Ricardo and I had gotten into an argument and there we were, 6am sitting in an empty lobby not saying one word to one another. Was this the way I wanted to start my day out? No. Of course not.
Ricardo was going to have to wait until all the procedures were completed before he would be allowed down into my room on the floor below. Sitting in the silence, I thought about how calm my day was supposed to go and how these were those moments before procedures where my significant other is supposed to hold my hand and calm my nerves before having to leave my side.. but this is real life and in real life, things get in the way of the big picture, blurring whats important and leaving more focus on moments that don’t need as much attention as they actually get from us. Smiles from staff walking by and watching other couples start to come in and out made me feel restless, so I ran off to the ladies room for some silence to clear my head.
6:30am came around and the nurse that we met with the day before walked over to us from the elevator and asked if I ready to be taken down for my day to begin. No I wasn’t really excited or ready for it, but I just wanted the day to be over already. I separated from Ricardo, handing him my purse and walking toward the elevator. As we rode down the elevator and walked to my room the nurse reminded me once again that I would be the only patient on the floor today, and that if I needed anything to not hesitate to ask. When I got into my room, I was given a gown, and as you know, thats the symbol for letting you know things are going to happen and they’re going to happen fast.
Before I knew it, I had 2 needle pokes from one nurse, an IV running, fluid being hooked up by another nurse, and 2 doctors in my room explaining procedures while placing the frame for the gamma knife procedure on my head. It felt like things were moving more quickly than I anticipated and I’m not sure if it was actually time for the sedative or if they could sense I felt rushed, but all I knew was after a minute, I felt heavy and completely relaxed in my state of complete chaos.
The doctors were getting ready to start to screw the head frame in when all of a sudden I felt what the doctor described as bee stings.. Ive never been stung by a bee and it wasn’t pleasant. These bee stings were actually the injections of Lidocaine so that I wouldn’t feel the screws going through my skin and stopping at my bone. This headframe was hilarious, It looked like what braces used to look like in the old days, but massive and very heavy. The frame stays in place because 4 screws hold it steady in place by anchoring to your skull bone. Creepy, yes. Painful? At the time, No. I was having a great time and laughing along with the doctors jokes while they constantly encouraged my selfie taking. Finally! I thought! I am in a hospital where they feel so comfortable about their procedures that they actually let patients record their experiences. Instead of taking the actual pictures, I was taking video of myself while watching the doctors continue to screw the headpiece into place.
After about 15 minutes, or longer, who knows, I was sedated... We started trying on some “hats.” 1 hat looked like a plastic bucket and other looked almost like a space helmet with holes and numbers all over it. The doctors made sure they fit over my head and while the astronaut one was on,they started taking measurements through the holes I just mentioned.
“Are you ready for your MRI?” … “Sure!” I replied with sluggish excitement, not as if the question was an actual choice for me. My MRI took about 10 minutes but was actually a pretty loud experience. In my first MRI, I was given headphones and a choice of Pandora Radio station to listen to, to take my mind off the machine. I was also given a helmet looking thing with a mirror attached to it so that I could see the techs, and it was supposed to make me feel less claustrophobic. Well not this time. I sat onto the MRI bed while doctors pulled me into another larger frame that my headframe fit through. I knew it was going to be quick so I didn’t think I would mind, but the machine was even larger and louder than the MRI back home. The techs kept speaking to me over the intercom and reminding me that I would be done soon. In my first experience the machine honestly sounded like a disco going on in the next room, but in this one, the machine made these noises that sounded as if it was going to fail. I was beginning to count to see how long I was going to be in there and was more than happy when the bed started moving me out of there..
I started to feel even more tired when the doctors said I would be wheeled to another room. All 4 doctors came along and were actually taking me to the rooms and helping me on and off the beds. This is something I had never experienced before, and I’m glad they were being so hands on. I felt special, and I feel like I really needed it that morning. I was starting to feel more tired when the doctor said he was giving me some more medications.. I only had about 5 hours sleep the night before, and I started to wonder what Ricardo was doing upstairs. If he was having breakfast, or if he was fast asleep in a chair.. or maybe he was outside smoking a cigar, possibly trying to calm his nerves for the day without me.. I guess I had fallen asleep because the next room I woke up in was the angiogram room.. and I was not excited about it.
The angiogram room was really similar to the one I had been in multiple times back home. Huge, same wall-e looking machine, and same cold temperatures. I was placed on the table and given a pillow so I didn’t strain my neck or head. I always enjoy a team that is excited to come to work and do what they do, and it’s unfortunate that I fell asleep during the procedure, because I wasn’t able to fully experience my 4th angiogram. Of course I was happy that I was asleep and sedated through the pain, but I wasn’t able to make a connection with the people that I could possibly be seeing more often.
After being moved back onto my bed and leaving the room, I was feeling really exhausted. It was about 11AM and I had been laying down all morning. Between the medicine, no food and no Ricardo, I was feeling restless and all I wanted to do was see Ricardo. But finally the last procedure of the day had come.. The Gamma Knife.
The Gamma Knife room was buzzing with people talking and there was now a total count of 7 personnel in my room, which included a radiology intern. The machine that does the gamma kinfe looks exactly like the machine that you are placed in when you are receiving a CT scan. After the angiogram I was given a “Flat time” of 4 hours, flat time is the amount of time that you are required to lie flat and still while your artery is healing from the puncture wound from the needle and catheter. The results from the MRI&Angiogram came back, and my Gamma Knife would be a 2 hour long procedure today. The longest is typically 6 hours. The two lead doctors were placing my head into a larger frame, and placing the clear plastic hats on my head while a nursed asked if I wanted to play some music while I was having my treatment done.. and what do you know, I set up a playlist full of music that I love, ranging from Kaskade, Holic, Marvin Gaye, Fleetwood Mac to Coldplay. Calming music was everything I needed at that moment. The doctors said I wouldn’t even notice the machine running while turning up my music and handing me a remote. After everyone left the room, there was a series of calming beeping noises, and then the doctors let me know over the intercom that the procedure had begun.
Soothing music from Corinne Bailey Rae came on and a few minutes in, I started thinking about how much change has happened to me this year. Around this time last year, I was wondering who I was and trying to find myself in a sea of a different kind of chaos.. and although things have drastically changed for me socially, the chaos still hasn’t found its way out of my life. I layed there, and wondered if I would ever become healthy enough to have a demanding job, a kind of profession that calls for very few sick days and high energy for problem solving. I wondered if children were ever going to be an option for Ricardo and I. In all honesty, we have already decided our childrens names, thats if the day ever comes that we are blessed with the gift of a child of our own. The weight of everything that was going on in that room in that moment in time wasn’t easy to deal with, and it never is. But it’s what makes me, me. High stress and constant problems have never left my life, even when I was just a little girl. There has always been some kind of stress, but that stress shapes me and molds me into the person that I am, and all I can offer to anyone is my best.
Somewhere between Micatone and Norah Jones, I noticed I had fallen asleep and restless leg comes no where near when describing the sensations I was feeling from my legs. It was around 1pm and over the intercom, they let me know I had about 15 minutes left to go. I was not having it. My head was anchored in place but all I wanted to do was roll over and stretch out. Ive never been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, but I swear I have it. I was become so angry and mad and frustrated with laying down that I made the decision to start wiggling my legs and tensing my leg muscles for relief, which is actually something that you do not want to do after an angiogram because it could cause the artery do begin to bleed under the skin. I was hoping they would give me medicine to fall back to sleep, but no one could enter the room while the machine was running. My frustration led to watery eyes that led to that helpless feeling of not being able to move myself when I want to. I was beginning to focus on the music and the machine had repeated the same calming tones and the doctors came into the room.. I was done!!
Everyone who walked in had a job to do. I noticed after I was moved out from the machine that all my hats were coming off. The doctor had leaned me forward just a little bit while screws were being taken out of my skin. Everyone had their hands on my head and face and I was pissed. Not to mention that the wounds from the screws hurt and they hurt BAD. We were on the last screw when I felt something spray onto my face and I turned quickly after it ran over my eyes. It was blood and it would not stop bleeding. The screw had hit a blood vessel and for 20 minutes, the dr had to hold his body weight against my forehead puncture wound to get the bleed to stop so that I wouldn’t need a stitch. Everyone kept congratulating me and telling me how great I did and although I was grateful, I just wanted some peace and quiet.
I was moved back into my room and was given graham crackers and apple juice, as you know, apple juice is my favorite thing to drink while in the hospital. I still had about an hour left of my flat time and finally, after being situated and elevated just a little, I was left in peace to rest with no one around poking at me or watching me on security cameras. I missed Ricardo, the nurse had been in constant contact with him all throughout the day, letting him know how I was doing and where I was next. I grabbed my phone and started snapping photos to see what I had looked like. As you can see, I wasn’t happy. The nurse knocked on the door and asked if I was ready for Ricardo to come down and 5 minutes later, he arrived with a chicken pasta salad and a smile. At this point I had forgot all about our argument and was tearing up because I was so excited to see him, thats all that mattered to me for the rest of the day, him, food, and our alone time together.