Soon, he began feeling odd sensations and delayed focusing reaction, "like my head could not keep up with what I was seeing visually." As commercial airline pilot, he needed to be on top of his game, and he was worried. So he went home. It was to be his last flight.
His wife, Nora—herself an airline pilot—described her husband's sudden onset of a "foggy-head brain" and difficulty with decision-making. "It concerned me a lot, [his] just not feeling comfortable in the airplane," Nora says in the documentary Certain Adverse Events.
Greg's friends and family describe him as a rock of strength and fortitude, a guy that can be depended on when the going gets tough. Yet his life was slowly falling apart. "Everything bothered me. The slightest noise would wake me up. I could hear the cat walking on the carpeting," he says. He suffered from fatigue, a tightness in his forehead, uncontrollable trembling. Nora wondered if he was showing signs of ALS or MS, "because he's starting to exhibit these neuro-muscular problems."
MRI and CT scans, even stress tests, showed nothing out of the ordinary. In the end, the Downs concluded that Greg must be suffering from stress anxiety stemming from the 9/11 tragedy, during which he had lost a friend and colleague and had provided a great deal of support to others.
"We went on with a diagnosis of stress anxiety, and progressed by treating it in that manner," says Nora. "But Greg was not happy about that."
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That's when the light bulb lit up. Greg Downs finally knew the source of his trouble.
"There's a great amount of anger in my life over what I've been through for two years," he says. "I questioned everything in my life. I've seen therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, neurologists; everyone under the sun…the outrage for me is I really thought something else was going on in my life. I thought, if this is what a nervous breakdown is, I guess I'm having one. But it was extremely upsetting for me and it's been a terrible hardship on my spouse, myself, my career and everything else.
"I'm optimistic that I'm going to make a 100 percent recovery… And I'll never take this stuff again."