The feeling should have tipped me off that something was wrong, but like a normal guy I ignored it until it went away.
A week later it did.
It was my left side and it had gone numb. Of course, at my age, I’m surprised on a daily basis when some part of my body doesn’t just fall off.
It’s a bit disconcerting when your left side goes numb. Visions of grabbing my chest and wheezing my last breath ran through my head, followed by visions of other chests I’d prefer grabbing. That happens sometimes.
But overall I felt fine. No pain, no weakness, no loss of feeling. Things were just a bit numb.
And, like I said, it went away – for two years.
Men are notorious about not taking care of their own health. Oh, sure, we’ll rush our kids to the emergency room with only a minor scalp wound, and treat our own head cold like we’ve just contacted the bubonic plague, but if we think we might be having a heart attack, we’ll simply eat another bacon sandwich and ignore it. To quote Homer Simpson while he was having a heart attack, “A little beer will put out that fire.”
Statistics from the Census Bureau show that men from 18 to 64 only visit some kind of medical professional (doctor, nurse, liquor store clerk) 3.9 times per year. Many of those visits are after something traumatic happened, like lopping off some bit of their anatomy with a chainsaw, suffering a stroke, or accidentally watching an episode of “Glee.”
One of the leading theories behind men not visiting a doctor is because we think we’re too tough to get sick. Can you imagine Indian Jones seeking medical help for something lame like malaria? Or John Rambo whining about a bullet wound? Me neither. Another theory about why men don’t go to the doctor is we simply won’t ask for directions.
Well, not me. I went to the doctor.
“And your left side went numb?”
“Your left side?”
I nodded again.
After my family physician ruled out a heart attack and stroke, he ordered an MRI on my brain.
“So, I’m having my head examined?”
This time he nodded.
For those of you who haven’t undergone an MRI, it’s white with loud beeping noises and has all the wiggle room of an air duct.
“Are you claustrophobic?” the technician asked right before sliding me into a machine that looked a bit too much like a torpedo tube to make me all that comfortable.
I’m glad she didn’t tell me I would be from that moment on.
Four days later, a nurse called with the results.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Let me put you on speaker. My wife needs to hear this.”
“I said your brain is normal,” the nurse’s voice spoke loud and clear. “That doesn’t mean you are.”
My wife laughed. Fair enough.
Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An Epic Beer Run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at amazon.com.