Nov. 30, 2016
I could turn around now and not go through the pain. I could cancel it. I could postpone the brain surgery. Is it really all that bad? I was just dizzy, not in immense pain. Is it really time to have such a risky surgery? Real risks of serious nerve injury exist. Of course I reminded myself what the doctor told me and how I slipped down some steps just two nights prior. It could get more dangerous if I allow this to go too long. I don’t want my issues to miss out on enjoying any more time with my boys growing up. The surgery must happen soon. Today’s the day.
I had slept better than what I figured I would, of course my expectation was not high at all. I had to wake up by 3:00am. Who in their right mind is ever up at that time? Okay, I know a few of you. We had to be at the hospital by 5:30am. I already quit solids before midnight and I had until 5:30 to drink water. My thirst was insatiable despite the water I was still drinking. Cotton upon cotton. I kissed my boys good bye as they slept in their beds. My parents were up to send us off, as they head south for the winter before I would return. It was not only a good bye for a surgery, but a good bye for quite a while.
Joel warmed up the car and loaded our things. We travelled on the wet roads in the darkness. I know the silence of my little niece as she was on her way to each of her chemotherapy treatments. I thought about what they went through. The only advantage I had was I did not know what was really ahead of me for my procedure, only a vague idea.
I was comforted with a text message from a friend who told me she was already up and was intending on praying for me through the entire time. Thank you, God, for your comfort. I was much more calm about the whole ordeal than even the day before. God is in control of my healing, not man.
Once we arrived I asked if this surgery day, the day after Thanksgiving, was a busy time. They all agreed it was the best time as more nursing staff is available for better care due to a lack of surgeries on that day. I was thankful God allowed me to get in so soon, and on such a slow day.
The nursing staff took me back to get changed into the “space suit”. This is a disposable, air-conditioned and heated, plastic lined hospital gown. Regardless, it was still hot. After a few assessments and consultations, the reality hit when the neurosurgeon said, “Alright, we’re ready for you and we’ll get under way.” I was calm until then. The nurse told Joel he’d give us a couple minutes to say our good bye’s. Reality. No turning back now.
They rolled me wide awake into the operating room. On the right side, I saw large MR pictures showing a couple different views of the tumor. A person was straight ahead of me in front of a beige subway tiled wall arranging the equipment. On the right side, a woman was cutting gauze pieces down to size on a blue covered table, next to more equipment. The surgeon was directly behind at a table looking like he was taking last minute measurements on the paperwork. Directly above, large operating lights were staged over the bed I was lined up to. I remembered saying, “Oh, boy. I can feel my blood pressure now, I can just imagine how high that’d be.”
The nurse wheeling me in then told me I could have a sedative to calm me down. Well, not much longer and I’d be unconscious anyway. I made it this far, do I bother? Then I remembered birthing my first born. No medicine with an 9lb 11oz, 24.5” long baby was not a good plan. I gave in to the medicine and was glad I did. Of course, I really do not remember much after that regardless.
I must have been quite a sight during surgery. I knew I would have one IV in me, but I didn’t realize they would put 3 of them in, with a few differing sizes on both arms. I was also told I would have a series of probes in me as well to monitor the nerve activity. A cluster of seven holes were on one wrist and I am still discovering stray, red probe marks all over the rest of my body. Several must have also been in my head as well for how itchy it has been.
I was intubated, where a large tube was placed down my throat. Of course I had to laugh ahead of time when the anesthesiologist examined my throat. He made the mistake saying it is definitely large enough for the tube. So, I asked straight out, “Well, how large is it?” He hesitated saying anything knowing he was trapped, until Joel laughed and told him it was okay to tell the truth. Yes, my throat was large enough and in this case grateful for that. Make a note, it was my big throat, not a big mouth.
Of course, the catheter thing was necessary as well. In addition, I knew my head had to be clamped to the operating table face down. A diagram showed one large point on my forehead and then one on each side of my skull. I remember waking up and feeling large bruised, dried bloodied areas along the sides of my head above my ears. At least I had only a dark bruise on the front of my forehead.
When I was in the first consultation, I was told the fast 4 hour surgery would only require chipping off a small portion of the bottom of the skull, taking the tumor out and then putting me back together again. Only a small 2-3 inch incision. When I woke up, I discovered I had a large 6+ inch dinosaur back lump of stitching from the top of my head down to the base of my neck. I also have at least two titanium plates screwed into me to hold the skull in place again. I was disappointed they did not tell me straight out what really happens. I hate receiving “fluff”. Of course, I was grateful they did not wake me up in the middle of the surgery to ask my permission to go further. To cover my stitches, they had a small covering that blocked everything out for the first day. When I feel the back of my head now, the two ends of the stitching remind me of a VW’s antenna as it sticks out by at least an inch of both sides.
I also discovered they have “hair glue” that plasters the hair out of the way. It eventually washes and combs out, but I am still working on that. I had my hair also divided roughly into two nasty pigtail braids using large, orange rubber bands. Oh dear, that was a mess to take out as I was moved around.
All in all, the doctors considered my surgery a success, obtaining close to 95% of the epidermoid mass. They were happy at how I responded throughout the surgery and were confident the stitching / closure was good.
Fortunately for the rest of the day, I do not have much memory. Joel joined me once again in the ICU. My major pain since has been the stiff neck from slicing and moving the muscles aside along with the throbbing pain inside my skull from the extraction. From fastening the air tube down, I have a nickel-sized swollen, numbed area on the top of my tongue and a sore on the bottom side. I had difficulty swallowing for several days as well. I primarily kept my eyes closed and dizziness was a considerable factor too. I am sure the narcotics did not help that matter.
I was under the watchful eyes of my Heavenly Father, the ICU nursing staff and Joel now. That was enough for one day.
Until we meet again,