What a week! Turns out multi-tasking is a little more difficult these days. It’s just a little harder to think – what used to be semi-challenging and slightly exciting to me is now a source of anxiety and confusion. Take the company picnic for example, which I’m accustomed to taking on on with a little more grit, but in this new normal I’m feeling overwhelmed. It’s a lot of planning, making lists, going to the mega stores to buy the food and supplies, etc. Fortunately, I had some help, and that was very comforting. But someone has to mastermind everything, and I was determined to keep it together. I also knew that the day of was going to be hard, and my executive functions were going to be at full capacity what with all the grills going, food prep, various people and children asking me questions, observing everything going on and seeing who needed help or had a confused look on their face.
But despite my worries and the summer heat, I got through it – with only occasional brain struggles. The picnic was a success and from what I could see, everyone had a great time (insert pleased and happy emoticon here).
I’m also preparing a five minute presentation for Monday on paraphasia, which I am currently suffering from in a minor way. I’ve never done a presentation before, and public speaking terrifies me in general. But I decided it would help my condition and also educate my co-workers. I told my speech therapist about it at our last session and she smiled and said, “You really like to take on big challenges, don’t you?” She thought maybe I could use some more time, as the main focus of the week should be picnic planning, and perhaps I should reschedule it. I said no, it’s too late, I’m on the list of presenters. Then when I showed her my extensive notes I’d gleaned off the internet, she decided I was closer to being ready than she thought and went over them with me for accuracy. She agreed that it would help me with my paraphasia. Actually, everyone I’ve told has been very supportive, so I’m feeling very confident about getting in front of about 30 of my peers with a technology I’ve never used before and talking about a communication disorder I didn’t know existed.
Gulp. But I’ll get to that after I send this out. On to the aforementioned shenanigans!
April 5: Easter Sunday and Some Light Brunch Conversation Part II
I fully expected to spend many hours in ER only to be told that it was nothing and be sent home with a prescription. My husband told me to say it was a possible stroke to get me looked at more quickly, so that’s what I told the desk person. Then I realized how ridiculous I sounded. Does a person with stroke symptoms walk up and tell someone they’re having a stroke without the aid of a wheelchair, as is the common practice when you get to emergency? This and the fact that I waited several days to say anything was enough to rule out stroke altogether. So we waited patiently in triage for someone to look at me. It would be hours before a doctor finally came, as there was the typical large amount of holiday emergencies filing in and my problems weren’t life threatening. We occupied our time watching the parade of Easter Sunday casualties, sustaining various injuries and moans of distress. Periodically, my husband would check with the nurse in charge as to our status.
Finally, a doctor came. He was young, olive-skinned with dark, wavy hair and a neatly trimmed beard and slim build. Kind of a Dr. McDreamy, actually. Exuding calm efficiency and skilled bedside manners, he asked what brought me to emergency. I looked him right in his big brown eyes and listed off my symptoms: migraines, confusion speaking, right leg being bratty. He then asked if I’d had any vision problems, and I related the Costco incident, which I forgot to mention. After that he asked me to pull his hands with both of mine, pull back my feet while he pressed on my toes, touched one side of me then the other and asked if it felt the same, looked at my eyes with a special hand held light and had me look in different directions. I think he was doing some kind of neurological testing, to see if both sides of my brain responded equally. I’d never had such an exam before, and it caused me to wonder mightily what might be wrong with me. After he was done he crossed his arms, the universal signal for a decision about to be announced.
“It’s definitely not a stroke, but I’m going to get a CT scan done to get some more information and hopefully rule out some other things. So sit tight and I’ll get that going, ok?”
Well, it’s probably nothing, I thought. They’ll do their expensive CT scan and send me home soon. My husband left briefly to call his mother in another area, leaving me alone. Then a second doctor came by, late to the party but apparently doing rounds anyway. This typically happens in emergency rooms, and you have to go through your symptoms again. He was older, and not so skilled in the bedside manner area as he said something unexpected and rude while I was describing my headaches. Let’s call him Dr. McUseless. I never saw him again after that brief exchange. Then two orderlies came and took me to the CT scan via an elevator and various hallways, and I tried to remember if I’d ever had one before.
It’s a curious thing to give up all decision making and basically hand your life over to other people for a while. The last time I traveled in this manner through hospital corridors was in 7th grade, when I was hit by a car and broke my right femur. Life is suddenly simplified to a general feeling of calm, a cool breeze from forward movement and the sound of the wheels passing over the gentle bumps and occasional rough surfaces of the floor. Kind of lovely until you remember where you are.
They left me in a waiting area to be retrieved by the techs, who took me into the room of CT scans. It was very beige and pristine. The CT machine sat in the middle of the room, curvaceous and non-threatening and I was assisted to the table that would slide into it. The whole procedure didn’t take long and when it was done the tech came out asked me what I’d been experiencing as far as symptoms. I repeated what I’d said to the two emergency room doctors but really had some trouble speaking. He noticed and said “Not feeling like your usual self, right?” I said yes, and he disclosed no more information but told me I did very well. Then I was returned to the emergency room to await the results.
Dr. McDreamy returned to my little curtained off room about a half hour later and got right to business.
“There appears to be a mass about the size of a baseball over the left frontal lobe of your brain. That’s why you’ve been having trouble speaking. That area controls speech.” He spoke very evenly and without the serious tone I was unconsciously looking for after he mentioned the word “mass”.
“ I believe it’s a meningioma, which is typically benign but I’ve contacted the brain specialists who can take it from here. We’ll get an MRI done next to get more detail and you’ll be staying overnight until it’s reviewed. Someone from that group will talk to you tomorrow about what comes next. Ok? Any questions?” We said no, that was enough to think about for now.
Well, I thought. That explains everything. Must do something efficient now to keep this all from sinking in.
To the three founders, I group texted that “I am in ER, they found a mass in my brain, will update you with more news but not coming in tomorrow.” I wondered where they were individually when they got my message and hoped I didn’t ruin their Easter Sunday. I said about the same to the band leader but ended with “Find a sub!”. Really, mysterious mass in my head. How rude of you to inconvenience so many people like this! I had some cake order people to contact too, but that could wait. I quickly updated my mom as well, and then they came for me.
An IV was started, and a corticosteroid called Decadron was administered to control any inflammation taking place. It burned as it entered my bloodstream (was NOT expecting that), and hurt worse than the IV going in. They told my husband to meet me in 8 South, then we went our separate ways.
What did he say I had? Mena..something? I was still obsessed with the word “mass” – which to me meant tumor which almost always meant cancer. I managed to put Fear in a comfortable room somewhere in my mind for possible later release and once again enjoyed the ride to unknown parts of the hospital.
It took a while to get to my destination. I was impressed with the young female orderly (man, why was everyone so young here?) who was skillfully maneuvering the Byzantine path to my room. At one point we went through a dark area of the hospital and I remembered how late it actually was – of course this area was dark and unoccupied. We then passed through a normal ward where I expected to be dropped off, but then we kept going and I saw the majestic signage of the neurological wing ahead. This was probably the first time I acknowledged what was going on and how serious matters were. However, the sign was impressive. It conveyed one message through its simulated maple and elegant silver embossed font: Rest easy, and expect nothing but the highest level of professional care.
Much like the cancer ward, where my father had spent the last days of his life. (What’s that, Fear? You just want to use the bathroom for a quick sec? Ha. Nice trick. Go piss in the bucket I left you.)
Finally we arrived at my room. My husband was there, and two male nurses helped me get comfortable. To the left of my bed was machinery monitoring my vitals and then they put leg compressors on my calves that would inflate periodically to help circulation since I was bedridden. I was instructed to ring for assistance anytimeI had to use the bathroom, or an alarm would go off on my bed if I went without help. Then they left, and my husband and I were alone again.
He looked exhausted. He asked if I was alright and then we addressed the elephant in the room, agreeing that we wouldn’t worry until we had to. “I’ll be fine,” I assured him. We both knew there was more to come, and that tonight was only the beginning. Then he left, and I was alone.
I was without him or my cat and far away from everything that made up who I was. I wondered, briefly before I fell asleep, if my father was watching over me.
I hoped so.