Listen To Your Body: What Mine Told Me Christmas Weekend

Written by The editors

On January 2, 2018

On Wednesday of last week, I joined my son for a competition on PlayStation. It was a glorious feeling after being released from four days in the hospital following my fortunate decision to take time to listen to my body.

I had spent three nights in the Cardiothoracic Unit at Suburban Hospital. Doctors were evaluating a course of therapy following what they initially thought was a stroke.

My body had decided I should spend Christmas in the hospital even though I was feeling well on Saturday, two days before the holiday. All seemed well on Sunday, and I attended a basketball workout with my son. I spent some time chatting it up with one of his coaches when suddenly I felt what I can only describe as “slightly ill” and maybe a little “unsettled.”

On the ride home, I felt a headache that originated from the top of my neck and steadily built over the entire left side of my face and head. I rolled the car windows down — in 30-degree weather — because I was burning up and feeling nauseated.

The car ride home from the gym was only three miles, but when I got to one of the stoplights along the way, I paused and then ran the red light. I knew I had to get home. I made it up to the bedroom, tried to get comfortable, and texted my wife. “I’m not doing well,” I wrote, which for us is code for “Where’s the nearest hospital?”

I arrived at the hospital around 1:00 p.m. By 7:00 p.m., I had had a CT Scan without contrast, a CT Scan with contrast, an MRI without contrast, an MRI with contrast, an IV of painkilling narcotics, an IV of heparin (a blood thinner), and I was connected to various other wires in a private room in the ICU. I had been evaluated by a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, a vascular neurologist, and a hematologist/oncologist.

They were concerned, but luckily ruled out an aneurysm, a stroke, or a brain tumor. Instead, they came up with the very rare diagnosis of a venous blood clot in the left side of the brain. The head doctor in ICU told me he had seen this diagnosis only five times in 14 years.

For the next 30 hours I was fed a fluid drip and a diet of ice chips. They woke me up every hour to make sure I hadn’t “stroked out” or “checked out” (My efforts to lighten the mood by pretending to forget where I were not seen as funny at all by any of the nurses or attending doctors).

Here are some of the crazier details from my experience:

  • My symptoms started as regular neck pain about two weeks ago, but one spot on my neck was exquisitely painful to the touch. It turns out this was the blood clot in my jugular vein.
  • My acute symptoms came on very suddenly, in about one-two hours.
  • Twelve hours after being admitted, I felt completely normal … but I wasn’t normal.
  • After all the tests, which required medical professionals extracting 32 vials of blood, no one knows why this happened. All my tests have been normal.
  • One of the doctors said to me, “You are very lucky you didn’t wait a day to check in.”

As crazy as things were around me, generally I was fine, but moments like these are clearly harder on the people around you, and the show of love I received was amazing!

My treatment boils down to me now being on lifetime of blood thinners, including two weeks of self injections. Fortunately, I’m able to essentially resume  all normal activities, which includes staying on my busy schedule of attending to patients and driving my kids all over creation in order for them to play sports.

Your takeaway is this: Listen to those weird symptoms — they are telling you something. I would have been out of here if I hadn’t listened to mine.

Happy 2018 to all of you and to my family too. I look forward to seeing you soon.


  1. Michelle

    Wow- So glad you are well! And thank you so much for sharing your story. Good lessons for all of us!

  2. Mark Falcone

    So glad all turned out well. Wishing you all the best and a VERY healthy new year!!

  3. Jeffrey

    Dr. Booker,
    I’m very glad you made it to the hospital before there was more damage and that your ‘re okay now. Thanks for sharing your frightening story. I hope you can take it easy for a while. Happy New Year!

  4. Lynn Beasley

    thanks for sharing, glad you listened.

    • Molly Myers

      Wow Bill. Very glad you listened to your body. This is a lesson for all of us.

      Wishing you a happy and healthy 2018. Hope to see you back in action soon

      Molly Myers

  5. Sidney Underwood

    Dear Dr. Booker,
    So very, very glad to hear you’re ok. Stay well; you’ve got a lot of fans cheering for you.
    My Christmas crisis was not nearly as exciting: fell down the front steps, messed up my knee and cracked a rib. I expect I’ll be stopping by in a couple of weeks for PT. Hope to see you then, hale and hardy, striding around the office.
    Sidney Underwood

  6. Khaldoun Al-Atrash

    Bill I’m glad that all is going well with you now, I’m sorry that you had to go thru that but a blessing that you caught it in time. I agree that we do have to listen to our bodies.
    I wish you the best of health and happiness in 2018.
    Take care my friend, Khaldoun

  7. Jennifer A. McCann

    Dr. Booker! So glad you’re back on the mend! Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. Michelle Monnett

    Thank you for sharing your story. Happy to hear that you are doing so well!

  9. Katherine

    Dude??!! That’s crazy!! Just when I thought life couldn’t get any crazier with the daily borage of news and upside down insanity going on in the world these days!!

    Thank you so much for sharing! This is exactly what I needed to hear, as I have been ignoring my needs focused on work, kids, elder parents and grandparents,
    When is there time???

    You have been an inspiration since way back when we met in Golds Gym! Take care of yourself, and we too will take heed and listen to what our bodies are telling us!
    Thank you!!!

  10. Marcellus Reid

    Dr. Booker,

    Happy to hear you are doing well! Looking forward to seeing you back in the office soon.

    -The Reid Family


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