Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Medical Emergency

Here is a person, Serene Branson, most likely having a TIA (transient ischemic attack) in the left temporal lobe in Wernicke's area in that leads to a paraphasia (a difficulty speaking correctly):

She was treated by an EMR team who found her "healthy" and told to "go home". From Wikipedia:
On February 14, 2011, CBS Los Angeles reported that Branson had been examined by paramedics and, due to a lack of obvious health concerns, was not admitted to the hospital.
That is the wrong thing to do. With symptoms like this you need to send the person to hospital for observation because they are at high risk of a more serious stroke (or if it isn't a TIA but a tumor or other underlying neurological disorder, it needs to be diagnosed and treated).

My mother had TIAs when she was in her eighties. She was told that when she had the symptoms to go to the emergency room at the hospital. I could never get her to do this. Since the event is "transient" most people think it is "nothing" and that it has passed and they are "back to normal". They feel uncomfortable showing up at the hospital with no evident signs of "illness". Sadly, my mother died of a brain tumour. I think the tumour was in addition to the TIAs and not the cause of them, but since she didn't push the doctors to fully understand her condition she "slipped under the radar" until the tumour made her collapse in the shower and hurt herself to the point that she was rushed to the emergency room. Even then the hospital released her after patching her up. It was only when the family doctor talked to her and heard stories of TIAs and previous falls that he insisted she go back to the hospital for further tests. That is when they discovered the tumour.

If you go the the YouTube sight you will find many, many people making fun of Serene Branson. This is simple ignorance. These people do not understand that they are seeing a serious medical condition. People make fun or and attack things they do not understand. Instead they should recognize their ignorance and use their natural curiosity to dig a little deeper and learn something new. You have a choice: laugh at what you don't understand and be a boor and a fool, or recognize that you are seeing something you don't understand and do the bit of work it takes to understand it so that you are a better person, better equipped to handle medical emergencies and more sympathetic because you understand the world better.

Sadly I see ignorance put on a pedestal in the US. There are religious fundamentalists who tell people that all they need to know is in a book put together over 2000 years ago by poorly educated tribes in the eastern Mediterranean. If you ever look at the early medical books from those times you realize that these people knew next to nothing about physiology. They had no science. When they looked up in the sky they had no clue they lived in a universe with 100 billion galaxies each with 100 billion stars. When they looked around them they had no idea of the teeming microsopic life. They thought disease was "possession". They had no medical understanding. But in the US the fundamentalist churches tell people that the the Bible is "inerrant truth", the evolution is a lie, and that everything you need to know about morality was written down by a barely literate people over 2000 years ago. Tragic.

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