I've had a hell of a year.
On October 4, 2012 – two days after we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary the headache I had the night before, and blamed on President Obama for his lousy performance in the first debate – turned out to not be just a headache. I had a vertebral aneurysm and it ruptured. I fell face-first onto my bathroom tile and did a number on my mouth...and when I say I "did a number" it means I did $2500 worth of damage to my front teeth.
That started a three-and-a-half week odyssey through intensive care, three angiograms, the second one turned into major surgery and general anesthesia so the coiling of the vertebral aneurysm that had dissected and was bleeding could be undertaken. That surgery resulted in a stroke that left me unable to swallow and with Lateral Medullary Syndrome I get the hiccups a lot and I have no temperature sensation below the chin on my right side. This will last the rest of my life, but so what? This is a deficit I can live with. It turns out that when dinner is a team effort to assure that I don't get overheated or burn myself, it tastes better and it's something new to bond over.
I survived the stroke. I learned to swallow again, and I recited a litany of words over and over to get past the speech impediment I had immediately after the event. I had the feeding tube removed once I gained two pounds in two weeks on a regular diet. In short, I resumed my life, with a lot of help from my husband, our son and our daughters – and a dedicated regimen of yoga to get back my balance.
When I came home from the hospital the end of October, I needed a walker to get from my bed to the bathroom and I almost crawled up the stairs to our apartment. I only went out for therapy. Now I am once again a regular at the green grocer and the farmer's market, and the cane is the only visible sign anything is less than optimal, and I only need it to keep my balance when I'm tired -- or stop a bus mid-block. :)
Yesterday morning, just six days after they poked around in my brain for seven hours I took the dog down for his morning outing because my husband (he's a super-hero...his secret identity is Super Spouse) is paying the sleep debt that he accumulated in the hospital last week, sleeping in a chair every one of the five nights I was there.
Last Wednesday I went in for what I thought was going to be a routine angiogram of the previous coiling. Instead, a new wide-mouth aneurysm was found and I was admitted to the hospital immediately, with surgery scheduled for the next day. I made it clear on Thursday, before I was taken in to the operating room, that if I was going to wake up compromised to the point I couldn't care for myself, I didn't want to wake up, and when he looked me in the eye after I said that, I understood that he understood, and I went under with a feeling of complete confidence in my physician. He understood that I would rather have a timebomb in my head and live life to the hilt until it went off than to live 30 more years in a wheelchair, struggling to communicate. The next day, the doctor just took pictures, and got the doctor who trained him on the phone and they started discussing an option that is still classified as experimental. I have a device in my head called a pipeline that is only FDA approved for use in the Carotid artery.
Once he and his med school professor were looking at the same pictures and they both came to the conclusion that the pipeline was the best option I had of not having another stroke during the surgery to repair the aneurysm, they started the process of making it happen. This was late Thursday.
He had to get the Internal Review Board to agree and the hospital attorney to sign off on it. Then he had to get the company that makes the device to sign off on it. Once he had the hospital and the manufacturer on board, he had to get the professor who teaches seminars on using it in Kansas City. He was in Canada teaching one on Thursday when Dr. Holloway called him, so I had 150 neuro-interventionist doctors looking at the images of the giant (no foolin' – that's really what it's called) aneurysm that had formed in my basilar artery – and he was headed to Japan on Monday. That left Saturday. He flew back to St. Louis on Friday to see his wife and kids and then he and the company rep headed across the state on I-70.
Here's where it gets all Lifetime movie-ish...as they were administering the Verced, I asked if they were in the building and the anesthesia nurse told me they were on the road. I started to say “I hope they don't crash...” but I didn't get it out. But they did. They were in a crash that totaled the company rep's new Acura SUV and they were whisked to the hospital in a police car.
Now – I just described a whole bunch of hoops that my doctor jumped through to give me the best outcome he possibly could – but there is one hoop he didn't have to jump through. My healthcare is government provided single payer because my husband spent his first career in the military.
When the tea-folk were a new phenomenon and they were screaming about a 'government takeover of healthcare' I was saying “You Wish!” because the government, it seems to me, is the only entity doing it right.
So I was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday, had exploratory surgery on Thursday, had a seven-hour, intense and experimental procedure on Saturday and was released on Monday.
I've said it before and I'll say it again...I'm no one special, no moreso than you or your loved ones, and so far as I'm concerned, the fight isn't over until everyone has the peace of mind in their health care that I have in mine. In other words, this sh*t needs to be universal!