Date: Sunday January 26th, 2014
Location: 6th floor of Shannon Medical Center
Time: 8 AM
8 AM, My very loving aunt and other members of the family had also stopped in throughout the week and she had texted me the night before, letting me know that she was going to send a stylist in that morning to come do my hair. Can’t say I didn’t appreciate the kind gesture. I was finally able to sit upright without getting too dizzy so it gave me the opportunity to take a much needed hot shower. It was the day before surgery, I wanted to look proper.. and cute for Ricardo.. before the big show happened. I watched TV and before I knew it, it was 2 PM. It was safe to say that the stylist wasn’t showing up.
3 PM, My mom showed up with my hair straightener, hairspray, Biosilk oil and we got to work. I don’t remember the last time my mom did my hair but I do know that it had been years.. it was really nice and if something went wrong tomorrow then I thought it would be a nice memory for her to have. I was all smiles. I have been straightening my curly hair for 10 years so going natural was definitely not something I embraced very often. While she was straightening, I watched TV, sometimes I would feel a little nervous but only when I thought about the recovery process and how much pain I would possibly be in while in ICU.
4 PM, The day went on and there was quite a few people coming into my room to wish me good luck on the big day. There were prayer groups, phone calls, nurses, assistants, friends, family, my dad with a few of his family members.. and me with a big smile on my face thanking them for their time and prayers. I was trying to not get overwhelmed with the amount of support Ricardo and I received daily. People coming in and the posts on Facebook/Instagram were all so amazing, I felt like I was a part of a group again and that this group was helping Ricardo and I to remember our strengths during our long hospital stay. The gestures were so incredible and sweet and I never thought that so many people would stop and take the time to acknowledge what was happening. I was so humbled. I thought about the way I saw the world before, and how I used to want to protect myself from not being kicked while I was down again. I decided I was going to come out of the hospital and appreciate life, appreciate the leaves, the air, the sound of the city, and the love that surrounded us.
11 PM, Ricardo and I spent that never-ending night talking to each other, our happiness never left our faces. I gazed at him while I thought about all the challenges hes seen me face, and how he has never let me come close to hitting the ground in defeat, and here he was again, walking right next to me, ready to catch me through it all. He does a great job at reminding me of my strengths, and coaches me how to come out on top when I’m weak. He reassured me constantly that we were going to come out on top again. All the talking made us tired and we ended up falling asleep around 2 AM that morning.
HOUSTON, WE ARE READY FOR LIFT-OFF.
Date: Monday, January 27th, 2014
Location: 6th Floor of Shannon Medical Center
Time: 7 AM
T-minus 3 hours. The door to my room opened and I snapped wide awake from my comfortable sleep. I looked at the clock while my dad quietly walked in and behind him were the phlebotomist’s from lab. I was sick of lab already, twice a day they would come in and stab me, usually blowing out my veins and leaving bruises everywhere. They drew more blood than they usually did, made sure I had my blood bands on and as soon as they left, I felt nerves ignite in my stomach. My dad moved some blankets over and sat next to me on the left side of my bed, trying to stay as quiet as he could because Ricardo was still sleeping. He gave me a kiss on the forehead and asked how I was feeling, asked if I had prayed at all last night and sat there to watch TV with me. I was watching Ricardo sleep and then loudly said “GOOD MORNING!” to try to wake him up, he slowly opened his eyes, the sunlight making his ever-so-dreamy caramel eyes glow, and the first thing he did was look my way to show me his handsome smile.
T-Minus 2 hours. My mom came in with my sister and everyone sat around me. My mom is sort of like the cat lady. Or maybe she is qualified to be the cat lady? We have about 10-13 cats, 2 are trained enough to sleep inside when they want to but the rest are friendly outdoor only’s that used to be the stray alley cats. We spay and neuter all of them before they can multiply. She told me about how all the cats were just sitting and staring at the back door, as usual, waiting for my mom to come outside feed them. I am attached to a few of the fatties but my favorite is a male gray tabby, named Tom. I asked what Tom was doing and where Red.. an male orange tabby that we now own who was left behind by a family.. was sleeping. She told me how he was cuddled up next to my moms mother-daughter dogs, Puggy and Thwiddles, who are hilarious looking. They are golden lab and chow. Ricardo laughed at me saying again how he didn’t understand where I came up with those names for them, and honestly I don’t know either but when you see them you just understand how well the names fit them.
I was so happy and surprised to see my 80-something year old grandma walk in with my aunt! I missed being in the house with her. I had talked to her over the phone almost every other night and she would name people from all over the US and Mexico that were praying for me. She has been spiritual her entire life, she does not watch anything other than the news and only listens to recordings of choirs singing at church. She would tell me scriptures and what to say in my mind before any procedures were about to begin. My grandma only speaks Spanish, but she told me to repeat something that translates to how the Lord is the ultimate doctor, and although a team of people would be performing procedures, it was the Lord who guides all of their hands. I don’t speak Spanish, but I understand her. Once I saw her, I felt like I was in her care again, Ricardo quickly moved out of the way so she could walk to my bedside. She grabbed my head, gave me a kiss on my hair and held my hand. She reminded me that my trust in God was valuable and to never doubt or have fear in his plans for me. My grandma began to restore the strength throughout the room as she read passages from my late-grandpa’s bible, and as she read you could begin to see relief and smiles appear on everyone’s faces.
T-Minus 1 hour. Time was getting closer and closer, the nurse told my mom to get all my things together while I went the ladies room, as I would not be returning to this room after surgery. There was 6 people shuffling around in the room and I couldn’t focus, so they all laughed when I yelled through the bathroom door, jokingly telling them to be quieter. When I returned to my bed, nurses would come into my room to take vitals and then I finally got my instructions from the surgical staff on what would happen when I would leave the room. Basically, at 10am or a little later, they would send someone from the surgery/recovery floor to take me to a holding room. In that room I would meet with my doctor, his assistant, the anesthesiologist and the assigned nurse, who would be monitoring my surgery and report the status of things back to my family every hour. They instructed that only 2 people were allowed in my holding room and that the waiting room was just around the corner from it. They left the room and I turned the channel to TCM and the Three Stooges were on. This was the life.
APPROX 10:45 AM, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t realize what the time was.. I had been looking at the clock every 5 minutes after I saw it hit 10 AM. No one would acknowledge the fact that they were late even though we all knew it and embraced it as extra time to prepare ourselves for a long day ahead of us. I was just about to check the clock again when the door clicked, my mom saw the suited up techs and enthusiastically said, “They’re here.. are you ready!?”. I WAS READY. The brakes were released from my bed and my lip started to slightly quiver from nerves, before anyone noticed I tensed up and released a slow deep breath. I adjusted my focus and began to do the praying that my grandma told me to do quietly to myself, and I was wheeled out of my room with everyone behind me.
APPROX 11:30 AM, I made it down to the 4th floor room with my parents and was immediately greeted by my nurse and her assistant. She began to read me the release forms when I started to have some anxiety.. I sucked it up and signed where she told me to. I felt like I was missing something, so I asked my mom for her cell and texted Ricardo that I wanted him to come into the room. I lit up when he peeked his head in and came to sit next to me. All anxiety was gone.
APPROX 12:05 PM, TCM was on and I was back to watching the Three Stooges with my mom, my dad, and Ricardo next to me. The doctor came in to greet me while he took out a purple marker and marked a huge X on the right side of my forehead at the hairline. We went through the steps of the cutting and burning and recovery and then asked me if I would like to pray. I paused because I wasn’t sure what he said, pleased, I replied “Sure!”. I felt like it was not a coincidence but an act of God that his prayer resembled my Grandmas, as if it was his sign to me that he was here and I was in his hands now.. I can still remember what he said, word for word… “Dear Lord we ask you to keep Brittany safe in surgery today while a craniotomy is performed on her, We ask you to watch over us, be our eyes and guide my hands so that we may remove this arteriovenous malforation that caused this intracerebral hemorrhage, located in the left frontoparietal of her skull so that she may recover from the hemiparesis she is experiencing on her right side, and father we pray that you will give her strength and have her living her normal life again, in Jesus name we pray, AMEN.” I had smiled throughout the prayer because of how it was so normal for him to incorporate the medical terminology of what I was diagnosed with into the prayer. He said a few more things needed to be completed before surgery began and left the room.. so we sat and played the waiting game.
Shortly after, we heard a knock on the door, our favorite assistant came in and began to explain how he would be placing these markers… that looked like giant white lifesavers.. on different points of my head, it would require shaving different areas of my hair, which I didn’t mind. I had about 6 markers placed on me and I was curious to see myself so I had Ricardo take a picture. I looked hilarious.. I started to think of them as cheerios and it instantly made me hungry for delicious wheat cheerios.. A tech from radiology walked into my room while the assistant told me that these markers were going to be very important reference points while I was in surgery, so he told me to not touch them or move them whatsoever. Leads would be attached to these markers and they would send signals, basically turning my head into a GPS, so that the surgeons could see on several machines exactly where they were inside my skull. I would be sent down for a CT scan with the ‘cheerios’. He left and I was wheeled to the freezing first floor into my scan.
APPROX 12:45 PM, On the way back from my CT I noticed another older patient with these same markers on the same side of his head as mine were, I felt like this was my lucky neuro day at the hospital. I asked the guy pushing me if he was going to see my brain in surgery today.. he laughed and said No. I was a little disappointed, I really wanted someone to explain to me what my brain looked like to them after surgery.
Alright so it’s the big game and everyone is getting into their chairs, watching the teams run out while announcers talk in the background. Everyone is smiling, pumped, joking around and making threats and bets against each other. You can tell immediately that it’s gonna be a good game with all the people who are in the room. The national anthem starts and you know the kick-off is near.
1:15 PM EXACTLY I wasn’t sitting there for very long before 2 people suited in surgery attire walk in and tell me I was now headed into surgery. I was just thinking about how astronauts get in the shuttle and wait 2 and a half hours before they are actually instructed to prepare for lift-off. I immediately formed a huge Cheshire cat smile on my face, my skull was finally going to be to be sawed into, the tissue under it split open, the bleed drained, the brain exposed and the entire problem fixed. I was wheeled into the hall after I got a hug and kiss from each Ricardo, mom and dad, they told me good luck and I began my prayers.
I headed down the hall into the double doors that take you into another set of pass-code locked doors. You could smell the sterile air as the temperature immediately dropped from 60 to 30 degrees, IT WAS FREEZING. I ended up in front of a huge 8-foot wide set of double doors with windows that read ‘OP Room 3’. I was so excited when they opened the doors up. The room was enormous. Huge robotic machines hung around the room, a huge magnifying machine was draped off to the right side, a HUGE flat screen stared at me through a sterile looking box, familiar sets of round lights were over the table that I was about to lay on and then I saw something like a room with computers like the ones you see down in radiology. It was elevated so I couldn’t see through but it seemed like there was an operating room on the other side. I couldn’t remember anything like this when I had a Total Thyroidectomy, so I was so excited when I woke up in recovery and remembered this. I was placed on the table while smiling eyes stared at me through plastic face protectors, I peered over and asked if all the tools were for me, there were so many, clamps, clips, sharp things, weird things, shiny things spread out over 4 picnic sized tables draped in blue sheets. I looked over to the anesthesiologist, smiled said hello again, then asked when the anesthesia was going to be administered.
The next thing I remember was waking up in ICU with an intense headache and extremely sore throat.. little did I know that we had a problem.