My Upcoming Appointment

I have put this doctor’s appointment off twice now. The COVID-19 effect has delayed it some. My Mom has recently and strongly urged me not to postpone it again. She has told me a few different times “Dwain, you need to go so that preparations can be made for a more considered lifestyle as you approach your sixties.” You see, Mom is right. Mothers usually are aren’t they? She should know. Mom has medically diagnosed Dementia. One of her sisters had Dementia. She is now deceased. The other has Stage 2 or Middle Alzheimer’s. Mom reminds me frequently, because she forgets 😄, that Alzheimer’s can be hereditary. However, if it were not for my long, active career in football/soccer as a goalkeeper, I likely would not be taking Mom too serious.

But I really do need to go because of the whole soccer thing for 27-years. Throughout that career I suffered from at least four (probably more) concussions from game collisions, one or two traumatic, and some at practices/training. One of the game collisions broke my jaw in three places and knocked me completely unconscious; unconscious long enough for EMT’s to arrive with smelling-sauce to awaken me.

Though I am still a little worried. It is just that what the doctor may inform me after these second battery of tests that I am indeed in the early stages of CTE, or what is medically and neurologically termed as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The Mayo Clinic explains CTE this way:

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas. CTE is a diagnosis made only at autopsy by studying sections of the brain.

[…]

CTE has been found in the brains of people who played football and other contact sports, including boxing. It may also occur in military personnel who were exposed to explosive blasts. Some signs and symptoms of CTE are thought to include difficulties with thinking (cognition), physical problems, emotions and other behaviors. It’s thought that these develop years to decades after head trauma occurs.

Have you seen the 2015 film Concussion starring Will Smith? If not, here is its official trailer:

Even though soccer/football concussions occur nowhere near as often as they do in the NFL, it is nonetheless a serious matter. This film hit me hard and hit deep, so deep at the end it made me sit in the living room recliner seemingly paralyzed and with abnormal breathing. Why? Why such a reaction? Two reasons:

  1. Mom and two of her four sisters had/has Dementia/Alzheimer’s. One of them died too soon to conclude with certainty that she had Alzheimer’s—we’ll never know. Plus, two of that aunt’s four children are very religious (Pentecostal, Church of Christ?), another passed away early before my aunt died, and her youngest boy, my cousin I grew up with and was closer to was not confrontational nor religious at all. He was a hilarious peacemaker. I say all of this because there was no way in Hades that the two oldest, very religious cousins of mine were going to allow a medical examination of their mother’s brain. Therefore, it has only been confirmed that two, my Mom and her sister have dementia with the latter definitely suffering from Alzheimer’s.
  2. As I mentioned earlier, I have suffered at least 4 or more concussions, likely more, and one of them knocked me unconscious for quite some time. During my playing days there was no Petr Cech padded helmets in existence (see image below). In addition to these multiple soccer/football concussions, I suffered another off-the-field of play. One early morning while—in high school freshman or sophomore year—delivering my papers for my Dallas Morning News paper route. Mom was driving me through the neighborhoods in our Plymouth four-door sedan while I was outside on top of the trunk with two-bags of those Sunday morning papers. On one particular street turn Mom accelerated a bit too fast. I imagine the sedan had also been washed and waxed one or two days earlier? I’m unsure. I think Mom was approaching 30 mph after turning onto this street and unfortunately for me she was not looking at me through the rear-view mirror. I slowly slid down the trunk feet first, desperately trying to find something on the car to grab, but there was nothing. I hit the street pavement that had small grey-white gravel embedded and the back of my head SLAMMED into the concrete. Our family doctor later that day said I had a bad concussion judging from the swelling on the back of my noggin and he made it very clear that my parents were not to allow me any sleep for the next 24-hours.

The Mayo Clinic lists these symptoms of CTE:

“There are no specific symptoms that have been clearly linked to CTE. Some of the possible signs and symptoms of CTE can occur in many other conditions, but in the few people with proven CTE, symptoms have included:

  • Difficulty thinking (cognitive impairment)
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Depression or apathy
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks (executive function)
  • Emotional instability
  • Substance misuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior”
Cech helmet_1

Petr Cech of Chelsea FC, Arsenal, and the Czech Republic national team wearing his padded helmet following his major head concussion, trauma, and depressed skull fracture from a collision with Stephen Hunt of Reading FC.

I have six of these first eight symptoms, to varying degrees, for at least the last 15-years or so, one or two of them surfacing within the last 5-6 years. This is why my neurologist wants to see me again, and my Mom and I both agreed two years ago that I do need to go see a neurologist to get ahead of this. Either early in 2019 or late in 2018 I did go. The doctor concluded after testing that I was inconclusive at that date and time, BUT the fact that I had almost all of the currently known symptoms, made him want to see me again in a year.

Damn it! It has now been a year and if anything, I know with a lot of certainty that two of these above eight symptoms have manifested further. There are other external variables at play with these two—one being this unprecedented pandemic, social-distancing, and Stay-at-Home orders—so we must take those variables into consideration. Does that make this upcoming appointment Wednesday, May 20, 2020, any less anxious? Not really, not for me.

I hope this coming Wednesday night, Thursday, and subsequent days after will not be ladened with as Mom put it… “a more considered lifestyle as I approach my sixties.” From what I’ve learned about dementia, Alzheimer’s, and CTE I hope I might be a lucky goalkeeper who by some incredible odds does not develop any of these three neurological disorders for playing a sport and position I truly loved. Fingers crossed.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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