Thirty-three-year-old Jennifer Kawamura has battled Graves' disease, one of the most common of all thyroid problems and the leading cause of hyperthyroidism, for 10 years. But that hasn't stopped her from living life to the fullest. Last fall she and her husband Chad took the test to become certified scuba divers.
It was a cool autumn morning and high winds were whipping up the surf along San Diego's Pacific coastline. This was a big day -- Jennifer and Chad were just two dives away from becoming licensed scuba divers. Before the test could begin, they had to swim about 100 meters to the dive site, against the powerful surf, with 60 pounds of scuba gear strapped to their backs. A daunting task for most people, but Jennifer was in excellent shape, and loves a challenge.
As she began to swim against the powerful waves, Jennifer became extremely fatigued: she could hardly move, and her legs began to cramp up. Chad asked his wife if she wanted to quit.
"She didn't even respond," he said. "You could see the look in her eye she was going to do it no matter what." When Jennifer finally made it to the dive site, they began their decent. "We went from 15 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet, all of a sudden, it was just a cliff going down. It was dark and freezing," she said.
They descended to a depth of 55 feet below sea level. When they resurfaced, Jennifer was so exhausted that her fellow divers had to help her back to shore, but she passed the test and otherwise felt fine.
Over the next few days Jennifer experienced intermittent numbness in her right hand, but didn't give it much thought. Then, about a week after the dive, Chad suddenly noticed a much more alarming symptom. Jennifer was trying to tell him something, but he couldn't understand her.
"I heard syllables coming out of her mouth, but they didn't sound like any words that I recognized," he said.
Jennifer repeated herself, but Chad still couldn't understand what she was saying, and she was slurring her words. "Are you drunk?" he asked her half jokingly. At this point Jennifer began to notice something was very wrong. She was having trouble thinking of the words she wanted to use. And then she remembered the numbness, and told Chad. They called Jennifer's sister Tonnia, who is a doctor, for advice. "I heard the symptom of slurred speech, and told them to go to the emergency department right away," she said.
At the local hospital, doctors ran a battery of blood tests, a thorough neurological workup and a CT scan of Jennifer's head. All tests came back negative. "She was completely symptom free," said Dr. Yoo Jin Chong, who was called in to continue the investigation. "You're relieved, but you're left with the puzzlement of what caused her symptoms."
We asked you what you thought Jennifer is suffering from:
A. "The bends," or decompression syndrome, a condition related to scuba diving.
B) A stroke.
C) A hormone imbalance.
D) Multiple sclerosis.
The Real Diagnosis
Jennifer was suffering from a condition called Moyamoya, and was in danger of having a large stroke. Dr Gary Steinberg is one of the world's leading experts on diagnosing and treating Moyamoya.
"In Moyamoya disease, the vessels at the base of the brain become blocked," he explained."Moyamoya is Japanese for haziness, or puff of smoke. And that describes these abnormal vessels that are very obvious on the angiogram."
Last month, Dr. Steinberg performed brain surgery, opening Jennifer's skull. He took a blood vessel from her scalp and put it inside her brain, for better blood circulation. And now she's fine.
If you voted for option B, a stroke, you were right. Jennifer suffered a rare stroke called Moyamoya. Click here for more information on Moyamoya.
Tune into "Primetime" next week for another real life medical mystery.