The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.
On Oct. 25th, 2015, I went to the Johnson City, TN Eye Surgery center to have a cataract removed from my right eye. They decided I needed to see my PCP because I was in atrial fibrillation and my heart rate was 47. I went to a heart doctor for an echocardiogram and a stress test. I was not in A-fib and I passed both tests. The doctor noted that I had a very healthy heart and sent a letter to the Eye Surgery Center indicating that there would be no trouble removing my cataract.
In January 2016, I returned to the surgery center and again they had concerns. I was in Aflutter and heart rate was in the mid-thirties. They removed the cataract and my wife took me to Franklin Woods community hospital. I also had the EKG strip from the Eye Surgery Center. The emergency room nurse hooked me up to their EKG and my heart rate had dropped to 26.
I was immediately hooked up to the crash cart and an ambulance took me to Johnson City Med Center where my heart doctor met me and told me I needed a pacemaker. The following morning, the pacemaker was placed in my chest with no problems. My heart was also shocked to get me into a normal beat.
Around 5am the next morning, I had a stroke that affected my right side. My face, speech and right arm were the only things affected. Everything returned to normal except my speech. I have a stutter to this day.
Two weeks after I was discharged, I passed out two times. I was taken to the hospital where they ran a CAT scan, checked both carotid arteries, and X-rayed my chest. I was back in Aflutter and my heart rate was 80 bpm. Pacemaker was set at 60 bpm. Heart was put back in normal rhythm and medicines were adjusted.
In 2016, I had 8 CAT scans and diagnosed with TIA (transient ischemic attack, aka mini stroke). My feet started dragging. I had severe migraine headaches which I have never had. I had tremors so bad that I could not write, hold a book or an eating utensil. I had balance problems and fell several times. My toes turned under and are called claw toes. Both feet have atrophied and turned inward. I have an unusual gait. If I walk more than a hundred feet, both of my legs feel like I am dragging through wet concrete. I now use crutches or a wheelchair.
I was finally diagnosed with polyneuropathy, essential tremor, neuropathic tremor, lower body weakness, abnormal gait, atrophy of both feet, two strokes, and Type 2 Diabetes. On the EMG and nerve condition studies, I have no response in my sensory nerves in both legs. I have no reflexes on either ankle. These tests have been run three times and by two different doctors, one in Johnson and one at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville.
I have had every test run to rule out known neurological diseases. I had an MRI ran at Wake Forest, and all the rest run at Vanderbilt. In less than 2 years, I have gone from a very healthy 68-year old man to a 70-year old invalid. The doctors tell me what I don’t have, but they can’t tell me what I do have.
I was in the USMC Reserve and served at Camp Lejeune for three months in 1967 plus three summer camps there.
Note: The author currently resides in Tennessee. This account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.