Photo Gallery 1st Surgery and Recovery

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Waiting at surgery check in. Dec 10

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In my hospital room. Dec 12

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In the hotel room after they let me go. Dec 13

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I think this was the first time I saw my staples. Dec. 14

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Laguna Beach before Christmas. Dec. 21

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In my recovery outfit with a Chinook flying by. Dec. 22

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Staples freshly removed. Dec. 23

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Christmas day at Mary’s parents house. Dec. 25

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The leak I found in my incision. Jan. 8

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On a Duffy boat in Newport. Didn’t know if it would make me sick. It didn’t. Jan. 18

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My first haircut. Feb. 4

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Playing BINGO on Friday night! Feb. 6

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This is how my head looked the Monday after my haircut. Feb. 9

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This is what I looked like after a couple weeks of taking medicine that was supposed to help. Feb. 26

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This is how it looked a month after my haircut. Mar. 3

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Back into surgery check in at Kaiser. Mar. 11

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My life has really changed (6)

I spent a lot of time being really disappointed and depressed after learning I would need a 2nd surgery. Work was ok with another leave, which was super helpful. In fact, they told me to make sure I took all the time off I needed to and not to come back until I was better. I really appreciate this, but what I could never get across to them that I didn’t come back too early the first time and I really don’t know when I would be fully healed. I’ve read stories of people who continue to struggle with recovery for years. What a bummer. At least I was sleeping better again. lol

Eventually I made it to March 11th and we drove down to San Diego Kaiser again. With the first surgery still fresh in my mind, I was ready for all the pre-op stuff and that went pretty well. I got all hooked up and the doctors came by. Turns out the surgery would be around 2 and a half hours I think. After waiting around for a while I got wheeled into the OR again and they put the mask on me and I was out.

I woke up in recovery and that wasn’t too bad. I know my head hurt, obviously. They moved me to ICU shortly after, as I was doing pretty good. I wasn’t overheating and my vitals were good. That was great to know. Every time the nurse would come in she would tell me right away that my blood pressure and heartbeat were doing great. I got morphine every couple hours and could feel it move through my upper body after it was injected. So weird. No hallucinations though! I spent the night in there and in the morning they informed me I could go home shortly. I think I slept a little bit, but not much. Didn’t feel as bad as the first recovery though. Didn’t have to get a MRI either. Score.

I did some walks around the hallway in the morning and that went well. No bleeding. I did still have my head bandage on. I forgot to mention that before. The Doc took my head bandage off before I left the hospital the first surgery. This time they wanted to keep it on me for a week. I hated that thing. The doc even told us that I was trying to take it off before I even got to recovery. lol. I ate some breakfast in the late morning and actually ate a lot. I ended up throwing up later though. That kind of freaked me out, as I didn’t do that after the first surgery and I didn’t want to disturb my incision by opening my mouth to puke. Oh well, couldn’t help it. Luckily I felt fine after that. Soon after that, I was cleared to leave. Awesome.

Just like the first surgery, we went to the same hotel after being discharged and spent the night there. I remember we watched a lot of Family Feud for some reason. My body was doing much better this time probably since they didn’t have to fool around inside my head and I wasn’t knocked out for 12 hours. We went home the next day and it was pretty uneventful.

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My life has really changed (5)

So I made it back to work and was recovering very well. Everybody there was really happy for me and I was happy to get back to my life. Things really started to go well. I quickly remembered how fun it was getting up at 5AM everyday. lol. My hair was getting long at this point. I was in no rush to get a haircut. Cutting instruments near my head did not sound like a good time. Finally one day a month later my boss mentioned my hair, so I knew I better get it cut.

I think it was around February 4th that I got my haircut. This was a big milestone for me to get through. I was nervous as heck, but I pushed ahead and did it. Things went uneventful which is exactly what I wanted. I looked much better and I felt good! That didn’t last long though. I don’t know what happened but over the weekend my incision area just grew and grew. It puffed up pretty big, much bigger than it did back in January. Shit. I didn’t know what was going on. I went into work Monday and everybody was like, “what happened to your head? That doesn’t look good. You should go to the doctor. Did you come back to work too soon?” I emailed my doctor and told him it was swelling a lot and I’d like to come see him. I was pretty nervous about it, because it usually took a while to see him. Luckily, he had a spot the next day.

I drove down to San Diego the next day to have him check it out. The doctor said it looked like a CSF leak, but luckily it wasn’t coming out of my nose or anything. The incision was already healed, so it wasn’t coming out of there either. When you get a leak like that it puts you at risk for bacterial meningitis, DO NOT WANT. I just couldn’t believe it. 2 months post-op and boom out of nowhere my head starts swelling up like a water balloon. The doctor gave me some medicine that I would take for a month. This worked to reduce pressure and or CSF production so that my head would drain that built up fluid. If it didnt work, it would be another surgery. Shit.

From that point it was a major blow to my outlook and optimism. I just could not believe it. I tried so hard to do all the right things and then I get jacked. So I started taking the medicine twice a day as prescribed. Days went by and I couldn’t see any improvement. My left side of my head just got bigger and bigger. It looked insane. It didn’t hurt, but was very uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if it would just pop one of the days. I was getting more and more bummed out. I think after 2 or 3 weeks I contacted my neurologist again and told him the medicine wasn’t helping and it was just getting worse. That lead to only one option, a second surgery. Unreal. I’d have to relive another surgery and another recovery which i wasn’t even sure I could handle, but I didn’t really have an option.

I ended up scheduling a new surgery to fix the fat graft in my head for March 11th, almost 3 months to do the day from my first surgery. This one would be much easier though. The operation would only take an hour or two and I would only have to spend one night in the hospital and then I could go back to work after 2 weeks. Sounded great but my trust was pretty non existent at that point. Oh well, no option. Surgery it was.

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My life has really changed (4)

This part of the story is about my recovery at home. My doctors said I would have a 4 week time period off from work to heal and recover. After all I had read, this sounded like too short of a time, but what did I know? I would soon find out that this part of my recovery would be REALLY difficult on me.

My first concern after getting home was sleeping. I had not slept very much in the past few days, so I was hoping I could get some real good sleep at home. Mary and I, mostly Mary, did a great job cleaning up the apartment real nice before we left to San Diego so that it would be comfortable when we got home. This turned out to be nice. Because of my surgery, I didn’t have any other choice but to sleep on my back. I am not a person who sleeps on his back, so I was worried about this from day 1. I should also mention that I had an incision on my stomach that needed to heal. They took fat from my abdomen to fill the hole in my skull. Sounded crazy to me at the time (and still does).

I’ll make this part of the story short, as it was a lot of the same stuff day after day. I spent probably a week or so sleeping about a few hours per night at the most. I was beyond stressed, probably still full of medicine, and generally a wreck. I would basically spend every single night moving from the bed the couch back and forth all night trying to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. I just couldn’t do it. I think my time in the hospital really messed with my head and I was scared to fall asleep. Top that off with through the roof stress and it was a perfect recipe to not sleep.

After days of this same thing over and over I felt like I was going insane. I would toss and turn and probably fall asleep around 3 or 4AM and then wake up around 5. I remember many days laying on the couch with my eyes wide open just waiting for the sun to come up so I could start a new day. I think I ended up buying Melatonin at some point and felt like it didn’t do anything at all. After that I was out of ideas and figured I would contact my doctors and ask them if I could get some kind of sleep medicine. They agreed and I got a small prescription of Ambien. Of course, this came with strings attached. They told me to not take it very much as it becomes addicting. Oh great. Something else to worry about.

I finally decided to take an Ambien pill one night and figured why not. This’ll knock me out and I’ll sleep for 12 hours. I took it and it really put me out…. for about a half hour. lol. I was in bed and I remember very slowly waking up to some kind of light. Mary was beside me reading her Nook and the screen is what I saw. She looked over and saw my eyes open and couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it either. This big powerful sleep pill worked for me for  half hour. Nuts. I didn’t have much hope after that, but kept taking it and started sleeping a little more, to my delight. I ended up cutting them in half though so I could extend the prescription.

So, that was the main thing in my at home recovery that consumed the first 2 weeks. I was set to get my staples out on December 23rd in an Diego. We ended up going down to Laguna Beach a couple days before that for a little getaway for a Christmas present/keep Brian sane. This was pretty nice and relaxing (sort of). I remember one night we walked down PCH to a Mexican place to get dinner. This was one of those small places with tables way too close together, but it looked good. I think this was one of the first times I experienced being deaf in one ear. There was one time the waitress came up and asked me something on my left side and I had no idea she was there. Mary had to point her out. Lol weird. In here I also learned what a pain in the ass it was to be in a crowded room with lots of chatter. It is really hard to deal with that while being single sided deaf (SSD). It’s like the one ear can’t process all that noise by itself and everything is just jumbled and gets me bummed out. Oh well, this is life now. It was Christmas time, so I knew I’d experience much more of that soon. It was also on the walk back to the hotel that I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. I guess it was too much walking. That freaked me out.

We drove down to see the docs and they checked me out. Everything looked good they said. They showed me the post-op MRI scans which showed no signs of the tumor remaining and the pooling of CSF no longer there. Awesome. Then it was time to remove the staples (26 of them). I was hoping for some fancy process, but nope, it was as basic as you could imagine. Little tool to pull them out. Thats it. Luckily it didn’t really hurt at all. I couldnt believe it, but was happy. We left there and headed home and I just couldn’t believe it. I was doing great. Just a couple weeks ago I had a giant sized tumor taking over my brain and now it was gone and I was in the clear. It was hard to handle.

After going home, we spent the next 2 weeks doing daily walks, going to check out the animal shelter, doing Christmas stuff, and playing Dr. Mario on Wii. It was a lot of the same stuff over and over, but it was fine. I wasn’t supposed to do much anyways. Christmas was good and everybody was happy to see me. The get togethers were hard for me though as I mentioned before. All the noise at the same time just overwhelmed me. Mary and I both have big families. Perfect. I think I was sleeping better around this time if I remember correctly. I don’t think it was “normal”, but it was better. I was still very cautious with things. I was not supposed to lift anything over 10 pounds. I wasn’t supposed to strain to go poopoo. I wasn’t supposed to bend over to put my shoes on. Any of these things could easily lead to a CSF leak which would come from my nose, ear, or throat. The idea of that scared the hell out of me so I tried really hard to follow the rules. To fix a leak would mean another surgery. Hell no I didnt want that.

During my recovery at home I was always looking in the mirror to make sure my head looked ok. It got obsessive. I was always looking at myself. I also would ask Mary all the time to look at my head and make sure it looked ok. It always felt ok, but what did I know? I needed somebody else to look at it too and confirm things. I think it was around this time that I started being able to sleep on my stomach comfortably. This really helped me too. One day I noticed a spot of something on my pillow right before bed and it freaked me out as I thought a CSF leak was starting. I had tried so hard to avoid this, I couldnt believe it. I dabbed my incision a few times with toilet paper and it left spots on there too. It was kind of clear-ish/red-ish. I got Mary to check it out and she saw where it was coming from and took a picture. I don’t think I slept well that night. I emailed the photo to my neurologist in the morning asking for advice. He responded back that it looked ok and was probably just an internal stitch poking out or a hair poking through. That helped me somewhat but I was still freaked out.

This was getting close to the new year if I remember correctly. It was also at this time that I started getting some swelling above my ear on the surgery side. Again, freak out. I didn’t know what the hell was happening, but it didn’t seem good. Again I asked my doctor about it and he told me to keep an eye on it and if it kept getting bigger to let him know. Yikes, not very reassuring. He did tell me that swelling at that point in recovery was not abnormal, so that did help me somewhat. It was getting close to my time to return to work (The 12th of January or something). We went up to Lake Arrowhead I think 2 weekends before going back to work to visit the sister in law’s boyfriend’s place. I was pretty nervous about the trip because I wasn’t sure how going up in altitude would effect me(especially with my head already swollen) .Luckily, there were no issues that weekend. We did do a pretty long walk around part of the lake which wore me the heck out. That was scary. Lots of snow that probably wasn’t smart for me to go trough. Lot of close calls, but no falls. Luckily I got through the weekend with no issues and that felt pretty good.

After the weekend, I started to work on getting a better sleep schedule since I’d be at work soon. I was running out of Ambien, so I started to week off of them and was doing a good job at sleeping. This made me happy that I could sleep again without aid. The other really cool thing that happened around this time is that the swelling started going down and my head was getting back to being flat. Awesome. Looked like I was healing back to normal again. What a good end to my medical leave.

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My life has really changed (3)

Surgery and hospital stay was complete.

I was out of there with tumor gone, facial nerve intact and working well, and just amazed, thankful, exhausted, scared, tired, sore, happy, nervous, everything.

After being released Friday late morning-ish, Mary and I went to a hotel near the hospital to spend the rest of Friday and Saturday. I was walking with a walker and just very slow and cautious. We got a disabled person room, which was nice. I didn’t do much of anything there. Spent a lot of time in bed just laying there. I did some of the rehab exercises that they wanted me to do. It was a lot of holding onto a wall and just shuffling side to side or trying to walk short distances in a straight line. I think I took a shower to clean off my body. There were some visitors that came too. My sisters in law and brother in law and his girlfriend.

We ate some food downstairs one time and I remember there was a fish statue on the wall that I kept seeing move. I guess there was still some drugs in me. haha. I still couldnt eat much and couldnt open my mouth very much anyways. Yogurt was a good treat! I really don’t think we did much else at the hotel. I tried to sleep. I think I got a little sleep in. It seemed like I would wake up with a loud “explosion” like sound everytime I fell asleep. That sucked and I’m glad it didnt happen for much longer. I remember being in some kind of Christmas Town at some point. Not sure if I was awake or sleeping.

Note: I feel like my memory is b ad now, so that’s why I say I “think” a lot in this story.

We were supposed to go home Saturday, but I decided I wasn’t ready so we stayed until Sunday.I think this was more of the same, not doing much of anything and just laying around and learning to walk around again.

We ended up going home Sunday and I remember the car trip being kind of hard for me. I think i closed my eyes a lot of the time. I had to ask Mary to drive very carefully because sudden movements and bumps really bothered me. my head/neck area was still very sensitive. Oh yeah, I had to pee in a bottle at one point and thankfully I took the pee jug from the hospital. I knew it would come in handy.

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My life has really changed (2)

Perhaps you have made it to this post after reading the first one.

December 9th came and Mary and I went down to San Diego to meet with the doctors one last time before surgery. I guess at that point there wasn’t much left to do. Oh, my pulse and blood pressure were high, which made sense to me. I had a brain tumor and was about to have surgery. Lol.

December 10th came around and my surgery would happen in the early afternoon. I went into pre-op around noon I think. Got all changed into my hospital clothes, got all hooked up to stuff, etc. I remember asking them if they could slip me something to chill me out and they said NO, doctor doesn’t want that in the body. Ok great. Sounds perfect. I got all the heart rate stuff hooked up and the IV done. Various nurses and doctors came by to say hi before the big show. I started to feel better actually, so that was nice. Then they wheeled me away to the operating room.

I remember being cool once I got in there, so maybe there was something in the IV that helped. I don’t know. I remember the mask going on and then I was out. The operation was scheduled to be 6 to 8 hours, so I should be done around 9PM I think.

I hardly remember waking up in the recovery room but I think I was super hot and my head hurt like hell. Mary and her mom were in there and I remember her mom kept talking to me but on my deaf side and I couldnt hear her. lol. As it turns out, the surgery took 12 hours. I can’t believe it. I feel bad for those that were waiting for me. The rest of recovery or ICU was blurry. I don’t remember too much. The main thing was being hot as heck and my vitals were jacked up super high.

I think it was in ICU that I kind of remember some stuff. I know I had a catheter in because I kept feeling like I was peeing sort of. My blood pressure and heart rate were really high. I don’t know numbers but I just remember the machine I was hooked up to kept beeping an alarm all the time and the nurse would come in and say my vitals were high. This seemed to happen all night. I was a wreck. I couldn’t sleep at all. I was freaked out, etc. A couple times I hear CODE BLUE over the speakers which is a bad thing and I had no idea if it was me or what. That was a nightmare. At some point they took the catheter out. Cool. I ended up getting transferred to a regular room sometime in the morning.

The regular room was much better for me. It was a lot more quiet and comfortable. Moving wasn’t very easy, as you may imagine. My neck/head area was very sensitive to any movement, so I did my best to stay still. I didn’t eat much in here, but I drank a ton of water. I felt like I was always thirsty. It was also in here that I had more visitors. That was nice to have, even though I couldn’t do much. I couldnt really sleep, so it was nice to have people around. Mary was with me nearly the whole time, which is probably one of the only reasons I survived.

So, this is December 11th now. I think I spent the whole day in there and didn’t do much. I know I still had high vitals. They even brought some younger type doctor or nurse guy in to talk to me and see if I needed some help or something. He was wearing a Santa hat. I didn’t have much to say except I dont like being at hospitals at all and I certainly don’t like having surgery and stuff like that. It was also in this room that I remember seeing stuff on the wall move. I guess this was because of the morphine. I tried to just keep it to myself. I was kind of freaked out.

I think they wanted me to get a MRI that night but I wasn’t sure I could do it. Didn’t think I could stay still for a half hour or however long it takes. They finally convinced me to go so I went down there (in a wheelchair). I had to wait for the person ahead of me to finish up and I got more and more freaked out. The tech got the machine prepared for me and started to take me to it when I had to stop him and say I couldnt do it. I think he was mad. Woops, sorry. I felt like I got left down on that floor for a long time… don’t know where my nurse was. It was a bummer. I was by myself in a hallway and the ground was moving thanks to the morphine. Finally the tech took me up after I waited for probably a half hour.

Another night was spent in there and I don’t think I really slept. After being poked with needles all day and having people tell me my vitals were high, my stress was through the roof. I do remember I got up one time in the middle of the night to poop, but then I didn’t once I got in the bathroom. lol.

I think it was the next morning that they wanted me to get a MRI again. I NEEDED one before I left, so I ended up doing it. I think they gave me some anxiety medicine that time though. I don’t think it helped too much, the MRI was HORRIBLE. The techs were idiots. Moving was not something I could do very easy, but I had to basically boost myself up to get on the table. That pissed me off a lot. It wasn’t easy to do and put unnecessary strain on my body. Once I got settled, which was another pain, the tech came in and told me I had to go into the other machine for some reason. I think I just about exploded. All the work to get on the table was pointless, I had to get off the table now, then repeat the whole process again. So, if you have not had a MRI on your head, basically you lay perfectly still for about a half hour on your back in a small tube and extremely loud noise surrounds you. Sounds like you are in a giant fax machine or dubstep song or something. You have to wear ear plugs its so loud. I had a towel over my face so I hopefully wouldn’t freak out in there if I opened my eyes. As it turns out, I think the morphine messed with me. I thought for sure I saw shadows of people looking at me through the towel. This really sucked but I had to do my best to stay still or else I would have to do it again. I eventually made it through, somehow.

Back to my room again and I was happy because my doctors came by and said I could leave that day. They also told me that the success of the surgery was like hitting a grand slam in a world series to win the game. They got the whole tumor out, somehow my facial nerve didn’t get damaged (They told me before the surgery I could bet on having facial paralysis. The facial nerve is right next to the hearing nerve.) and I was doing great. They even took a photo of me smiling to prove to colleagues that my whole face worked. It was unreal.

After all that I had to do a little physical therapy. They gave me a walker and I had to go around the floor a little bit. That was really tough, but I managed. When I laid back on my bed I felt my incision area drip something. Reached back and it was blood. Shit. I guess it wasn’t much of anything. They taped it up and I guess all was well. Eventually I was cleared to leave so I put clothes on and I was out of there.

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My life has really changed (Long Post)

Real talk post coming up.

As you may have read from one of my last blog posts, I am recovering from a 2nd surgery as a result of a tumor i my head.

Just a little more about it. For quite a while I had been noticing that my hearing was getting bad. I actually realized it was just my left ear and not my right ear, which I thought was strange, but I figured I must have got hit in the head too many times while playing hockey. I did get a concussion a few years ago afterall. I just figured that my hearing was going bad and “oh well”.

After that, I started to notice that my balance was getting bad. I found it hard to walk in a straight line and I kept falling while playing hockey. This really started to bug me so I ended up quitting hockey and went to the doctor. Again, I thought this was just another side effect of the concussion. Turns out it wasn’t!

I think it was August 2014 that I went to the doctor and he sent me to an audiologist. She tested my hearing and we found out that in fact my left ear was not doing so well. Right ear was pretty good still. She then suggested I get myself checked out by a head and neck specialist, probably because of the single sided hearing loss and balance problems.

I finally went to the head and neck specialist (I kept scheduling them for my off Fridays because I didn’t want to take Paid Time Off.) and he asked me if I had a CT Scan yet. I told him I hadn’t, so he said he needed me to get a scan before he could proceed. I ended up doing that, which was in October I think. About a week later they called me and told me I needed to get a MRI also. That’s when I knew something wasn’t going to be good.

Long story short, due to a date mixup I missed my MRI date and ended up seeing my head and neck guy. He didn’t seem happy that I missed the MRI, but did tell me the CT Scan showed I had a large acoustic neuroma on my left side. That is a tumor, FYI. Talk about a TON of bricks hitting me. Holy shit. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. Totally LOST. He did manage to tell me that they are typically slow growing tumors that are not cancerous, but he wanted me to go see this team of neurosurgeons in San Diego ASAP. I ended up getting the MRI after this also. Boy those are weird.

This brings us to beginning/mid November. I ended up getting a call from one of the neorologists one day as I was driving home from work. At this point I had already done some good research on the tumor and had mixed feelings about it. They are catagoried as 2.5cm being large, they are treatable with surgery or radiation, I’d be deaf in that ear, I would probably have some kind of facial paralysis, and some other fun stuff. Back to the phone call, The brain doctor called me and told me my head and neck doc sent him the MRI images and he responded with “WHOA”. Apparently  my tumor was around 5cm across. Thats double the size of what is considered large. He then informed me that because of the size and my age, surgery was the only option. This should remove the tumor but I would lose my hearing in my left ear.

After that quick power session of facts, I asked him when he thought I might be able to book a surgery date (This team does surgery once per week and are typically booked for months ahead). He told me they already booked me for December 10th. Done deal. It was crazy, in a few weeks I learned I had a brain tumor and in a month’s time I was going to have a major surgery to get rid of it.

Middle of November we went down to San Diego to meet the doctors and have a pre-op session. I guess luckily I already knew most of what to expect due to my research. This was the first time I saw the MRI images too. The tumor was HUGE. I couldnt believe it. We talked it all out and they showed me where it started growing from (8th cranial nerve which goes from my ear to my brain) and where it was starting to push on my brain stem and how it was constricting channels that help the flow of CerebraSpinal Fluid (CSF). I had a buildup of CSF in my brain, which wasn’t good. Pressure on brainstem wasn’t good either. It was really hard to take all of this in and realize it was real and I had no options other than surgery.

I guess I’ll do a new post with the surgery next…

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