Friday, April 13, 2007

Brain Surgery, Unnexpectedly

Brain Surgery, Unexpectedly
It's 1:00 AM Denver time, and I am just back from the hospital, where my mother had emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot six inches wide and a third of an inch thick. She also had major eye reconstruction surgery. She fell at 5:30 AM, on her way to the bathroom, hitting her left eye on something hard-we can't figure out what. It was clear it was bad immediately, but we were more worried about her losing the eye than anything else.

We were wrong. I followed the ambulance to the hospital, and after some tests, she was bitching about her pain, and saying only the money must keep the Denver Nuggets endure such misery, and indeed, she did look rather like a stitched up goalie. Magnificent black eyes and ragged line of stitches and all.

Then the CAT scan results came back-subdural hemaetoma, and a big one at that. Scary stuff a brain bleed.

The neurosurgeon said that since she was lucid and joking though excruciating pain, he wanted to take a wait and see approach. A second scan was essentially the same and she was lucid (though drugged and by then very unhappy. But still dictating lists of things for Dad and me to accomplish. All seemed okay. I came home for a couple of hours while Dad spelled me then went back about the time the second scan came back. The neurosurgeon said if it was his mother, he'd wait until after a morning CAT scan, and we'd see how she was doing then. Dad went home.

Mom was restless and uncomfortable in the bed but still talking to the nurse and me for another hour or so, then things began to slide downhill. Within an hour she was talking gibberish, trying to climb out of bed or yank the foley catheter out, reaching out for something or someone across the room, deteriorating so quickly in front of my eyes that, as I talked to her calmly and gently held her(only) hand down, in a small spare corner of my mind I was panicking more than ever before. I am good in a medical crisis, so I sounded calm and reasonable, reminding her over and over again where she was, what had happened, and why she could not get out of bed.

The nurse was very helpful as we tried to restrain Mom, but clearly it was time to call the doctor who arrived quickly and took one look and listen to the woman who had been joking with him about ice hockey at 4:00 PM, who was incoherent at 7:00 PM, and said he needed to operate. I called Dad, my brother Luke who lives in the Denver area, then Meg and my (emotionally fragile, bipolar) sister in Michigan, and a friend or two. The eye surgeon arrived and after looking at her eyes, announced he would be piggybacking on the brain surgery because there was a lot wrong with the eye. I am unclear about her eye problems, because I was too busy alerting the troops and praying to the Goddess that Dad and Luke would arrive before they wheeled her away.

Luckily they both did, along with Mary, Luke's wife. The surgeon pulled no punches-there were (and still are) no guarantees about her even living through the surgery, let alone what might happen if she did. We watched her get wheeled away, then retired to the waiting room Then I cried, despite the family taboo on emoting over anything. Dad got annoyed, Luke walked off, and Mary began to talk about how similar Dad and Luke's responses were-I cried until I was ready to stop, and we waited in a suspended animation of misery, for three and a half hours, until the surgeon reappeared.

Yes, she was alive, and breathing on her own, and still restless (now a good thing, because she was moving all extremities, and even almost semi-coherent in flashes. But, he added there are still no guarantees and he expects her to be very confused and more restless for several more days, then she'd need to go to a rehab place for a bit. If "nothing else happens"-a stroke, heart attack, thrombosis, and the list goes on.

But she's alive and fighting to get out of bed and we got to see her briefly after nearly two more hours in Recovery. She looked terrible, but she was telling the nurse where her chapstick was here at the house, and to go get it while she got up out of bed. We all had to give each other exhausted smiles, because, despite her confusion of place, she knew what she wanted and where it was-and she wanted it now, please.

Dad takes the first watch in the morning, and I'll go back about noon-it's almost 2:00 AM now, and I must go to bed. I just needed to write it down, share the fear and pain and struggle and hope and love today brought.

Blessings, Margo


ChasingMoksha said...

My thoughts are with you and your family Margo.

Virginia said...


We are sending well wishes to you and your mom!