Brain surgery and other scary things.

A reminder to live fully.

A reminder to live fully.

A few years ago I had brain surgery. The right branch of my carotid artery had an aneurysm, big enough to need surgery. I am alive because I have a clip (I call it a paper clip) on my artery.  The MRI also found a second aneurysm on the left branch of my carotid artery. Since then it has been checked regularly with an angiogram. I can’t have another MRI as the magnetism could  pull the clip out, or at least dislodge it. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

These were found by accident. I had no symptoms, but had complained to my doctor about my ear- feeling blocked,  giddiness, pain when I flew… it was probably sinus, but just to be sure…The ear was fine, but…I had an aneurysm. MRI, visit to a brain surgeon…too big to ignore, must be operated on.

Found by accident? Or one of the many blessings and miracles of my life?

Tantrum from me. Definitely did not want brain surgery. Handouts from the hospital- skull with piece cut out pictured on front. Threw it away, without reading. No one was going to do that to me.

great scar, shame about the hair.

Date set. The ninth of July. Uh oh. My most auspicious date, my day of celebrating my re-birth. How could this be anything but positive? Coloured my hair plum. After all, it was going to be shaved so I could experiment. A nasty colour, for me.

Brain surgery. It was too big to get my mind around. An aneurysm. It was too scary to contemplate, so I didn’t. The reaction of other people surprised me. They seemed to think this was significant, urgent, frightening… It wasn’t until afterwards I began to hear the stories: the young woman who had died on my local beach- an aneurysm had burst; the man who was now paralysed down one side, an aneurysm had bled…I had protected myself by closing my eyes to the reality.

Brain surgery. Yes, but they weren’t really operating on my brain were they, only an artery. Afterwards, checks every hour. What’s your name? What’s the date? (Who knows? I’ve had an operation, been in Intensive Care.) Where are you? Count to ten. Most questions I could answer, although I did ask them to come up with something different, I was getting bored with the same ones.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

Yes. yet another cat picture! But, oh how he sleeps.

There were effects. My sleeping was destroyed, until it reached crisis point and I had to demand extreme help. My short term memory is affected. But…I am alive. My brain still works, quite well really. I like it…a lot. And I truly value it… greatly. In fact, I love and cherish it.

And I still have an aneurysm. A small one, but an aneurysm. I’m always aware of it, ticking away up there in my head. And now I know how serious that is. I have been told by the psychiatrist who treated me during the sleep crisis, that the brain suffers some damage as soon as it is exposed to oxygen. So mine has suffered some damage already. I do not want to run the risk a second time. I do not want to experience another sleep crisis. I know why sleep deprivation is a torture, I’ve lived it.

But, nor do I want to run the risk of the aneurysm bleeding or bursting. Neither have good outcomes- death or incapacity. So I have regular angiograms and trust the results, trust that while it’s small it’s harmless.

On Friday I had an angiogram, hence this post. I am left confused by the results. It showed no aneurysm. I ask “Do arteries heal themselves?”  “Has it disappeared?”  “Is this the result of a simple life with little stress?” “Can I celebrate or has there been a mistake?” I wait to hear from my brain surgeon.

The gift of life.

The gift of life.

Meanwhile I shall live this day- fully, richly, moment by moment, because I have experienced how fragile life is. I have no excuse but to treasure each moment I have.





22 thoughts on “Brain surgery and other scary things.

    • I’m grateful for your comments, Nicholas- they mean you’re reading my posts! Thank you! Yes, keep writing, and keep walking, and keep reading, and keep loving and watching the ocean, playing…In other words, living!

  1. That’s quite a stress to go through Kate! It’s a big decision to go ahead with surgery on something like that, and yet equally too big to ignore the advice. Almost a no win situation, must have been a horrible time for you. That’s good news that it appears not to be there now! Did anyone explain to you why? I don’t really know much about aneurysm’s at all. Maybe you’ve experienced something that some would call a miracle, but maybe just because it is unexplained. It would be reassuring to know why though. I hope you get some answers soon, and that your health stays in great condition.

    Every day is precious, and something like this just points that out all the more. It’s good to be reminded of that fact, we so easily forget, and almost believe at times we are immortal – which can never be of course! 🙂

    • I wonder why we so easily lose that immediacy of how precious life is. Any moment may be our last and each moment is the only one we have. Still waiting to hear from my brain surgeon about this second aneurysm, so still holding the champagne. Good to hear form you.

  2. I prey it’ gone! I don’t think it’s strange that you didn’t obsess about could happen. I find the best thing to do is believe everything will be alright when I’m in a medical emergency. I had a stroke in December and with PT and now Senior fitness 3x a week and stretching once a week I’m improving. I hope for you the best. I love your style of writing.

  3. I had brain surgery with the stroke I had in January, but it was done through a vein in my leg. I was unconscious by then, so I didn’t have to contemplate having it done beforehand. My mom had to sign the consent. That must have been difficult for you. It is also hard to live with the possibility of a recurrence. I hope you have good news. I am praying for you.

    • I see you as very brave- to be young and ill is difficult- all your peers are bursting with life and vitality and you are struggling. I had ulcerative colitis when I was twenty-three- many months in hospital, many more months recovering, and forever after limited energy. Our life challenges are different to the norm and people don’t always understand. I am awed by your positive outlook, keep going, I in turn shall pray for you and light a candle. Do you know the site? You can choose to light a candle there, with time to reflect. Let’s keep each other up-to-date.

      • Thank you for your kind words and prayers. I also have UC as well as RA. I’m not sure if there’s a connection to the genetic condition which caused my stroke or not. It can be hard to remember what it was like to be healthier and not have that anymore. I actually have had more of a sense of peace since the stroke… when I’m not afraid of having another one. I think it’s mostly God, but also it feels I can let go of the past more. Everything worked out for me that day. If I had chosen a life course that was more of what others say is normal, I probably wouldn’t be alive.

      • UC=ulcerative colitis? RA=rheumatoid arthritis? not sure of the initials. Both are auto=immune diseases and are linked. Ulcerative colitis is linked to a genetically compromised immune system. You live with a big, big challenge! I repeat- you have my admiration, and some understanding. Please stay in touch and feel free to email me at any time- I can understand some; I can certainly share the challenge of living with limits and the continuing need to understand our bodies and our energy. Take very good care and warm, loving thoughts from across here in rural Australia.

      • Yes, they stand for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ulcerative Colitis. Thanks for the encouragement. Australia is a fascinating place. I’m from the USA. It’s not exotic, but it’s pretty in the fall.

      • We seem to miss both Spring and Autumn now- it goes from hot to very hot, to a couple of months of cool, then hot…I’d love some proper Spring and Autumn.

  4. Wow. You are indeed lucky… to me it’s obvious you were meant to stick around for something. Here’s praying it’s something long term. 🙂 There is a LOT to be said for a life without stress. It’s amazing what stress can do to a body. All the best, Kate!

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