John and I, the girls, and my mom and dad have all been here in Rochester, MN since Monday afternoon. We are working on day four of appointments this week, after Mom and Dad spent about three days in appointments two weeks ago. Here's what we know so far about Dad's condition:
The problems that Dad is experiencing--difficulty with processes or sequences, flat emotions, no energy for social interactions, weight loss of more than 60 pounds in the last 6 months, and other bowel and bladder issues, are NOT a result of the heart attacks that he had. Various tests have been done and we have now finished up with the cardiologist. There is scarring and some damage that was done to the heart, but the cardiologist felt that those issues were separate from the other, more pressing problems that Dad is experiencing. His heart is not functioning well, but it does not seem to be a cause of the other problems--the cardiologist felt that the problems had an underlying neurological root.
As well, the endocrinologist found several "worrisome" lumps on Dad's thyroid and biopsied them on Tuesday. He found that one lump was not a problem and the other did contain "abnormal" cells but they will wait to look at that again for 2-3 months. So, we have essentially finished up with the endocrinologist.
Dad did see a gastroenterologist on Tuesday and they have ordered a colonoscopy as well as an endoscopy, those (yucky, no-fun but necessary) tests will be performed next week. However the gastroenterologist also felt that there was something neurological behind the weight loss, especially--they will do those tests just to make sure that there isn't anything physically obstructing his body from absorbing his food.
Another area Dad was seen in was psychiatry. This doctor also felt that Dad's problems were NOT depression, but had a neurological basis. Depression had been a previous diagnosis in the past months, Dad was even on some medication at one point, but this psychiatrist did not feel that was accurate. However, he left a caveat in his report saying that if neurology couldn't find anything, he would take a closer look at Dad's condition again.
We were thankful to at least have several areas ruled out, and all seemed to be leading up to the important meeting with the neurologist yesterday afternoon. Mom went with Dad into the appointment, which was about an hour and a half long. The doctor put Dad through quite the "tests"--draw a clock for me, it's twenty after 11, touch your right ear with your left hand, do this math problem, remember these four things (then asked him about the 4 things 10 minutes later), take off your shoes, stand on one foot, etc. Dad actually performed very well in all of those things and cooperated well.
The conclusions at the end of the appointment were that this neurologist felt that Dad clearly does NOT have Alzheimer's disease. He said that even patients with early-onset Alzheimer's could not have done the tests that Dad could do. So, there must be something else going on. This morning we are waiting for Dad to finish a two hour test of thinking and memory skills, and a PET scan has been scheduled for this afternoon. This is a heavy-duty radiation test where they will add glucose to the radiation and watch how every cell in his body responds to the glucose. There has been a mention of potential frontal lobe deterioration or damage in his brain, though likely it is not related to his heart attacks. Hopefully the next few tests will tell a bit more.
So, though we may not be finding anything treatable, it is very good to know that this is not Alzheimer's, and that they are getting closer and closer to finding out what is wrong. As well, I think it is a matter of peace of mind for my mom and our whole family to know that we are doing all we can for Dad.
After today's appointments, John and I will drive to visit his mom in Winthrop, MN, and Mom and Dad will head home. Next week they will have to return for appointments on Thursday and Friday, but we don't know if that will be the last trip. The internist who is overseeing Dad's entire case will eventually compile everything together that has been amassed from all of the various doctors and tests. That appointment has not been scheduled yet so there is certainly more to come.
Thank you all so much for your prayers. I am very thankful that we are here, in the States. These issues with my dad were not even on our radar screen when we were feeling led to come back to the States but I am so very glad that we are here. The Lord knew! And, I have really enjoyed my time with Mom and Dad at Mayo as well. Mom booked a hotel with a fun pool and has been taking us out to eat all the time, so we're trying to enjoy the time together as best we can under the circumstances! Mom had great fun buying (too many) Christmas gifts for the girls and last night we found a fun scrapbook store where she could browse for her favorite hobby. I'm so thankful we can be together!
We're trusting the Lord for whatever the future holds. His path for each of us is unique but we can be assured that He is walking with us and loves us dearly, so much so that His only precious Son humbled Himself to be born into this world, lived, died and rose again to purchase our redemption. Praise Him for His glorious grace!