This Was Spinal Tap
July 18, 2008 2:01 PM Subscribe
Retro-diagnosis filter: Can the hive mind figure out what disease sent my mom to the hospital in the early 1960s and still affects her to this day?
posted by Oriole Adams to health & fitness (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My mom is in her late 70s. Back in the early 1960s she was pushing me in my stroller one summer day when one of her legs felt heavy, like a tree stump. By the time she pushed me back home, she was dragging that leg behind her. In subsequent days she ran a high fever and vomited frequently. Any sort of motion (like watching a someone in a rocking chair) made her nauseous and caused her to throw up. She ended up in the hospital and underwent a spinal tap and various other tests and treatments (including being subjected to baths with "hot packs" placed on her). I've since gotten copies of her records from that stay (that particular hospital has long since closed) and the diagnosis was "possible encephalitis." When she was discharged from the hospital, she was unable to fit into her regular clothes; she'd somehow gained weight despite being unable to eat and keep down food. (She never did get back down to her pre-illness size.) However, in the last 10 or so years when I've been the one taking her to the various doctor appointments required by newly aging patients (cardiologist, oncologist, etc), and sitting in on the consultations, whenever she mentions the encephalitis diagnosis and then describes her symptoms (both then and now), the doctors immediately snort "that wasn't encephalitis." But she had something wrong with her back then. To this day, whenever the weather is humid, she gets nauseated and complains of feeling "like I'm two feet tall." Likewise summer weather makes her head and legs "feel like mush" and she tires easily. Her sense of balance has always been precarious since that original illness (if she turns too quickly, she has to reach out and steady herself), and it also left her with something of a wide, waddling gait. Some of her symptoms sound like post-polio syndrome to me, but supposedly polio was ruled out during her original hospital stay.
Any ideas as to what Mom might have had back in the day? We never lived near horses (one source of encephalitis), she had never vacationed in a tropical area, and there had been no epidemics of any sort in our area (metro Detroit). I would just like to put a more definite finger on it so that her specialists don't immediately discount her various symptoms by saying "Oh, encephalitis doesn't cause this or that" and then completely discount said symptoms.