Mind you, the stress of the Year from Hell, 2017, helped as well. We shall never talk of that year again. I want a do-over in many areas of my life. But I did the best I could, considering.
September, nine years ago I started having weird headaches, localized over my left eye, old twitchy I call him now. September 13, 2008, I had this sharp, stabbing pain in that very same spot and the pain got worse with each heartbeat. Actually, it was in time with my heartbeat. And the pain grew worse with each pulse.
Took some Advil, Tylenol, Gravol a couple of muscle relaxants, and went back to bed. Called my doc, and made excuses as to what was happening. She decided I should get an MRI. It would take five months.
October 23, 2008, it happened again, only this time it felt like an icepick was driven into my head right above my left eye, and the left side of my neck was screaming. I remember not being able to shoulder check for almost two years because of the pain. To this day, range of motion has still not returned.
Did the same cocktail of meds, called in sick, called my husband and told him if the headache did not go away in twenty minutes I would get a friend to drive me to the hospital. And went back to bed.
I was drooling (still do actually, but now it's fun....) slurring my words, stumbling. Still did not make the connection. Intense pain will do that. Shortens the ability of the neo cortex to make rational decisions.
A couple more months go by and the pain would happen over my eye when I laughed, coughed, or sneezed. These are called exertion headaches. Only in my case, my brain was bleeding. I did not know this.
Had the MRI and a few days later got called into the Neurologist's office. He says, straight forward, "You have a brain aneurysm, now let's talk about those migraines." The way he said it,I thought, huh, no big deal. We're talking migraines.
He made a referral, to what I found out later, to the BEST Neurosurgeon in North America, who happened to be practising here in Winnipeg. Four days later, Dr. West had a miracle cancellation. I saw him over lunch. Again, I thought 30 minute appointment, discuss options, maybe see him in 6 months, get on with life.
Should have recognized what the word URGENT in big red letters meant across my folder. We talked. He asked questions. I couldn't concentrate on the answer unless my eyes were closed to reduce the stimulus. Apparently I gave all the right, or wrong answers, depending on your point of view and I had an angiogram within a couple of hours.
I still assumed I would be going home. I didn't. Was hospitalized and bumped 19 neurosurgeries, the only exception being a pregnant women.
Even while being in the hospital, it still did not occur to me what was going on. I blame it on the bleeding in my brain and not my lack of medical knowledge or mental capacity. My brain had been bleeding off and on for five months.
The anaesthesiologist came in at 11:00 am. And that's when it hit. I was going in for brain surgery today. Not six months from now. Today. In a matter of hours.
What should have been a two hour surgery took five and a half hours. No one bothered to let my husband know. He was told two hours. I cannot imagine the hell he went through, the questions he had the sheer terror of not knowing what was happening, if I was even alive.
It would be another two months when Dr. West told me I had a 15% survival rate. If this had happened five years earlier, I would have died. Had I not gone to the doctor and her insisting upon an MRI, I would have died.
In 2008, all I knew of brain aneurysms is, if they rupture, that's it. Game over. You lose. I had never heard of anyone surviving a rupture. I survived two. Don't know why. And I still think about that. Why me? It's not survivor's guilt, because I have no guilt, just a curiosity about why I survived. Timing, the right place to be, the best neurosurgeon, a great call by my doctor all came into play.
The next 18 months were bliss. I was at peace. I was calm. I had intense lucid dreams, and intense spiritual experience and I was happy. Then August of 2012, I was diagnosed with a daughter aneurysm, one that shares the same artery and wall as the original. And my world blew apart.
I already had severe PTSD from a soul crippling childhood, now it kicked into overdrive and became C-PTSD, C for complex, compound PTSD. Six years later it still has not diminished.
I have, however, learned to tame it.....to an extent. Old twitchy reminds me, my numbness in my arms reminds me, and now my chronic IBS reminds me. Any kind of stress is bad. Yes, all you fitness and doctors that espouse eustress is good, I'm here to tell you, it's not.
So, let's talk. One in 50 will develop a brain aneurysm. Out of the 50, 20 will rupture. Out of the 20, 16 will die.
Hospitals in Winnipeg are terrible for diagnosing brain aneurysms in women. One died on the floor in the ER at the Grace a few years ago. She was screaming, lying on the floor and no one took her seriously.
I was at the ER a few years back, waiting in the hallway, when a doctor in his mid thirties sarcastically announces to the nurse sitting behind the desk, that a woman walked in complaining of a severe headache and he "Kicked her out, like a boss," while fist pumping the air, and I thought you stupid bastard. I wonder what happened to her.....
November 16, 2017, a senior woman almost died in St. Boniface after waiting in the ER, with a severe headache and and eyelid that drooped. They gave her two CT scans, one with dye, and told her she was fine. Four day later, she could not open her eye, went to Misercordia Hospital, and gave her another couple of CT scans and told her she was fine. Thankfully, she called her family doctor who told her to immediately go to the Health Sciences Centre and they found the aneurysm. She had surgery and made it.
So I guess my question is, why are ER's so bad at this? I always assumed to be an ER doctor, you had to know your stuff, you had to be aware of all the terrible things that can happen to a human, and now I am wondering if the reverse is true.
I am also wondering if men are treated differently than women (saying that sarcastically) and why women are still being ignored when coming in with medical issues. Curiously, I haven't heard of anything like this happening to men in Winnipeg. Yup, they did CT scans and the CT scan came out clean. Makes me wonder if maybe CT scans are not all that wonderful for brain aneurysms. Considering 1 in 50, that terrifies me.
I wear a medic alert bracelet that says TAKE ONLY TO HSC because I do not want to become a statistic.