What are you thankful for? Think of 3 things right now. Don’t worry I’ll wait….. Alright, ready? I’ll go first. I’m thankful for my health, my family and my brain surgery. Yeah you heard that right, my brain surgery. Now I know what you’re thinking, “how on Earth could someone be thankful for surgery? Let alone brain surgery?!”. Well I’m here to explain, so go ahead and open your mind and get ready to think from a different perspective.
Starting off with my first surgery back in 2018, I had already experienced an enormous amount of growth on the soul level. I learned that if we strip down our egos and be vulnerable, you’ll see the world on a different plane, one that’s more understanding and forgiving. I also learned that family, or people that you consider family, are a blessing and should be cherished. And the last lesson and arguably the most important is, everything is as it should be. Fighting and negativity are poison to the mind and body, acceptance and positivity, no matter the situation, makes for a much easier path.
I took these lessons and applied them throughout 2019 and most importantly 2020. This last year consisted of waiting and a lot of it. The main reason was…dare I say…COVID. Getting into the hospital was the hardest because my surgery was considered ‘elective’, so I didn’t get in until November. I’m however extremely thankful that my fiancé and I got to spend an three amazing months together. We didn’t know at the time but with his new promotion he’d be traveling more, so I’m grateful for that time. But I still needed a ‘babysitter’ because of the randomness of my seizures so, who better than my mom. Thankfully she was able to work from home, so it all worked out perfectly.
2 weeks before surgery, my thoughts and emotions were all over the place. One second I’d be happy and excited, then the next I’d be in full meltdown mode, with the ugly cry and all. But, instead of tucking these emotions down deep, I felt them. I felt terror, I felt sadness, I felt happiness, I felt everything. This was something that was a little harder for me to do the first go around. I learned that sometimes it’s okay to not to be okay and to let go of those poisonous thoughts and actions.
I had to be in Seattle no later than Saturday, I need to get COVID tested 48 hours before surgery, so my mom and I went up early Friday so we could explore the town! Let me say, seeing my mom drive in a big city wasn’t only hilarious to the point of tears, but I appreciated every millisecond of it. I saw nothing but love and support as we were bouncing through the potholes. To top it off, we ate a lunch that consisted of our favorite soup, clam chowder and then we sat and ate right next to the harbor. This was easily one of the best days of my life.
Fast forward to the night before surgery, I was in the shower when suddenly the poison started flowing through my head again. The thoughts of losing all my hair, my fiancé not being there, not having my mom or other family, brought me to tears. I let it all out, let myself feel the pain and sadness, and when the tears stopped running that’s when the relief and gratitude set in. I was grateful to have the best surgeon and epilepsy doctor in Washington State. The thought of not having seizures and getting my life back, surpassed all sadness.
The next morning was hard and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry when my mom dropped me off. But I didn’t feel sadness, I felt relief. Relief that the next time I’d see her, I’d be one step closer to being free. We exchanged see you laters and I was off.
When I arrived the check in process went fairly quickly but it was the waiting to get prepped for surgery that took decades. While I sat alone in the waiting room, an older lady come over and sat down next to me. We exchanged hellos and quickly came into the conservation on the reasons why we were there. She was in for surgery because she had problems with her lower back and her hips kept popping in and out of the socket. She explained to me that her husband would sometimes have to pop them back into place. This also would be her 3rd surgery to try and correct it, “third times the charm” she said. Now it was my turn, I began by telling her that this would be my 2nd surgery and explained how the EEG worked. Then she said something that still resonates with me, she said, “Oh my heavens, you’re too young to be going through all this”. I calmly disagree and said, it’s because of my youth that I’m so grateful to be going through this now and it would be a rougher recovery if it wasn’t for me being young. She cracked a smile and said, “you know what you’re right, better now rather than when your old like me”. We carried on conversation for a few more minutes before she was called back and we said our good lucks and goodbyes.
Once the nurse finally called me back, the process went QUICK, I went from fully dressed to stark naked in a hospital gown in nothing flat. While getting pricked for the IV’s, a nurse asked me why I was so happy, I was about to go into brain surgery. I simply told her, “this was the next step to getting my life back, wouldn’t you be happy too?!”, her, along with the rest of the nurses laughed agreeingly. In a blink of an eye I was on my way into the operating room. When the doors opened, I was greeted by a gust of refreshing cold air and welcomed by my surgeon. While getting my anesthesia, I jokingly told them, “let’s see how long I can make it before I fal…..”. I was dead asleep before I could even finish the sentence!
I woke up as they were transporting me to my new home in the ICU and the only two things I wanted were my mom and some Jell-O. I couldn’t even begin to describe the look of relief that washed over my mom’s face when she walked in, I was thankful that I got to see it. The first night was rough. I was throwing up everywhere, my headaches were insurmountable and the worse part about it, I even threw up the Jell-O. It wasn’t until the next morning that I started to feel relief and just in time to get the EEG machine hooked up.
Now picture a grid or a square made up of 64 individual electrodes along with those grids there are strips, as big as a Band-Aid, all attached to the various areas of the left side of my brain. I now have all these cords coming out of my skull, wrapped up just like a Hersey’s kiss. The next day was attaching me to the computer and that only took 2 hours and when it was done, I looked like a Hersey’s kiss, with a 6ft long tail that attached to a computer. With everything set up and the computer recording my brain waves, it was time to let my body do its thing.
I had many mini seizures throughout the week, giving them good information on where they were coming from. Now let me give you some context, a mini seizure for me is not being able to speak, you know that little voice inside your head? Well imagine if that was gone and every time you tried to talk there was nothing but stutters. Those were the ones they wanted; they didn’t want to put me into a grand mal aka the mother of all seizures. Unfortunately, on Wednesday right as I was calling my fiancé it happened. I felt a sudden wave of fear, the stuttering I was experiencing was intense, I wasn’t able to control my body anymore and I knew it was about to happen. Thankfully they had someone watching me 24/7 and with each shift change I would let them know what I would do if I thought I was going into a seizure, aka slapping the side of the bed while starring wide eyed. The last thing I remember is seeing the nurse running over and then I was out. I came to about 45 minutes after the seizure ended. I’m beyond grateful that I had nothing but the best caring for me.
My body did its job and did it well because the next day they told me they had enough information to start on mapping Friday. Let me give you the spark notes version of mapping. They send millions of volts down each individual electrode until either you feel like you’re going into a seizure or one of your limbs flies up uncontrollably. This gives them an idea of what to leave and what to take. I didn’t expect to go into surgery the same day, from what the doctors had been talking about we would map on Friday and surgery on Tuesday. Boy was I wrong. We flew through the mapping, the quickest he’s ever done it. We finished just in time because it just so happened that the operating room had an opening at the same time as my surgeon. The next thing I knew I was being rolled down elevators and through hallways until we reached the OR, where I was welcomed by the sight of a familiar Bart Simpson scrub cap. When I woke up it felt good. It felt good to finally be free from the cords, free from most IV’s and it felt amazing to know that I was one step closer to getting my life back.
Saturday morning was the first time I walked around the floor since I’d been there, and it was nothing but incredible. Later that night they transferred me down to the epilepsy floor, you could say I went from a 5 star hotel to a 3 ½ star. They also had bed alarms so every time you got up or even moved the alarm would sound. Thankfully I didn’t suffer from many side effects, all but my speech remained the same. By the end of the day, there was talk about me possibly getting released the next morning. When I heard that, a flood of hope radiated throughout me with a current so strong, that I felt it in my soul.
The next morning, I was up and walking before breakfast. I’d walk past the nurse’s station and hear, “well you don’t see that too often on this floor”. It was phenomenal, not only to walk but there was a weight lifted off my shoulders, the weight of worrying. I worried every second of everyday that at any moment I could go into a seizure. It brought me peace. All my hard work paid off because by 1pm, my mom and I were headed back home, 4 hours away.
The trip wasn’t too bad, but I also had enough pain killers in me to kill an elephant, so that helped. When we pulled into the driveway, I saw happy tails wagging and my dad waiting eagerly through the window. My dad has never been one to show emotion, but the hug he gave me when I walked through the door felt full of love. After the warm welcomes, I was off to get some rest.
While lying in bed there was a sudden sweep of an emotion, one that I had felt before but not at this magnitude. A feeling so great that it brought me to tears, not sad tears but the tears of finally feeling at true peace. I can’t describe to you what peace is because you have find it in order to feel it. I can say with confidence, surgery pushed my soul to evolve, it pushed my emotional limits and tested my ability to see the good within all. As I always say, everything is as it should be.