Why a Medical Checkup Can Help Prevent a Permanent Disability

A lot of people don’t like going to the doctor. Often, they’re either afraid to discover that there might be something seriously wrong with them or simply don’t want to spend the money. Many have a “tough it out” attitude, thinking of it as a sign of weakness to admit that they might need medical help. A recent case, however, provides a powerful reminder of why it is important to always get a checkup when it seems that something might be wrong with you. Even a minor injury as seemingly simple as a bump on the head can cause permanent disability if left untreated. That isn’t to say that it always will. However, the danger is there, so symptoms should never be ignored.

Recently, a woman named Dr. Irene Gatti de Leon hit her head after slipping on ice but didn’t notice any immediate adverse effects. Therefore, she put the incident out of her mind and went on with her life. It wasn’t until 2 months later that she noticed strange neurological behavior. While on a trip to visit her daughter, she started to experience weakness in the appendages on the right side of her body, namely her leg and arm. She immediately called a colleague, Jose Biller, a professor of neurology at the nearby Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, who ran an MRI on her.

Thanks to de Leon immediately acknowledging her need for medical assistance, Biller discovered that she was suffering from a massive subdural hematoma. This is a brain injury caused by trauma. When de Leon hit her head, it began to bleed internally. With nowhere else to go, the blood collected among the top layers of the brain, forming a mass that could have eventually led to compressing and damaging her brain tissue. Had de Leon not called for Biller’s assistance when she did, the end results would have likely been permanent brain damage and/or paralysis.

In order to prevent these occurrences from happening, Biller sent de Leon into surgery that very night. Dr. Douglas Anderson, a skilled neurosurgeon at Loyola, was able to drain the hematoma after drilling 2 holes into de Leon’s skull, an operation that lasted hours. What could have been a cautionary tale instead now stands as a strong warning to others to be aware of their bodies and to follow their instincts. If something seems wrong, have it checked out. Even less severe head injuries than de Leon’s can potentially lead to hematomas, a great many of which don’t make themselves known for a number of weeks. It takes a while for the blood to fill the brain to the point that it causes symptoms, and even smaller hematomas can lead to chronic mental health issues that can leave you permanently disabled.

Of course, hematomas aren’t the only health concern out there, so it is good to follow this rule of thumb: if something seems wrong, consult your doctor in order to avoid what could otherwise be years upon years of permanent disability.