A week ago today, I had brain surgery. But it’s my leg that hurts. It was an intravenous procedure. They reached my brain via my groin. At the fold between my upper leg and my torso, I was pierced and, on the right side of my brain, a coil was inserted into a large aneurysm to prevent it from rupture.
Red Rose, graphic by Estela.
My daughter said I was in surgery for 4 1/2 hours, but to me it felt like an instant.
As I was wheeled into the surgery room, a woman asked if I was OK, did I need anything. (I think it was the tech who would monitor my brain waves.) “I could use a cup of coffee,” I said.
She says, “Oh, so-and-so is going to give you coffee. You’ll get your coffee, all right.”
A radioactive substance, to light up the vessels in my brain, and injected anesthesia would be my “morning coffee.”
I was scared, and very sad. I meditated to stay in the moment, to accept my fate.
I was lucky to learn I was unlucky–an MRI inadvertently caught this. Aneurysms have no symptoms. Commonly, it takes a rupture to learn of it. Which can kill you. I’m lucky to live in a time when science and computer technology make it possible to catch them before they rupture, in a time of modern medicine when intravenous surgery is possible. I did not need my head cracked open, my skull sawed through, to access my brain.
I’m trying to remember: there were about five people besides my neurologist. I think there was a nurse in there too. Each one approached me. “I’m so-and-so. I’m the anesthesiologist.”
“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to monitor your heart.”
“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to monitor your brain waves.”
“I’m so-and-so. I’m going to inject a radioactive dye so we can have a clear picture of the blood vessels in your brain.”
“I’m so-and-so. I’m the assistant physician.”
I was asked to slide from my bed onto the bed of this computerized machine. As I slid over, the brain monitor tech said, “Thank you for braiding your hair for us.”
I said, “Yeah. I thought that would make things easier.” (I had gathered my long hair into two braids.)
“Yes, it does,” the nurse said. Everyone was very nice. It didn’t feel impersonal. It was a very positive atmosphere. I had complete faith in everyone. But I was still scared and sad.
It was so science fiction: the computerized machine with a monitor where they would see my brain; the machine monitoring the rhythm of my heartbeat, brain surgery that would be an intravenous procedure. I closed my eyes. A couple tears trickled out.
“OK, I’m going to attach these to you so I can monitor your heart,” the guy says. He pasted the wires onto my body.
“I’m going to attach these to your head so I can monitor your brain waves,” the woman said, and proceeded to paste wires on my head. Then I heard the anesthesiologist say, “OK, Estela. I want you to take a deep breath.” I inhaled. “Hear it goes.” he said. “There’s no epinephrine in this.” (A nurse had told me to tell him epinephrine makes me tremble and feel panicky. I knew he wasn’t going to use it, but I told him anyway. Just to make sure.) I don’t remember exhaling. It felt like the next moment that someone was in my face, saying, “Estela. Wake up. It’s over. It went very well.”
I opened my eyes. I was so happy! I said, “It feels good to wake up. It feels good to be alive.” Then I asked, “Am I on Earth?” I was, of course, being facetious, although, I sort of thought maybe I’d double-check that. He laughed. This was my nurse who was taking me to ICU, where he’d take care of me.
“Yes,” he said. “You’re on Earth.” There was another guy, an assistant, who guided the wheeled bed from the foot. He laughed too.
My son and daughter walked into the ICU room. (My other daughter was waiting for a phone call at home, or at work, I don’t know–she doesn’t live in the Bay Area.) I said, joyfully, “I’m alive!”
“Yup,” my daughter said. “You’re alive.” She texted a friend who’d been waiting for an update. She texted back, “Tell her I’m glad she’s alive.”
I spent the night in the hospital, released around noon the next day. They told me not to bend, stoop, or squat for five days. Otherwise, I could function as normal, but warned not to over-exert or pick up anything heavy. “Can I pick up my dog,” I asked. “She’s about eight pounds. I’d really like to hug her.” I missed her so much. And she missed me. She didn’t eat the whole time I was gone. Good thing I was only gone a day and a half.
Isabel (aka Belly). My charming, precious little diva. I love her so much.
“Yes,” my doctor said, “You can pick up your dog. It’ll probably be good for you. But don’t pick up anything else heavier than that.” The limit is 20 pounds, but since I’m a small person, I guess, he told me to keep it under 10. I had mild headaches the first three days, but my leg still aches eight days later. Ugh. And I have to go through this again in a month, because I have another aneurysm that has to be treated. It’s rare, I’m told, to have multiple aneurysms. I’m unlucky, but lucky, and happy to be alive. Even if I’m gonna have med bills up the kazoo.
I’m so glad to be around to enjoy my little Belly. Look at that precious little face. It’s to live for. ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣