Friday, February 19, 2010

Long Lasting Headache

So, I've had this headache for three weeks now, with quite a few ups and downs. It's survived through three trips to two different doctors and two courses of medication. What the fuck?

I think it started around January 30th, when I got a ride home from my in-laws' house on my nephew's scooter. No helmet, and going over the Yerewada Bridge some minivan behind us just kept honking incessantly. It hurt my ears like hell, and in fact, they haven't stopped ringing loudly since then.

That coming Monday my pair programming "pair" Vishwas came to work late. He said he was violently ill on the way to work and had to pull over, too sick to even type a message on his phone. We worked for about half an hour, during which I noticed he wasn't able to work well, making lots and lots of mistakes he doesn't normally. When I suggested he go home he said he was too sick, too dizzy to safely drive home, so I sent him to the office infirmary where he slept and drank Electrol for a few hours. Later he was obviously not well, but we worked together for another hour or two before he went home early.

The next couple of days he was out sick with a fever and unable to come to work. But that was when my own headache was getting its start, and I was feeling bad. Every morning I woke up as usually, head hurting, then I'd finish breakfast and nap again, like usual, only to wake up with a worse headache, and struggle to work. No amount of Crocin was doing anything for it.

Oddly, Thursday that week, we had a couple of meetings at work and by the end of the video conference, something that usually gives me a headache, my head actually felt a lot better, though not completely gone. Very weird.

Before the meeting I'd messaged Leena that I was feeling horribly, totally rotten and we might see the doctor after work. Leena called the doctor, and talked me into staying home on Friday, as the headache was going on too long.

Friday morning, February 15th, we went to the doctor who said there was a mild throat infection, but my blood pressure was normal. He prescribed five days of antibiotics and we went home. The headache, while not disappearing completely eased off until Sunday afternoon, when it was back with a vengeance.

Back to work Monday, with some relief in sight as the upcoming Friday was a national holiday and a day off work. Since the doctor didn't prescribe Crocin or anything I thought it's a good time to get off it and didn't take any.

Then on Wednesday afternoon I was clearly making a lot more mistakes at work, dumb things, really dumb things I wouldn't normally do.

Thursday, Feburary 11th, I work up feeling horrible. I ate breakfast, felt like it was uncomfortable and took my nap. When I woke up from that and started getting dressed for work, I got one sock on, then felt sick and went to the bathroom. Nothing. Put the sock on again, then got up and heaved up my breakfast. I felt a little better so I started getting dressed again, got that one sock on, but sat on the chair feeling like "can I really work like this?" and eventually answered "no" and got undressed and went back to bed.

Leena called the doctor, but he was out of town for a few days. I was quite feverish, and the pain and discomfort from the fever only made the headache 100 times worse. It was so bad that I was practically panicking about not surviving it, it was something fatal, and all that. After sleeping on and off, unable to keep down even gentle foods, I took a long shower, till i felt sleepy again. After that I was relaxed and slept well for a few hours.

That evening we went to the nearby doctor, one my in-laws thing is the best doctor in the world, but whom I dislike (at least, as a doctor). I was feeling more calm and not as bad as in the morning. He asked what was bothering me, and as I started listing the various things, headache, fever, ears ringing and narrowed it down to "what's bothering you the most?". He checked my blood pressure, said it was normal, and examined my nose and throat and eyes and what-not.

Then he said he could give me a shot, and "don't ask a second question, just take the shot and feel better in an hour, or go home without it". I accepted, feeling desperate. Then he gave his usual, four different pills to be taken twice a day for two days, no labels, no descriptions and no answer about what they were. We went home and within an hour or so the fever was mostly gone, but the headache remained.

Throughout the long weekend the headache slowly reduced, but never quite went away completely, bringing us to this week...

Monday, when I woke up the headache was nasty again. I struggled through the work week, not feeling well, feeling kind of uneasy, kind of unmotivated to work, and doing a less than stellar job of my work, until yesterday.

Yesterday, February 18th, I felt sick. I spent most of the morning sitting at my desk, having trouble really focusing on my screen, rubbing my temples from the pain, and waiting for the day and the week to finish. Early in the afternoon I helped my teammates try and solve a problem, but sitting over there, talking and working, I began to feel nauseas, and my throat burned with acid reflux and eventually I said "well, why don't you guys go for lunch and I'm going home sick."

Our new scrum master offered to drive me home but I said I'd get a rickshaw, however, he accompanied me downstairs to make sure I got one. It was the first time in many, many months I took an elevator down as I usually take the stairs in the afternoon, and felt pretty dizzy in it, even more sick. The rickshaw had some mechanical problem and I was afraid we'd have to get out and push, it kept slipping gears or out of gear and slowing, then the driver would do something and it would speed forward. But we got there…

It was the doctor's lunch break, so I just slept and slept till later. Leena and I left around 5pm and hit the doctor's office.

He did the usual checks, then the blood pressure. Which he repeated, then still puzzled he put away the electronic sphygmomanometer and took out a manual one, which he used twice and said it was odd that after a couple of weeks of it being normal now it was dangerously high, 140/100.

He didn't know what to say about that. He said maybe it was so high because I was tense about being sick, agitated from going home early from work and what-not. He didn't want to make any diagnosis based on that, because it had been normal just two weeks earlier. He prescribed an anti-anxiety medicine so that I'd relax and sleep all night, then be relaxed today so we could go back in the evening for another check and he'll try to make a better diagnosis from that.

For the headache he said if my blood pressure is as high as it read, it could be the cause, in which we'll need to work out a plan for bringing it down. If my blood pressure is back to normal tonight and my head still hurts, then he'll probably recommend I go to a neurophysician to see if there's something wrong with my brain or nervous system. Otherwise, we'll see.

Me? I think it's going to be the first one. I think the difference in blood pressure readings is the previous two times I wore long sleeved shirts and neither doctor made me roll up my sleep, but last night I wore a short sleeved shirt and he did the reading directly against my skin. I don't recall any time I ever had my blood pressure checked in the U.S. that the doctor didn't ask me to roll up my sleeves or remove my shirt, but no doctor I've been to in India has ever asked for that. I suspect it makes a difference (in fact, the Wikipedia article states, "The BP cuff should always be against bare skin, as readings taken over a shirt sleeve are less accurate").

So, my guess is what's going to come up is that my blood pressure is high from being overweight and not exercising. And I'm going to have to watch my diet a little more and exercise to bring it down. Of course, I need Leena to hear the first part from the doctor. I've known I've been overweight for a while, but even though I keep asking her not to bring such greasy or sweet foods home she does anyway, and then if I don't gobble them up, it's the guilt trip, "but I got it for you…".

Some will probably require lifestyle changes. I know our location causes some trouble for me, increases my stress and tension from all the noise. I have little doubt part of my stress yesterday was because there was no running water in the apartment all day as well. And of course, offices in India use far, far worse lighting than most offices in the U.S. that I always find extremely uncomfortable.

And exercise... The doctor previously recommended walking around the block for half an hour a day. And a few years ago it worked, but traffic has gotten a lot worse and nowadays I'm scared to walk here, it's just too nerve wracking. Plus with the ringing ears, the honking from cars is far, far more painful than it used to be.

Probably my expected move to the U.S. later in the year will have a good effect, but I need to get by until then.

We'll see in a few hours. In the meantime, I think I'll go lie down, my head hurts.

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