Reflections | My Surgery | Part ll
….I waited for a few days for Dr. Spetlzer to return. I was visited, gifted food + so much red bull (the good ol’ days), prayed with, given cards and had people came visit that I hadn’t seen in years as well as others who I’d loved deeply but not spent much time with showed up. I was covered in the goodness of my community and medically cared for by the best in the city. It all felt very calm.
I had heard of Dr. Spetzler before. Two others that I knew firsthand had been on six month waiting lists at a different point in time to have tumors removed. This ringing a bell, I asked one of the staff how come we had to wait for his return but also why would I be getting prioritized so swiftly if others had waited so long for seemingly more serious procedures? She let me know that he’s the only in that field that could really do what needed done in the whole region, so we would wait.
I literally went days without food because no one was exactly when the surgery would be but always seemed like it was around the corner. I lost a lovely 9lbs….No complaints. I spent time doin things like starring at how badly I needed a pedicure crying to my mom about relationships, calling friends, doing anything to avoid the stir crazy that was sinking in. My sister sat behind me and kept company. Relatively speaking there was much activity while just sitting and waiting and sitting and waiting. And then he appeared. I remember it was dark outside, and most of the company had subsided. I had been anticipating his visit to my room for about an hour and I had butterflies fluttering around, it was day four. He was like a peaceful angel on a white horse. He swept into the room and said hello with the warmest smile. He reassured me with all of the love and experience to offer confidence that he would only remove the very hairs that absolutely needed to be. That they would do their best to keep the scaring minimalized and that while it was a seven hour surgery and I’d be out for eleven that it would be harder for him because of the technicality of the procedure that my recovery would be for me. He walked me through the process of what would take place as well as what happened a few days prior as well as the oddity that was my age with this diagnoses.
In my interpretation and with a quick report review I’ll do my best to explain. Basically, we each have two arteries in our neck, carotid arteries. These feed blood to our heads where the circle of Willis pushes the blood into each side of our brains. When I put my head between my legs that day after I dropped my keys and my hands weren’t working, I prevented myself from having a full stroke because it helped the right side of my brain push blood over to the left side which was rapidly shutting down. Once it circulated I was able to begin functioning again. All of the testing resulted in learning that I had a dissection in my left carotid artery. In order to keep me from continuing to have strokes that would only get worse by way of dehydration or another sudden jolt, they needed to reroute the blood from below the injury place in my carotid artery back up to the vessels in my brain. They’d do this by cutting about 7 inches in length from behind my ear toward the crown of my head just behind the hairline, remove a circular piece of my skull and sew a vessel from beneath the dissection to my temporal artery. It’s called a bypass, much like a freeway in there with a backup road as the new route for my blood. All of the staples and boom.. good as new.. kind of.
The surgery went well. I overcame my fear of becoming addicted to pain killers after a few stern talks about how I’d be in too much pain without drugs and well, now I know I love fentanyl. I learned that I’m allergic to morphine and that if you don’t start eating a lot of food after surgery you have to get a blood transfusion. So you force yourself to eat. I learned that when I’m scared I either cry or get kind of mean. I learned that a tight knit community is the most incredible support system and worth all of the hours poured in when your in the midst of overwhelming situation. And I learned that I love feeling connected to someone when they’re my medical advisor. That I will always feel safer if someone is approachable or leads with incredible intelligence.
In the moment everything was happening so quickly I could hardly keep up. I jumbled my words, I got lost in the details, I couldn’t keep the facts straight or who I had told what to. And I knew that in the months to come I’d learn a thing or two but that in years and maybe a decade I’d learn even more. I knew that this was not something that I would just get to learn the lesson from immediately but that it would continue to reveal itself to me. And I’ve not been wrong. I continue to see glimpses of truth paralleled with that season of my life, from the way certain people showed up or didn’t to the inner workings of my heart and mind. I got a pedicure within an hour of being release for goodness sake. If that doesn’t scream everything about a seven on the enneagram, I actually don’t know what does.
The lasting effects of those nine days and the months to follow continue to show themselves. My short-term memory was genuinely compromised which makes for a lot of interesting situations. It took a few months to identify what was going on and then years for me to confide in people especially at work when I’d drop the ball on something I’d never have in the past. It’s humbling, still today. It’s a line to walk carefully because it’s not an excuse but sometimes it is the reason. I write things down a lot more than I once did. I physically feel the scar, or throbbing in my head. It’s still sensitive to the touch. My biggest outburst of fear around it was in labor with Amos. It actually stopped the entire delivery process and I had to use every part of my mind to overcome what was racing through my head. It’s still present but mostly in the inner workings of my heart.
I returned to the ER in December of 2008 with all of the same symptoms as in August a few months prior and a large side of emotional agitation to go with it. Why God is this happening, again? Why am I having to go through this? What will it be this time? Is this going to continue to show up for the rest of my life? If I have to get four IV’s again I’m going to start crying from before the needle goes in, just warming my dad up for the emotional storm that was about to take place out of frustration not because of the needles. Justified, I think. They said they were so sorry but they’d have to start from square one and perform every single test they did the first time, again. My heart sinks just recalling it. However, that time, after just three test the doctor all but ran in my room, a smile on his face and charts in his hand. “This is a miracle!” That’s what he said. For real. My artery had re-opened, an activity that wasn’t given a percentage of ever happening because it was predicted to have been impossible, and it happened. I was feeling all of the same symptoms as a result of a surges of blood that were trying to regulate the two vessels. Wow. But, I actually wasn’t happy. I was angry. Why all of that, if this? They sent me on my way with anxiety medicine because I wasn’t allowing myself to slow down and heal. I wasn’t giving my body what it needed and these pills would slow me down. I took myself off of them three days later. I ended up quitting my incredible career and moved to Colorado one month later. I left what I knew to be comfortable and traded it in for something just a little more fulfilling inside. Life was big and busy before January 2009 but so much of me feels like it’s where my adult story began.
I’ve been so touched by the outpouring of DM’s, face to face conversation, text messages and comments on my blog about this part of my story. How it’s effected you, pieces of your story or another who you hold dear. My hope is that any part of what I’ve been through could lessen the load for someone else and I’m not sure how all of this translates to another’s story but I think the companion inside of trauma makes it feel slightly less lonely. Thank you for taking time out of your busy days to see a big part of me. xx-k