A different Neurologist
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2018 - 12:00am

My husband has not been feeling too well lately. First, he has insomnia. I gave him an antihistamine, which I keep in stock because I have to take one now and then when I cannot sleep. I know about the effects of antihistamines because once upon a time I had terrible allergies to everything. Then I found out what was really causing them and they stopped. Still, antihistamines are convenient because they help you to sleep when you can’t and they’re harmless, or so I like to think.

Then he has cold spells. These are when he feels suddenly that he has an ice pack on his back and sometimes even on his front. He gets these spells quite frequently so he is often in a jacket no matter how hot the temperature is.  Sometimes he makes me scratch his back hard when he has an attack. Then the attack passes and he breaks out in a sweat.  He tells me he has been to many doctors and no one can tell him what causes these periods of discomfort but his discomfort causes my discomfort too. Every night the air conditioner is set at 30 so I wake up in a sweat. But what can you do? He is more uncomfortable than I. After all, since my eldest daughter hit 14 I have been sleeping without air conditioning. So why should I complain?

Suddenly he has a big red bruise that is not painful at all between his right wrist and elbow. This really alarms me.  Lately we have been going to all sorts of doctors for his aches and pains. One of them was a laser acupuncturist and when my husband reacted to something, he said, “I think it might be nerves.” The word “nerves” hit something in me. It made me think neuro, neurologist. When I thought of a neurologist I thought of my stroke doctor. She was a good neurologist.  I filed that away in my mind.

One day Loy wanted to see a doctor rather urgently.  We went to see a geriatric doctor recommended by a friend but the doctor was out of town. So we went to another hospital and saw a cardiologist. When Loy complained about his feeling cold, the young cardiologist said he didn’t have the skills to deal with cold spells. He recommended a neurologist. On our way home I suggested that we go see my neurologist, Pia Banico, at the Makati Medical Center. And so we went.

I had my stroke 15 years ago but nevertheless I recognized Pia as she walked to her office but she didn’t recognize me until I walked in followed by my husband. “You have lost a lot of weight,” she exclaimed, “and you’re looking good.” That statement gave me a lift. We sat down on her tiny sofa and Loy told her the story of his ailments. When she asked him what part of his body felt cold, she asked me to stand up and followed his description on my body.

Then she brought out her computer pad, called up a picture of a man and said that it looked like his affliction was either on his third or fourth thorax. Then she examined him.  She took out a piece of cotton, asked him to close his eyes, moved the cotton over his hands, arms, stomach, back, horizontally, vertically, asking all the time if he could feel it, did it feel differently from the last area where she passed it.

Then she brought out more complex tools and kept going through the same exercise. The last tool fascinated me.  It reminded me of my old sewing classes and looked like my old sewing tool, the little wheel with spikes that you use over your pattern and carbon paper to mark what you were going to sew together. It looks like a hand tool for making perforations.

Finally, Pia said, “I need you to have an MRI of your thoracic region but since this is the holiday season we can wait until January to have that done. Until then I will give you a pill for insomnia and another one that — if all this is caused by anxiety — will make everything go away. These pills will hold you over until the holiday season is past, until you can have your MRI done and you can bring me the plates. I need to see the plates.”

“I like you, Doctor,” Loy told Pia. “You’re different. I have been to many neurologists before and no one examined me the way you did.”

This made me very happy. I think “different” is Loy’s synonym for “brilliant.” Later he turned to me and said, “I almost cancelled this appointment because I didn’t think the doctor would be different, but she is outstandingly so.”

“I’m glad you like her,” I said. She is a wonderful neurologist, tried, tested and fully appreciated by me.

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