The Plan

I was trying to hold back my super excited smile and just be calm as I shook my new doctors hand. He asked if I knew why I was at UT and if I understood clearly what has been going on with me.. up to that point, I don’t think I did. We decided to go through my CD’s of scans together when the doctor noticed that I was missing one.. the most important one of all of them.. the very first angiogram I had done in the early AM hours of the 21st. I was mad. “I don’t trust reports, I trust pictures, and I have no way of knowing how you looked before surgery if I don’t have that first picture to compare these new ones with… So lets take a look at your most recent picture.” We pulled up the very last Angiogram and I received some very different news. The most recent angiogram shows an artery in my brain that is much larger than normal, and what he could see, was that it had stretched out because of all the extra blood being squeezed into it. Arteries are stronger than veins, and although they are stronger and can take more without leaking, you still don’t want an artery to overwork itself for such a long time.

“..Dr.x put out the fire. He did what he needed to do to save your life because if you had continued to hemorrhage or wait for a referral, you would’ve died. Blood cannot sit around or within your brain without killing you. In surgery it’s already such a mess because of the blood and the cleaning up that we have to do, so I can see how he could not remove all the AVM, and thats why we are here looking at this arteriogram. You have an artery that is much larger than it is supposed to be. We have treatment options and the one that would be best for you is Radiosurgery. What we do is we numb you up and place your head into a head pin so that it stays very still. The reason we numb you is because picks are screwed into your skin to ensure that your head will not move. We also give you anesthesia so that you’re sleepy, but you don’t fall asleep, and then we place a machine that sends a beam of radiation to the area that we need it to be in. What we are trying to do is sclerose(harden) the area so that is closes off. The thing about that, is that it takes 1-2 years to see if it actually worked. It’s like reheating a biscuit in the microwave. You cook it and it stays warm for a little while before it begins to slowly harden up, and that’s what happens with Radiosurgery. Now if it doesn’t work and another craniotomy is needed then the risks will be higher for you. The chance of you losing more or all feeling on your right side is much higher than it was before when you had your first craniotomy. It could also take you longer to be able to regain that feeling, and the healing process will be longer because we would have to go through all that scar tissue that has already formed and that scar tissue is what creates these risks. But, the chances of you recuperating and getting back to walking and doing everything you are able to do now, are much higher than they were before your stroke, because your body has recovered..”

I took deep breaths and smiled throughout our conversation to make sure I didn’t let all my emotions get a hold of me. I thought my first set of doctors were amazing for everything they did for me and now I have this new set of doctors here with even more treatment options and better explanations. I felt safe. I felt ready to weigh out my risks and if I need to have more brain surgery, I am confident I will achieve what I already have in healing, and much more.
My dad, Ricardo and I left the room with more hope in our hearts. What we were initially nervous for, turned out to be one of the best doctor appointments in my life and I’m sure their nerves were settled by all this news. This will be home and I am so happy with UT Southwestern and their Neurosurgery team.

Before we left the hospital I stopped in the ladies room to throw some water on my face before we went to lunch. I stared into mirror in complete silence with nothing but my thoughts.. I won’t ever forget that feeling of defeat laying in that hospital bed, when I held myself back from trying, with all my might, to move my leg because the pain it caused was excruciating. I remember laying in that bed staring at my phone and wishing my life was different, wishing I was somewhere else. I remember being immobile, and nervous, and confused as to why I couldn’t speak as fast as I normally did or why I wasn’t punctual as I normally was. It took me a couple of days to be able to use my hand/arm and it made me worry. Seeing my arm move so slowly and feeling how tired the muscles would be after trying to grab something off my bedside table was discouraging. I wondered if this was going to be my life, and that the hemiparesis would be permanent. I won’t forget how often I told my brain that my leg, torso and arm actually belonged to me and I’m still trying to convince it.

The discouraging, fearful thoughts I had are what pushed me and continue to push me to go for it. Go for everything. Live life and continue to heal. Life has changed and life will continue to change and I have to be the bigger person, stay positive and see the good in everything.

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