THIS. I have been thinking about you and would have written in a day or so. I only know one person with what you describe and I am afraid that I was too young and inexperience to understand it. In fact I thought he was nuts. This is a good article and maybe some that read it can apply it to their own problems and cut to the chase, so to speak, and get some help. good.
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 3/10/2006
I can truly relate to your pain, suffering, endless worry, and complete frustration at times, Carmen; and I truly hope things greatly improve for you.

My father suffered his entire life, from severe migraines, and from 'passing out' or falling fast asleep, at a moment's notice. I spent most of my childhood trying to catch him as he careened towards the floor, fell off ladders, dropped to the ground in the middle of intersections, and passed out while driving.

Over the course of 50 some years, he broke nearly every bone in his body from severe injuries, and he once sliced half his tongue off as his head bounced off a concrete floor. He also spent 50 some years trying to find out what was wrong with him. Even went to the Mayo Clinic, and they never found any abnormalities at all.

I often wonder if and when I will inherit this, and I often wonder about our lack of medical knowledge in this so called modern age.
Reviewed by L. Figgins 3/10/2006
Thank you for this Carmen! My father had sleep apnea related to heart problems. (And I think that allergies complicated the condition. I would suggest those with this problem invest in a good air filter placed in the bedroom). A very well-written article. Forewarned is forearmed...Lin
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