Tag Archives: MRI

One month

Things are starting to settle into a routine. It’s different from our old routine, but it’s better than the sheer chaos of a few weeks ago. Never fear, chaos is never more than an arm’s reach away, like say when we take a nanosecond too long to change her diaper, or, God forbid, we assume since she’s already eaten for over an hour and a half that she could conceivably go another 30 minutes without food.

But, yeh, the routine. We both have our roles. My husband is the diaper changer and burper – talents I told him are in high demand on his CV. I’m the milk machine (something like a Wendy’s Frosty machine, but warmer and not as much fun). The real treat is when we can hand her off to my mom who has the unearthly ability to calm down her from a state of breathless rage. She’s our baby whisperer.

That’s not to say that we are feeling like we just got back from a spa day (but Christmas is coming, amirite, readers?). Let’s just say that eye drops are our best friends now (and hats for when we forget to wash our hair).

We are the scene in Overboard where Goldie Hawn's character can only utter, "babababa..."

We are the scene in Overboard where Goldie Hawn’s character can only utter, “babababa…”

On Sunday morning, I had an MRI. I’ve been having some pretty potent headaches since having Squeaker and with my history it was startling.

The MRI was with contrast, so I couldn’t feed her for 24 hours. The nurses talked to me very seriously about pumping and dumping. I felt like a third-grader for laughing at the phrase “pump and dump”.

That meant that for a whole day I was liberated! Is it wrong that I felt more than a little excited, even if my freedom was the result of being shoved in a noisy tube and pumped full of IV contrast? I had really big plans for my 24-hours sans symbiotic newborn. I wanted to eat sushi…and drink a beer! Yes, a whole beer. I had a whole checklist of characteristics it had to have, too. Dark? Yes. Chocolatey? Please. Thick? Of course.

Then it snowed. What was supposed to be five inches turned into upwards of a foot of thick snow that blanketed the metro area. Minnesota used to rock the snow removal part of snow. Then budget cuts happened. So when we set out Sunday morning, the freeway had not even been plowed yet. However, in light of my fear that my brain was harboring another tumor, we set course to the hospital. (One side effect of dealing with a baby 24/7 is using overly dramatic speech like “set course”.)

Later that afternoon, after we got home, we got snowed in. I’d like the thank the Minnesota Department of Transportation for robbing me of my 24 hours of freedom…and I’m sure other people had really important things to do, too.

The good news is that the results were clear! I’m most likely suffering some type of hormonal thing. Yay? But that should go away soon, right? Right? I mean, it’s been a month.

OH MY GOD. It’s been a month. It’s her one month-vers-e-day! Happy one month, squeaker. May you soon sleep at night in your crib!

The Appointment That Almost Wasn’t Was Worth the Wait

It just worked out that I had a neurology appointment and a neurosurgery consult almost back to back today. The first wasn’t such a big deal but the latter was. It was the six month consult. The appointment that I’ve been counting down to for months. Literally. It was the appointment I had decided would signal if I should go back to Chile or forge forward here.

I arrived about 15 minutes early–just in case there was paperwork as they always say. The receptionist greeted me by name. That’s a problem, you know, when your neurosurgeon’s receptionist recognizes you and no longer asks to see your insurance card because she’s remembered that, too. Then, she looked me up in the system and sputtered, “But…you don’t have an appointment today!”

“That’s impossible. Tuesday. The 18th. At 2:00. I scheduled it months ago.”

“Ah…okay. I see that…Constance* canceled it.” *names may have been changed.

She excused herself to go ask Constance. When she came back she told me that since I’ve been in there so often (see early comment about knowing me by name), they had decided to cancel my appointment, Oh, they didn’t tell you? Come back in three months. Bye-bye now. Move along. Okay…seriously, BYE BYE. I wanted to tell her that it couldn’t be true. I mean, I had just heard my good luck songs in the hospital cafeteria in a strange mix that still included Christmas music. It was a random coicidence that meant that my appointment would go well, but I didn’t say anything.

Now, normally, I’m fairly assertive in situations like that but I think since I thought I “knew” everyone, I mumbled something about having the doctor call me and left. L told me that it’s a problem I have, the not wanting to offend anyone thing. I prefer to think of it as the Minnesota Nice side of my personality, that has been indoctrinated in me since birth, dueling with my bitchy, push and shove, Santiaguina side. One always has to win.

When I was almost to my car, I called my mom and told her what happened, my voice trembling. I’d thought about that six month appointment so much and to have it just not happen and be told to come back was anti-climactic to say the least and almost heartbreaking (thinking about staying in Minnesota–jobless and away from L for three more months).

On the phone my mom was saying, “That’s not acceptable. I want you to march right back up there and tell them that you are going to wait in that office until you see the doctor. Tell them.”

“What if he’s in surgery?”

“He won’t be. Go. Back. Up. There. Now.”

I took the elevator up the five floors, practicing my speech as I rode. I was prepared to walk in with my shoulders squared and announce to the secretary or Constance or whomever I happened to talk to that I was demanding to see the doctor because it’s not MY fault that they canceled my appointment without calling me. Then I saw the nurse, she sensed something was wrong and asked me how I was doing. Not well.

“I had an appointment and they told me it was canceled but, you know, that’s, like, a really big problem because I want to move abroad again and I need to know if I need more scans and when I can start tapering off the meds…”

My voice broke. She smiled at me like she understood. Maybe she did.

“I’ll see what I can do. Wait here.”

Oh. You can count on it.

She came back a few minutes later and told me that like *MAGIC* the doctor had a few minutes to squeeze me in between appointments.

The first thing he said when he came in the room was, “I heard you were crying in my office again. I thought I told you last time that there will be no crying in this office anymore. Right?”

He told me that all my scans, CTs, MRIs, EEGs, blood tests, etc., looked great. I can also start tapering off one of my anticonvulsants. He said he didn’t want me to have another MRI for a year. After that, if it is clear, I can wait five years until the next one. Imagine that! Five years. I’ve had five in six months and I might be able to go five years without hearing the awful clicky-grindy noise of that horrible machine. Why, that would be so normal.

Then he looked at me and said, “Now, go have a great time in Chile with that fiancé of yours.”

And so I will. I bought a ticket. I leave mid-February. Once again, I find myself embarking on an international move. See, it’s sort of this thing I do…

Why I Have to Believe that Everything Happens for a Reason

Well, I haven’t clobbered anyone lately. That’s progress for me. I have however walked into open cabinet doors a couple of times. I wonder when this “overcompensation”  for my lost senses thing will kick in? Oh well…

Today, I have a post surgery check-up with my oncologist who is basically the one who got this whole ball rolling several months ago by ordering the MRI of my brain, which I nearly didn’t go to after my flight was delayed leaving Panama.

It got me to thinking about something that I’ve blogged about before: how things seem to happen for a reason.Allow me to show you: 1. Around the time that I was getting those headaches I was having problems with a class and the jerk professor who wouldn’t answer my emails. 2. I decided to cancel the class and therefore was reimbursed all the money which I used to buy a plane ticket. 3. I bought a ticket to the US because my visa expired in Chile and I was planning on just staying long enough here to be able to go back to Chile and not have to leave again before I got married in August. 4. I got the MRI here and well you know the rest.

Now, I won’t be able to get married in Chile but I feel like that may have been okay too. My family really wanted to be there for my wedding and no one was going to be able to make my tiny wedding in Santiago. Now most of them can, plus we may even try to fly some of L.’s family in.

It’s hard sometimes to look back on what my life was and what it is. I see all my other Chile blog friends living their lives with their Chilean boyfriends or husbands and I’m thousands of miles from mine with a huge hurdle of a visa between us. In fact, it makes me feel like crying to even think about it. But, I have to keep believing that everything happens for a reason and that this too will turn out in the end.

Now, a music video from Aventura. Why? Oh because I feel like it. And because L. and I like this song. Oh and because in Venezuela, where I studied before Chile, it’s way more masculine to listen to bachata than it is in Chile.

Dang… I have library books due today. That wasn’t supposed to happen…

EEG Glue and Other Fun Times

I’ve had an awful headache since last Wednesday. That’s what the two emergency room visits were for. Well that and the uncontrollable vomiting. Sorry…TMI. I know. I’ll be more carefull.

I met with my surgeon and he looked at the CT images that the emergency room doctors ordered and said they were wrong. He said there was no indication of bleeding or scar tissue just healing brain tissue. However, to put me at ease he ordered an MRI and an EEG which I went around called an EKG for the better part of a day because I had no idea they were different. Now I have no idea what an EKG is. Something important…maybe…

The MRI went fine. It was the same MRI tech from my pre-op MRI and she recognized me even though I couldn’t see her very well and it wasn’t until she told me we had met that I remembered. In the end, she said she was no expert but she thought things looked well.

Actually, the whole reason for the tests was because my doctor thinks I’m having little seizures. It would make sense: the visions of (now they are golden retrievers), the weakness, the inability to speak a complete sentence during an “episode”, the horrible headaches which actually might be more like a seizure hangover. And here we thought normal hangovers had all the fun…

When I arrived to my EEG appointment, I was expecting to be there for only 20-60 minutes which is about the standard EEG test length according to my research. Then there was some furious whispering and I caught the words “twenty-four hour ambulatory EEG”. What does that mean? Well…I will explain. It means that those funny, looking little electrodes that they stick *painfully* on your skull and in your hair with smelly glue stay on you for an entire day not just the time that you are in the office, sitting in the uncomfortable chair reading the brochures aptly titled “What is Epilepsy?” and “How soon can you drive after your last seizure? By state”. Don’t worry, I did brush up on my seizure trivia knowledge and can now tell you that the best know seizure where the person drops to the ground and shakes uncontrollably is only one type of seizure. There are like ten or something. Maybe more.

When I left the EEG tech told me that I would look like I had a head wound for a day because she had to wrap the electrodes to protect them. The gauze was tighter than right after my surgery.  The best part was the the wires connected to a hideous fashionable little purse where the “brain” was that documented everything.

Shortly after, I ran into my surgeon who asked me if I wanted a picture with the wires and the gauze.

“Of course!”
“You’re serious?”
“Why wouldn’t I be? Someone needs to document this.”

Sorry for the picture quality. I only had my iPhone to take it with. Can you see all my wires sticking out back? The lovely graze wrap job she did came off later when I went back the the ER for the same headache. I convinced myself that the gauze was cutting off the circulation to my brain and I ripped it off like it was on fire. No one said anything. They must be used to crazy people coming in and doing even weirder things.
 L. isn’t here to help me take kick ass photos, but I tried to snap this of myself as the dog came over to kiss me. He normally doesn’t kiss me or sit by me. See, my family doesn’t like to discipline him too much. I do. Therefore he trembles in my presence, but he behaves. Yesterday he smelled my EEG machine and the gauze and actually sat on me. The cat did the same thing later. It was strange. I think animals know.

Now, I have it off for real. Although I still have chunks of smelly, hard EEG glue stuck in my hair. They recommended nail polish remover and hot oil treatments so I did that. Looks like I might need more tomorrow because I still look like I have the world’s largest dandruff chunks stuck to my scalp.

I’ll end on a happy note. Thank you to Jess from What’s the Story Morning Glory! She sent me a scarf that she made herself. That’s pretty awesome considering that we are just “blog” friends. Also, I would like to thank Heather from China to Chile! Right before my surgery, she sent me a journal and I was so preoccupied I forgot to thank her. She’s moving to Chile soon, so check out her blog.

All my blog friends have been really amazing lately. I’ve received cards and little presents from blog friends all around the world. I think that makes them “real” friends now, don’t you? Note to self: Tell L. to stop teasing me about my internet friends.

How Some Great Post-Op News Made my Day

Yesterday was a great day. It didn’t start out that way. Actually it started out with me *crabby* because the worst headache I’d experienced since I’d been in ICU kept me awake and nothing (neither ice nor Tylenol) did anything to alleviate it. I was so concerned that I called two on call doctors at the hospital and was told the same thing twice “Er… post brain WHAT pain? Er… I don’t know. You should either go to the emergency room or wait for your doctor. Yeh…” Finally, at the edge of a panic attack because I was imagining the worst, my surgeon’s nurse called me back. She assured me it was normal and reminded me that I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor in the afternoon during which he could prescribe something strong for the pain. Except due to the mastocytosis, my body can’t tolerate any narcotics. Like none. (Let’s hope I never need back surgery some day!). Then, like it knew it had caused me enough grief, the headache went away. Just suddenly and without any more drama.

Probably because of the fact that I woke up in pain and didn’t sleep, I was listless and cranky most of the day. It started out as the day where I felt the most like I had just had a huge operation. At one point, L. looked over at me and tried to order me to go take a nap (men are cute like that) to which I was all “I don’t want to!” and sat stubbornly in the kitchen doing nothing.

We went to the grocery store in the morning to make a Chilean soup that I love. (Okay, so I’m starting to miss Chilean food. You knew it would happen eventually, right?). It’s a soup with beans, squash, noodles, carrots, a little spinach, onions, and some aji de color (which proved to me trickier than we thought). Sometimes you can even add sausage to it. L. told me that was a personal taste thing, and I told him to do it. Yummmm…

At the store we once again carefully translated our list of ingredients and thought we had everything although the bay leaves that we swore we purchased never made it to the kitchen counter and we translated aji de color as red pepper. A better substitute would probably have been paprika because aji de color in Chile has very little of its own flavor. Like very little. Imagine me cooking (difficult to see, huh?) and I keep putting this flavorless, albeit colorful powder in my food because the flavor never seems to change. I know you are all mmmkay Sara so what happened? Well… I forgot to mention this little detail to L. and because I was still crabby and staring at the kitchen table he put an entire handful of red pepper in the soup. It turned out delicious, don’t get me wrong. It was just much, much, much spicier than any porotos con rienda (with or without s? L. and I couldn’t agree and neither can google!) that I’ve eaten in Chile and probably would scare off the majority of the population of the country. Fortunately for us we loved it and were too hungry to care that you had to eat it between big gulps of water.

See? Right color and all, just probably about a 6 out of 5 on the Chilean spice scale.

Also, yesterday I had my post-op doctor’s appointment with the neurosurgeon who performed my surgery. It isn’t often in the world of medicine and doctors and hospitals that you can say that you have a very good doctor who not only knows their sh*t but is a decent human being too. I wonder if it’s something about going to med school for so many years or the large paychecks that make some of them seem so cold and arrogant. Anyway, my doctor has a great personality and he’s a miracle worker as far as I’m concerned.

He told me that I’m doing amazing. I’m much stronger and my recovery seems to be healing faster than other patients he’s had with similar situations. However, he did warn me that on the scale of complicated operations mine was a 9 out of a 10 and that I should expect to feel tired and I should expect to rest for a month, or maybe even two or three.

He even joked around with me. It was almost like he had read an entry in my blog but he seemed to know exactly how much research I had done on my own about my case, him, the hospital and all my medications. He was like, “Sara, a piece of friendly advice: Stop reading so much and trust people more. I’m on top of this so you don’t have to worry.”


Then, the nurse came in and removed the staples from my head which hurt a lot less than I thought it would. At first she said it would be like a wasp sting so I held on to L. forearm and squeezed tightly anticipating the pain and never even felt it.

I found out I do have titanium plates and screws in my head now but I can still go through the metal detector unlike a granny who just had a hip replacement. The doctor was all, “I did not turn you into an old lady! You will go back to being a fully functional twenty something in a few months.”  Good deal. He added that I should even travel for at least three months and strongly advised me not to live abroad for the next couple of years because they will need to monitor me closely.

He did also add that he doesn’t want me to do much of anything for the next three months at which point I will have an MRI and they can determine how my brain is healing. That includes working and exercise. Honestly, I was bummed, but I’m trying to take it like a forced vacation. He did say that he thinks I should be healthy enough to resume my MBA classes in September which is great news because I would also like to take a medical Spanish interpretation course at the U of M. However, he basically said not to be afraid to rest and take it easy and not to get frustrated with only small progress on some days. It’s like when I was in the hospital and they wrote my daily goals up on the white board that hung across from the bed where I was chained to a million machines. The sign read “1. Sit up in chair. 2. Eat. 3. BM” The final one took me a while. I was all BM? BM? What the eff is a B….oh! Awkward. You mean all my visitors know that? Great.

Wow…I’ve written a novel here. I should probably get going because L. and I are off to the airport to pick up my globe-trotting brother and his girlfriend.