Friday, August 14, 2009

Talk about being blindsided.

It's Friday, August 14th, and the past four days have been an absolute whirlwind. Most of the time, I don't know what day or even what hour it is. But frankly, I don't care.

Monday, my mom and I headed to Raleigh, expecting to have two normal checkups with my neurosurgeon and neurologist. In 2002, my neurosurgeon, Dr. F, put a shunt in that goes from my brain to my stomach to release the extra fluid being held up there. We brought along the CT scan and report we had from May to show him just because the Duke people had all told us there was no reason to mail it up - that we could just bring it with us. Why? Because the report said that the ventricles (the pockets in your brain that hold spinal fluid) and shunt were normal and there was excessive sinus disease. So we figured my daily headaches were from the sinuses, not problems in my brain.

Well, Dr. F looked at the CT results, but he was able to compare them to past MRI and CT scans I had had done here at Duke. He realized that my right ventricle, the ventricle that my shunt had been placed in, had dramatically increased in size. He immediately brought up the word "surgery," which I will admit threw me into a state of shock. His colleague told me that they had an opening the next day, and he said that as long as everything went normally, I'd be out on Wednesday. No big deal, right? That meant I'd still be able to move to Campbell on Saturday, so that did make me feel better.

So after meeting with him, we went to pre-op to get the usual bloodwork done, and to get something to eat. Here's the slight problem with having a 24-hour notice about surgery: we had absolutely nothing with us. The Duke pharmacy gave us enough medicine for me to get through Tuesday morning, so that was a help, but we still had no clothes or a place to stay or anything. Thank God I had a load of cash in my wallet.

We headed to JC Penney and bought clothes and underwear off the cheapest racks we could find. Then, at the recommendation of the cashier, we headed to a nearby sports bar so I could get a steak. Might as well enjoy my last meal, right? Then, we went to Target to buy toiletries and whatnot. My back was killing me, though, so I rode around in one of those motorized chairs that usually only really old people use. (People give really mean looks to handicapped people. Did you know that? But that's a whole 'nother post.) Throughout all this, my mom was on the phone repeatedly with the Ronald McDonald House begging them to give us a room, but it took a long time because they were waiting to hear if this family was going to show up. So I really can't get mad at them for taking so long, especially since at about 9, the manager agreed to give us a room. (Hallelujah!) Of course, we got lost trying to get there, but that was the manager's fault.

We got there, and I took a shower. Praise Jesus that for the first time in 11 surgeries, I didn't lay awake all night. By like 1, I crashed. And I didn't have to get up till 10, so I felt as fantastic as I could ever imagine. Mom took a shower and got ready and bought her cigarettes, and we got lost again, so we got there just in time for my 11:30 pre-op time. Well, just my luck, it took them an hour to call my name. When you're anxious and hungry and have nothing to do, this is the last thing you need. And then it took them a long time to give me the happy medicine, but the good news is that when they did, it kicked in real fast. My anesthesiologist, Dr. A, was so cute! Hehehe. And he had a sexy British accent, and was, strangely enough, born in Southport, a town right near Liverpool that I visited last summer. Apparently, once they gave me the drugs, I just kept telling him he was pretty. (He was, but that's so beside the point.)

My mom says that the drugs I was on make me very flirtatious. Dr. A wasn't the only guy I hit on while I was high on whatever it was they were giving me. Dr. J, the PICU resident, came in while I was in recovery, I asked him what I should call him, and he said I could call him anything I want, so I said "How about Prince Charming?" My mom says he turned bright red. I called him that every single time I saw him.

This is the deal with the brain bleed that Jess mentioned. When Dr. F went to check the shunt in my brain during surgery, he realized it was clogged. When he went to go pull it out, it was a bit stuck in the brain matter, and as he pulled it out, my brain started bleeding. He worked to stop the bleeding, flushing and cleaning it, for almost an hour. He wasn't entirely successful, and there's now a blood clot in my brain where the shunt was. Because of that clot, they can't put a new shunt in, and I definitely need one. So I have to wait for the clot to break up and dissolve before I can get a new shunt in and leave.

Tuesday and Wednesday I pretty much did nothing but sleep and puke. And I'm on my period, too. What great timing! (please note intended sarcasm) By Thursday, I stopped puking, and by that night, the nausea was gone, so my mom got me a turkey sandwich and I scarfed it down, even though I started out intending to take a break between the two halves.

Today, my stomach feels just fine, except for cramps, and my pain is pretty under control. The worst part of today was when my IV blew. My arm swelled up and couldn't be touched, but it's better now. My grandma and Chelsea came up today and brought my mom more necessities and my computer (which is how I'm writing this) and more snack food, so I'm pretty set.

I had another CT yesterday, and the clot hadn't changed at all, so that sucks. Of course, this means I can't move to Campbell tomorrow, which also sucks. But I'm trying to remember that there's a reason this is happening, and there's a reason it's happening right now. Even if I don't get those reasons yet. God does, and that's all that's important.


Aside about Chelsea: She's not quite as far along as we thought. 9 weeks 4 days instead of 12 weeks and 3 days. Good. We need every day we can get to get ready for this. But she's doing really well with my grandma who's keeping an eye on her while my mom's up here. So yay for that.

And many thanks to Jess for the updates she posted!


  1. Praise God that you're OK, and that you got your laptop so you could give us a great big huge update, I loved reading it! Whew... I feel relief, having heard from you. I had been praying for you all week, and it was sort of feeling like I was holding my breath the entire time, does that make sense?

    I now understand why you had the surgery, though -- I wasn't too sure before, but I'm thankful for your explanation. Makes total sense. Sounds like they're taking great care of you -- so that makes me happy! Did I miss it, or did you explain how the surgery went, and why you're still there? I read about the clot, but I'm still not sure what happened.

    Love you!! Glad Chelsea's doing well at your grandma's. Say hi to your mom for me, and thank her for taking such good care of you!

  2. Whoa, that sounds rather intense :(

    Glad you're feeling a bit better though! :)

  3. Good to hear from you! Makes my shoulder surgery seem tame in comparison (it was outpatient). My anesthesiologist was NOT all that cute. Sigh.

  4. What a relieve to read this post by yourself! I was so worried but now I realise that it will be one of those things that will "come to pass" and soon you will be off to college and your new adventure. Welcome back and please take good care of yourself.

  5. Just catching up. Sorry to hear you didn't get to move this weekend, but I'm so glad to hear you're okay!!

  6. Well, good thing they caught it. Who knows what could have happened??

    And drugs make me do crazy things too. When I have an epidural, anything and everything flies out of my mouth. It is quite embarrassing afterward. :)