It seems hard to believe but it’s been 2 years ago today that Marvin left the building. That brain surgery was completed on me. That I pulled through (!), and came through it with some (most?) of my marbles intact (the jury’s still out on that one). In some ways it seems like a long time, in others it seems like just yesterday. I spent some of today remembering the events, sights and smells of 2 years ago (actually not all of it, heck I was ‘out of my mind’ for a good part of it). I remember the overpowering antiseptic smell of a hospital, and the smell of my own fluids (yah, that blood thingie coming out of my head). I remember the anesthesiologist, Dr. Joyner and his gentle talk to acquaint me with his profession (and what he was gonna do to me). I remember being wheeled into the operating room, and someone looking down at me upside-down as I faded out.
I don’t remember anything of the pumpkin-head carving, the spooning out of Marvin (and other parts) from my noggin, and nailing my bone back like a tire patch. Thankfully! I do remember talking to my BFD Dr. Edy before, and in the days after the surgery. I remember the recovery room, and Matt the nurse who was so great. I remember Michael singing, CJ and Nicole by my bedside, Lisa hovering nearby, and about 50 I.V.s in each arm (at least that’s what it seemed like). Talking it over with Nicole today, I realize I hadn’t noticed the move from recovery room to the Intensive Care ward where Amy and Jeff joined Michael in singing to me and praying with me (at least I think I was praying, I’m pretty hazy about that time).
I remember waking up in the ‘Step-down’ care with a tube sticking out of my head attached to a bag of sticky icky. The infamous brain-drain. And the railroad tracks of staples all across my shaved head. And thankfully a day (or more, who knows – not me!) later with my wonderful friend’s help (Janet, you were awesome!) getting into a private room with just enough room for a few visitors at a time. I remember seeing Hemant, Barry, and CJ and a few of his friends – sorry guys I know there were three or four of you but I only remember seeing Amin, Rahul and Nick. I’m sure I had more visitors, but I was on a lot of drugs, so I get a pass for not remembering too well – heck I had a hole in my head! I have actually used that excuse hundreds of times, Nicole now just rolls her eyes when I say it. I remember drugs and the vampire nurses – shots in the stomach every hour on the hour, and finger pricks as often or more. I remember running out of fingers, not being bothered by needles anymore (shell-shock?). Oooh and I remember those wonderful leg massagers!
Ok, enough memory lane, let’s catch up. My last post was back in January at the 16 month mark. I had just given up the cane and was starting to drive. I’d started seeing Dr. P., my wonderful Osteopath who I still see monthly now, and was slowly working my way back into…work. Fast-forward to the end of May, when CJ came home fresh out of freshman life. I think it was about then that I decided I needed to assess my physical health. Got gingerly on the scale and gulp! had to move the big weight over. That was ugly. Absolutely horrible. A year and a half of being ‘in recovery’ from brain surgery and all the wonderful food family and friends were continuing to help me blow up like a balloon. Time to do something about it.
So I got myself an app (of course, what else!) – MyFitnessPal and started recording everything I ate. I also decided I’d had enough of being a total slouch and resolved to get back to some exercise. I have to crow, when I put my mind (haha) to it, I can get stuff done! In the space of a few weeks, I dropped a quick 12 pounds and got 10k steps in daily without breaking (much of) a sweat. Also restarted some core exercises and some light weights. Did I mention that Nicole got me to be her yoga buddy? We found the amazing Stacy who’s been shepherding us through beginner yoga, thanks! Over the next 3 months to today, I’ve lost a total of 23 pounds from that weight-moving apocalypse. I’ve dragged out some shorts I couldn’t have fit into before, and am now putting in 4 mile quick walks almost every morning. I’m working on walking really fast, which is the best I can do. My balance and head just isn’t up to scratch to try running or biking. But dare I crow about it – I’m now doing under 15 minutes per mile?
So my resolve is firm, I want to lose the rest of it and get back to my ‘fighting’ weight. Actually, even under that – I’m publicly stating that I’d like to be 160 at 60. I secretly hope to be there by the end of 2015. I have an eating and exercise habit going now, and you’ll see me whip out my phone at mealtimes to record what I eat. Ok, that can be annoying I know. Sweeter, Nicole and CJ got me an Apple Watch to help track my exercise. Thanks! I wear it all the time, it’s the first thing I put on when I wake up and the last thing I take off before sleep. I love the almost automatic exercise monitoring and how it feeds right into MyFitnessPal.
So 2 years out and where am I? I still have some issues. Still have balance problems, have trouble anytime my head goes lower than my heart (so my yoga poses are pretty silly), have nasty tinnitus that still works against a good night’s sleep, and still can’t take a crowd. It seems like I’ve turned from an extrovert into an introvert – I can’t handle even small crowds of people and multiple conversations going on at the same time. Just a few minutes of that and the old headache starts pounding up against the inside of my skull. But I force myself (sorry everybody, I don’t mean that the way it sounds!) to join in with friends and put myself into crowd-like situations. I keep hoping it’ll get better, and I do think I’m improving a bit. My coping mechanisms are my noise-cancelling headphones, which makes it look like I’m ignoring people and listing to music (but I’m not). And having Excedrin close by. Oh, and I continue to wear my Captain Underpants headgear (cold packs in a white turban) to keep the lego pain-meter down below a 5. Remember that pain-meter? Oh and one more thing, I have about a 50-minute limit on what I can handle driving. Which is just enough for me to go one-way to CJ at UMBC – either coming or going but not both. Over the summer I tried to help out driving to the beach, but didn’t last very long (it’s a 3-hour drive), so poor Nicole had to do most of it. I hope that continues to improve, just a few months ago it was a 20-minute limit.
Other than those few issues, I think I’m pretty much back to ‘Chris normal’ – or maybe something close as I don’t think the hearing issues are going away anytime soon. That ear guy (audiologist) says there’s no cure for tinnitus and my sensitivity to loudness and multiple conversations hasn’t abated much at all, if any. But enough about me. Nicole is having a high-stress blast in her sorta-new job. No more world-traveler, she hardly has any air-miles this year. But a lot more in-car miles as she seems to be always on her way to or from a meeting. And still puts in a full day on the phone – everyday. I worry about her ears! CJ is now a sophomore in college and doing just great, aside from the pain of having his wisdom teeth removed and the neckstrain of hunching over a computer screen.
So as my good friend Barry would tell me, a lot of steady improvement over the last two years, easily measured by anyone who’s not me. Just goes to show you that brain surgery is survivable and recoverable – it just takes time. And the (literally!) tons of love and caring from my wife, son, family, friends and neighbors. I’ve been so fortunate to be blessed with riches in that department. I’m now looking forward to year 3 of the Marvin Recovery Machine (MRM) and perhaps even more improvements – where’d I put those nanobots!
- Where’d my infirmity go?
- Major Milestone, Tears of Joy