Ministroke a big wakeup call

As I wrote the draft of a column on Geoff Grant Carlvin last week, the lines blurred on my computer screen.

Then I was seeing double.

And everything on the screen veered to the left.

I felt sluggish in the newsroom that morning and thought I was tired from staying up late reading.

I walked to the restroom to wash out my eyes. As I walked, I saw two versions of each colleague.

Washing out my eyes didn’t help. I got back to my desk and blurted out something about eyesight. Columnist Victor Joecks, sitting nearby and looking concerned twice, offered to take me to the hospital.

While he drove to University Medical Center, I wondered if I was having a stroke. Vision problems are a symptom.

Was I experiencing a full blown interruption of the blood supply to part of my brain? Were my brain cells dying?

About 30 minutes after I arrived at UMC, my symptoms left. Doctors speculated I’d experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or ministroke. Though there’s no lasting damage to the brain, a TIA often is a sign of a stroke in the future.

As I waited for tests that might let me know what was going on, I thought about Carlvin, who went to an emergency room two years ago with sudden slurred speech that, like my double vision, would soon go away.

Deep into my “woe is me” self pity, I wished I had his grace under pressure.

Though doctors told Carlvin he could be suffering a stroke, brain scans essentially show that the man who dreamed of becoming a star as a comedian had multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder affecting the central nervous system.

Then just 30 years old and three months away from getting married, he was diagnosed with an incurable disease that has symptoms including trouble with coordination, muscle weakness, and difficulties with vision and speech

Symptoms can come and go, and some people with MS eventually end up in a wheelchair. Carlvin’s slurred speech now only shows up during extreme stress.

Today, he and his wife, Bridget, who works in the service industry on the Strip, have a 4-month-old daughter, Penelope.

“I focus on how wonderful they are so we can have a happy life,” Carlvin said.

Reduced to part-time work because of the disease-generated fatigue that hits him — sometimes he can’t balance without a cane — he brings in money as a computer sales rep and with disability payments.

“I pray Geoff won’t get more tired than usual when carrying Penelope and lose his balance,” Bridget said.

Geoff continues to follow his dream by turning up at comedy clubs that don’t offer pay, but do give fledgling comedians a chance to showcase their talents. “Give up your dreams and you give up your life,” he says.

I got good news after my testing was done — a TIA diagnosis. If I exercise, take medicines that lower my blood pressure and cholesterol, and aspirin to reduce the risk for blot clots, I’m probably good for at least a seven-year car payment.

I’ve also learned it’s not good to have bad dreams. I had one after getting out of UMC. As I slept in my bed, I thought someone was attacking me and I leaped for his throat.

That caused me to break a rib on the nightstand.

Now I can’t sleep comfortably and it’s painful to laugh at Carlvin’s jokes.

“People think I’m weak and helpless because I have MS. That’s not true at all but if it means I don’t have to help you move, I’ll take it.”

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday and Tuesday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like