Every Day is a Gift
In late October 2019, at the age of 16, I experienced several consecutive days where I would wake up with a severe headache coupled with nausea which resulted in vomiting and/or dry heaves. The symptoms seemed to pass, and we chalked it up to just teeth grinding, hormones, or vertigo. The symptoms returned in mid to late November and again subsided. In early December, I had another round of the same sort of symptoms and my mom decided to take me to the pediatrician to have me checked out. During the exam, my pediatrician performed a neurological exam, observed that my balance was not 100%, and as a result ordered an MRI immediately.
On Sunday, December 8th, my parents took me to Children’s Hospital for an MRI. The radiologists “saw something” and I was admitted to the ER. I went through a few more neurological exams. When the neurosurgical fellow came to visit us, he shared the MRI scans, and it was immediately obvious that something was in my brain that should not be.
My tumor was considered large at about 3cm x 3cm x 4cm (roughly the size of a ping pong ball) and was pushing against my brain stem, slightly displacing it. It was decided that I’d be undergoing a 12-hour brain surgery to remove my tumor on January 2nd of 2020.
The surgery went well. About an hour after getting out of surgery the post-op nurse was performing a neurological exam on me (standard procedure) and noticed that my eyes were not tracking equally. She paged the on-call neurosurgeon who immediately ordered a CAT scan. The CAT scan revealed that there had been some bleeding inside of my cranium and the blood had collected at the base of the brain stem obstructing a pathway that allows the cerebral spinal fluid to circulate. This obstruction resulted in increased intracranial pressure which explained the deficiency in my eye movement and quite honestly endangered my life. To relieve the pressure, the neurosurgeon had to perform an emergency procedure to install an external ventricular drain at the top of the skull. The procedure took about 1 hour, and they were able to successfully relieve the pressure.
The unexpected complications after my surgery caused me to be a patient in the Neuro ICU for 12 days and rehab to relearn everyday activities for another 18.
It has been about 2 and a half years since my surgery. I’m continuing to heal and work hard to become my usual self every day. It hasn’t been easy, but I have and will continue to work hard! I’m so thankful for the incredible medical team that made this possible and quite literally saved my life.
Every day is a gift and a new opportunity to live life to the fullest. Words I will live by for the rest of my life.