A 70-year-old woman blessed with a wonderfully bright and witty personality presented her story so colorfully that I must share it with readers of this website. She lives alone, maintains her colorful flowerbeds and occasionally splits wood for her stove when there is a nip in the air. Her story begins with the stove:
"The wood was for my Buck Stove fireplace insert, for heating my house because my furnace exploded a few years ago and, while I was trying to decide what to replace it with, helpful friends and a few strangers kept dumping logs in my yard, some of which had to be split to fit the fireplace. Actually I enjoyed having no heating bills for several winters but will have a new furnace next week."
"On 3 September 1999 I started taking 10 mg of Lipitor® daily in pill form to lower my elevated cholesterol. Within a short period of time my cholesterol dropped to a much lower level.
"After answering the telephone, I sat down beside the storm door leading to my porch. Glancing out the door, I was astonished to see split wood scattered helter-skelter all over the porch--far more than I ever intended to split or perhaps could split at my age (69 at that time.) Although I knew I went out to split wood and clearly remembered swinging the sledgehammer, I had never seen that pile of wood; therefore, I "knew" someone else had put it there. That suspicion was reinforced when I noticed strange footprints all over the snow in places I had not walked.
I told this to my friend on the telephone and then began to fret on and on about how anyone could have done that without me seeing them when I was right out there all the time! It's obvious to me now and was to my friend then, that I was not being rational but I failed to see any inconsistency in what I was saying to her! I felt fine mentally and physically, was not overly tired and had no inkling that anything unusual had happened except the mystery of the wood, which would surely be solved the next morning when I checked out the footprints and learned who had split the wood and how they slipped by me and why they didn't let me know they were there. It was almost dark by then, so I had to postpone until the following day my investigation."
"After hanging up the telephone, I walked into the kitchen and discovered a plate of partially eaten food on the counter top--food I had never seen before! That was really scary! While the wood mystery possibly had a logical explanation, the food was definitely put there by someone else, which meant that someone had been inside my house without my knowledge.
Fearing they were still in the house, I searched every room, including the attic and found no further evidence that someone had been inside. Still, my brain could not even consider that I had anything to do with either of these events. The possibility never once entered my mind. And, again, I thought my behavior was normal and rational but I know now that I was somewhat confused and acted a little out of character. For example, I called another friend whose response was, "Do you have any idea what time it is? It's after 11:00 PM and I'm getting worried about you." I convinced her I was fine and that she didn't need to get out of bed and come check on me! And I went to bed wondering why she had worried about me, why I had called her so late when I would never do that to anybody, and still puzzled about the wood and food. For some unexplainable reason, it never once occurred to me to call the police."
"The next morning I hurried into the yard to check out the footprints, hoping I could determine which direction they came from and, therefore, have a clue as to which neighbor split my wood. They were all very distinct in the snow and very obviously mine! At that instant I realized nobody had been near my house and that my brain had stopped functioning completely for an unknown period of time. Minutes? Hours? I would never know. I tried for days to recall just one tiny thing about the wood, the food, the time I went outside, whether or not I had come in to use the bathroom, if I was inside when the telephone rang or heard it from outside. (I believe the ringing telephone must have brought me back to my senses but I don't recall where I was when I heard it.) Nothing has ever come back."
"It wasn't until 31 January 2000, several days later, that I finally went to the Emergency Room. In the meantime, I had a couple of strange episodes like I had never experienced before. Once, I leaned over to place a log in the fireplace and my face started getting red and hot. As it grew hotter and hotter my arms and chest began hurting, it was difficult to breathe and I felt like I was dying. Having never died, I have no idea what it feels like but I thought sure that was it! I don't recall how long it lasted but once it ended I dismissed it as just an anxiety reaction to the concern others were expressing over the need for me to see a doctor.
Later, possibly the following day, as I was washing dishes my face again started getting hot, my arms and chest hurt and breathing became difficult. The feeling that I was dying was overpowering. It passed in the middle of a traffic jam on my way to see the doctor so I returned to my home feeling fine. Then I was talking with my daughter when suddenly I announced that I had to hang up and get to the hospital! There wasn't time to explain to her that this time I was really dying! So it was not the loss of memory that prompted me to go then. That didn't worry me a great deal. It was these terrible feelings of dying."
"They kept me in the ER for 16 hours and during that time I was given a brain scan, which eliminated stroke, blood clot and anything else that might have caused the loss of memory. The ER doctor told me he wanted a brain scan because I had experienced a "transient global amnesia" episode (his words) and that worried him. After getting the results of the scan he reassured me everything was fine with my brain and he had no idea what caused the TGA. He explained that the other symptoms were panic attacks and gave me some pills to prevent them. I never had another panic attack nor did I ever have another attack of amnesia but I must confess I already had stopped my Lipitor."
"Later I saw a neurologist who examined me and found nothing that might have caused the TGA episode. Nevertheless, he sent me to an imaging facility to have my carotid arteries checked and they were fine. He dismissed me saying it was just one of those things that happen for no apparent reason and that it "probably would never happen again." You can imagine how NOT relieved I was to hear that verdict."
"I still had not yet heard of a possible connection between my Lipitor and TGA but finally several anxious months later, I read a report about some NASA doctor who had had the same experience with Lipitor and soon we connected and I knew there were many others just like me. You cannot imagine my relief at finally knowing it was all a drug reaction."
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor
Other trade / brand names for Atorvastatin: Atorlip, Lipvas, Sortis, Torvacard, Torvast, Totalip, Tulip.