My ‘last’ mechatenesta, Bracha, the mother-in-law of my youngest daughter, is a very sweet-natured and friendly person. Since I first met her she has spoken slowly and deliberately as if weighing her words carefully before she speaks. This seemed to me a wonderful trait compared to so many of us who sometimes answer questions without enough thought and speak quickly and often regret what we say.
As the years went by we met at mutual family simchas and it was always a pleasure to catch up with family news. So I was surprised when my daughter mentioned in passing that she was worried about her as she seemed to find many everyday tasks more and more difficult. I suggested it was perhaps because she was very worried about her husband who had had leukemia and after many months of treatment underwent a bone marrow transplant. But my daughter seemed to think it was more than that.
Her husband, B”H, improved, but Bracha didn’t. At some point my daughter told me that her speech, which I had found pleasantly calm was now getting slower and sluggish… and she was also forgetting many things.
Eventually one of her daughters persuaded her to go to her doctor and after some tests he diagnosed early onset dementia.
It was a tremendous shock to everyone, but the children realized that they would have to learn to help her and their father come to terms with this new reality.
Her condition continued to deteriorate at a frightening speed until she could no longer do simple household tasks and barely carry out a conversation. The doctor suggested carrying out a CT scan and wrote out a referral but they all knew that you can wait months before being given an appointment.
On the referral he wrote ‘ein sippur shel reka (no background) of other illness or problems’ – which would not put her case at the front of the CT list.
They sent the referral to the hospital and a busy doctor read it… or rather misread it. He ‘saw’ the words ‘ein sippur shel reka’ and read them as ‘einsfor reka’ which contains the same letters but totally different meaning. In fact it means the exact opposite. ‘Einsfor’ means countless.
Suddenly Bracha was put in a totally different category. Her case was now considered urgent and the doctor immediately called them to come in for a CT that day. The family didn’t realize why, but they were delighted that she would be having her CT so fast.
To everyone’s astonishment the CT revealed a large brain tumor.
Surgery was scheduled within a few days and B”H the tumor was successfully removed.
Although they had been told that she might be medically sedated for a few days after the surgery to allow her body to recover, my daughter in fact was able to speak to her a short while after the operation was completed.
“Mummy, you won’t believe it,” she said. ”My mum-in-law is speaking clearly and at a normal speed for the first time in years.”
Her complete recovery will still take several months as one side of her body was affected and she needs physiotherapy. But already the release of the pressure on her brain is clear and she herself said she hadn’t realized how bad she had felt before, until she felt so much better after the surgery.”
The tumor had been causing all those problems that has led to a mistaken diagnosis of early onset dementia. The symptoms are frighteningly similar but the prognosis very different.
It is quite possible that had she had to wait a month for her CT scan she would not chas vechala have survived long enough to discover the misdiagnosis.