July 2016 Column Winner

I'll bear it all... I have cognitive impairment
Dayva Spitzer, Sayre Record & Beckham County Democrat

It was a beautiful fall afternoon in 2014 when my husband, Brad and I were spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon on the golf course. We had just completed our fourth hole and Brad began writing his score for the hold and asked how many strokes I had. My mind was blank! I couldn't remember my last several shots even as Brad helped me mentally replay the hole in reverse. Now you may be thinking that you might have the same problem, especially if you are a novice on the gold course. But, for me this was a strange sensation as I played golf often, score regularly in the 70s and only had five shots on the hole in question.
We originally dismissed the issue as hormonal imbalances or possibly a chemical imbalance in my body that might cause episodes of such forgetfulness.
Soon other instances began surfacing but not limited to memory issues. I was struggling, at times, to maneuver around my computer programs that I used daily and had done so for many years. Name, places, events were sometimes hard to bring to mind as well as following a set of instructions to complete a task. Multitasking became almost impossible for me.
After 10 months had passed it was evident that we needed to follow up with our local physician on possible causes, still anticipating that it was caused by the above mentioned imbalances.
Extensive blood tests were done as well as a CAT scan. After normal results I was sent to a neurologist in Oklahoma City for further testing. And, believe me, they did not leave a stone unturned.
A complete physical test was done as well as in depth chemical testing done via a spinal tap. Additional brain imaging was done. Finally, I took a cognitive test that started at 8 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m. It was brutal and very stressful, but provided my doctor with enough feedback to render a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment in the first few days of January 2016.
My brain is fine as well as all my body functions. In fact, I am very healthy. But, somewhere between my brain and the rest of my body there are occasional interruptions in the normal signals and connections.
So, just what is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)? We had never heard of it and despite the percentage of adults supposedly suffering from it, had no knowledge of any acquaintance that had it.
Here are a few things that we have learned about the disease over the course of the last six months.
MCI is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changed/ It may increase your risk of later progressing to dementia, caused by Alzheimer's disease or other neurological conditions. But some people with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and a few eventually get better.
Adults 65 and older are at the highest risk. However, the CDC indicates that 9-14% of adults 50 years or older are living with the disease nationwide.
There is no known cure for this lifelong condition, but diet, exercise, mental activities, social engagement and intellectual stimulation are all important factors to keep the effects at bay.
I take medicine for the situation, but it is difficult to evaluate its effectiveness. I do word searches, and I play the trumpet in the band at church and sing in the choir. I also play golf, as much as I can, which frees me to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
Doctors would have me to interact with others. They say get together with loved ones and friends. I've done this forever!
I sleep well, get plenty of rest and avoid stressful situations.
Brad and I go to the fitness center four days a week.
I do all the things the doctors tell me to do.
I can tell you that MCI is awful. I feel like a part of me is gone and I can't fix it.
As a teacher in Sunday School, I've told my class that when I can't control something, lay it down. I know the Good Lord is on my side!
So, if you stop for a chat and you find that I can't get my words out, you will know why.
I am grateful that I don't have dementia, but sometimes I feel like part of me is gone.

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