Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Unscheduled Break

If you regularly read this blog, you probably have already noticed that I've been away for about 2 weeks. This break was definitely unplanned and unfortunate. I thought I'd take a few minutes to tell you a little bit about what's been going on with me. This post might be kind of dull- apologies in advance!

One of my last posts before my hiatus was about how I was slow on my blogging because of a migraine. On Wednesday, August 22, I spent almost the whole day doing my usual stuff: going to work, shopping at Target, hanging out with Ginny and her family. That night when I returned home, at about 11:00 pm, I suddenly had the worst headache I had ever experienced. Before I knew it, I was vomiting like crazy (which, for me, isn't all that unusual when I have a headache). I called my parents and, when the vomiting woke me up, we decided to head to the ER. I vomited again in the car and waiting at the ER. When I described all of these symptoms to the ER staff, they decided I was having a migraine, which made sense to me. I was treated with a very powerful migraine medication, D.H.E., which made me feel better. I still had a bit of a residual headache, but I was so tired (from the meds and the fact that it was 6 AM), I felt like I had improved. I was soon discharged from the hospital.

I spent Thursday, August 23 resting at home. I did some blogging, some talking on the phone and all the other fun stuff you get to do when you're home sick. On Friday morning, I took the most powerful OTC migraine medicine I could find and headed off to work. It was the kind of day at the office that would have given me a headache anyways! It was unfortunate. I left around lunch time and spent the rest of the day resting. On Saturday, I still had a headache but I felt like I was continuing to improve. I spent most of the day doing tasks around the house, and then in the evening, I attended a barbeque with my coworkers. On Saturday night, I was tired and went to bed early.

Sunday morning, things turned around for the worst. My head hurt worse than it had in days and I had no appetite. I had "breakfast" at about 3 in the afternoon, then chugged over to Staples, which was the one errand I had to run during the entirety of the weekend. I got what I needed, but my head seemed to hurt with each step I took. I went to my parents house and relaxed for a while before the three of us had a family dinner. I did manage to eat most of a normal meal! After dinner, my parents convinced me to skip work on Monday and spend the night at their house. I'm glad I made that decision!

Monday, August 27, was my follow-up appointment in the clinic to discuss migraine and the elevated blood pressure I'd been experiencing at the ER. By the time I went there in the afternoon, I was so nauseated I asked my mom to drive me to the appointment. I met with a resident and a doc who were both unfamiliar to me. They both said they thought it was a migraine but wanted to order an MRI just to be sure. They were able to schedule it at the hospital in Burnsville for the next day, thankfully! I went back to my parents house and spent the night there again. I had a bit of an irrational fear that they were going to keep me at the hospital, and I was still feeling kind of woozy, so I asked my dad to drive me. Luckily, he was available.

While I was at the MRI, everything went fine. I had to have "contrast" injected, which was a little difficult because the technician struggled to find a vein. Another nurse dropped by and got the IV in. After I left the MRI, I met up with my dad who was participating in a work conference call by cell phone. We spent another half hour or so at the hospital before heading home. While Dad was driving towards home, the doctor I'd seen the day before called. He told me that the scans showed at least two aneurysms in my brain, and that at least one of them had been bleeding, causing the headache. He told me I needed to go directly to Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina where I'd be meeting with a neurologist.

Dad and I scooted home and picked up Mom, who was eating lunch on her break between her part-time job and her volunteer project. She met us in the car and away we sped towards the hospital! I spent most of the ride trying hard not to get upset because I was very frightened and I understood that becoming upset might make the aneurysm bleed more or even rupture, causing a stroke. We arrived at Southdale in record time, before the room I'd be staying in was even ready! A few minutes later, though, I was in the room and the neurologist came in. He explained that they had made an urgent appointment for me to have an angiogram where they were going to look at the aneurysms more carefully and hopefully repair them. A few minutes later, I was in the gown and being wheeled downstairs.

After one false start, it was angiogram time! In this procedure, they inset a teensy little needle into the femoral artery near your hip and thread it up through the body. Sometimes, they use this process to deal with issues in the heart, but for me, they threaded it all the way to my brain. It's really a very neat procedure! They discovered that there were three aneurysms in my brain. Unfortunately, by the time the angiogram was complete, it was late enough in the evening that the doctors decided I should wait overnight and have the procedure done in the morning, when everyone was fresher and when the hospital was fully staffed.

On Wednesday morning, August 29, I had another angiogram. They were able to "coil" the aneurysm that had bled. This process involves the injection of platinum coils into the aneurysm to shrink it down and hold it steady so that it won't bleed anymore. I am grateful to say that the bleeding aneurysm was successfully coiled. Unfortunately, the other two aneurysms couldn't be addressed this way. I asked the doctor before the procedure if this was going to improve my headache. His answer was "No." I thought about it for a few seconds and then realized that there was an unsaid comment attached to that answer: it wasn't going to help my headache, it was merely going to save my life.

I spent basically the next week in the hospital, all but one night of which was in the ICU. It was your typical hospital stay: lots of applesauce and daytime cable. I had a few visitors, which I so appreciated, though it seemed like all of the hospital's defenses were armed to try to keep people away.
The primary reason I had to stay for so long was to make sure that my blood pressure was well under control. The headache had already begun to dissipate by the time I had the angiogram and it just kept getting better as the days went by. I think that typically people who are treated for hypertension go to the clinic, get a prescription, try it out, and come back in a few weeks for close follow-up to make sure that the medicine is doing enough but not too much. Because I still have two untreated aneurysms in my brain, the docs were really concerned about making sure the medicine was doing a great job. A decrease in blood pressure should help reduce the risk that one of the aneurysms will blow before I can have surgery. Once the BP was pretty well controlled, I got to leave the ICU and be reunited with these gorgeous flowers!
I was released from the hospital on Wednesday, September 5. Check out this view! Woo hoo Edina!
I went to my parents house after being released and stayed there for a couple more nights before returning to my apartment and trying to get back to normal. I've got some follow up visits scheduled, including one with a brain surgeon. It seems, at this point, that surgery of some kind to fix the unresolved aneurysms is inevitable. I will definitely keep you guys posted on what the plans are! While I had great care in the hospital, at this point, I'm still just thrilled to be home! It's such a treat, after a full 8 nights in the hospital, to be able to go wherever I want, including the bathroom, without help. I also get the eat whatever I want and be sure that no one is going to come into my hospital room in the middle of the night and shine a flashlight in my eyes to make sure I'm not having a stroke (this happened to me at least twice, often more, every night I was in the hospital). Even though it's wonderful to be on the outside, I am hoping my surgery will be scheduled soon so that this whole issue can be finally wrapped up. I think that will decrease my concern that something bad could happen at any given moment.

As I wait for my surgery, I'm just trying to get back to normal! I'm hoping to have some good posts for you this coming week. I'm also really looking forward to going back to work. I've missed my coworkers and the intellectual challenge of going to work and solving problems all day long. I'm also convinced, based on the amount of time I spent with my doctors, that I chose the right path for my education and my career. I've also really missed spending time with my friends. My heart broke each time I had to cancel a social commitment during my two weeks of convalescence. I can't wait to get back to all of it!

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