Updated: Mar 8, 2019
On December 12, Jeremy and I headed up to Charlottesville to stay with Bettina and Paula the night before the surgery. They fed us an amazing meal of citrus-glazed salmon, roasted cauliflower and wild rice, followed by two delicious desserts from their favorite bakery, MarieBette. I sipped my sleepy time tea while Jeremy and Paula enjoyed their bourbon.
4:00 a.m. came early, but I was able to meditate in their basement before Jeremy and I headed to our 5:30 a.m. check-in time at the hospital. There were alot of surgeries that morning, from heart bypasses to joint replacements to several other brain surgeries. The anesthesia team came and talked to me, followed by the surgical team who would be working with Dr. Vollmer. Once the IV drips were in, they gave me a "happy pill" before wheeling me back into the operating room.
The last thing I remember was them sliding me onto the operating table and then I was out like a light. Jeremy reports that the actual surgery was only 1.5 hours and that the team was finished by 10 a.m. The first thing I remember is waking up in ICU in a complete brain fog ... there were several nurses wiping me down and I had the absolute worst headache of my entire life. My head felt like a melon that was thrown from the top of a building and split into a million pieces on the sidewalk. They gave me 5mg of oxycodone and the headache slowly dissipated into a dull manageable roar.
One of the residents told me later that I exhibited some "crazy talk" when I was coming out of anesthesia. Apparently I kept saying, "I had a crazy dream during surgery about all my racing friends. They are so crazy." When they asked me about the details of the dream, I just kept muttering, "We had such a good time ... they are just so crazy."
I was covered head to toe in cords and apparatuses, including a catheter bag which I was very grateful for since I couldn't fathom walking to the toilet. I also had two IV drips in my right arm and a very painful drip in my left for taking vitals and drawing blood.
This is the exact moment I've been dreaming about for months. Waking up in ICU on the other side of this. I am mentally with it, speaking somewhat coherently, and able to communicate with my family. Jeremy shared that Dr. Vollmer said my surgery went really well. He was able to remove all of the tumor, including coring a section around the "tail" where he believes it originated. He is confident that the tumor is benign, but the pathologists will analyze it for confirmation. He shared there is also a small chance that this could come back because there is no way to 100% confirm if all the cells were removed.
Jeremy and my parents came up to visit me in ICU, along with Paula - everyone was so relieved that the operation went well. I was able to eat some miso soup for lunch from Revolutionary Soup and a smoothie for dinner. Thank goodness I didn't have to eat the hospital dinner of meatloaf. In fact, I didn't eat any hospital food thanks to Jeremy bringing me green smoothies and soups.
Once night fell, I didn't get any sleep because the nurses checked on me every single hour. I remember listening to soothing music on my Calm app, which helped drown out all the beeps and noises of the ICU unit (thank you Stephen and Stacey). I remember crying softly from sheer happiness and was so grateful to be in this place and able to begin my recovery.
At 2:00 a.m., they wheeled me down to do a cat scan. Good news - the cat scan revealed very little bleeding or swelling, although there is still air trapped under the incision. All day and night, my brain "gurgled", which is normal ... but it's a crazy feeling.
Jeremy showed up the next morning with my green smoothie full of brain recovery powders (thank you Kacy for the collagen and Kristen for the matcha!) My parents showed up and stayed with me all morning.
Jeremy stayed all afternoon and watched Dumb and Dumber and he brought me a delicious dinner from Roots Natural Kitchen. The nurses shared that they would likely release me Saturday morning, as long as the brain team approved my discharge.
I have had incredible care in ICU, especially from Amelia, Sydney and Montana. They were supposed to move me to the "regular" patient wing on Friday but no rooms were available, so I stayed in my ICU room an extra night. I worked hard on Sydney to convince her remove my IV needle because it was throbbing in pain, but according to ICU policy they cannot remove until right before discharge. I surprised the nurses several times when they would come in my room and I would be standing in a random corner doing something. Sydney took me on a walk around the floor and everyone was commenting on how no one walks in ICU.
I got my first solid night of sleep on Friday night, thanks to my oxy's and woke up around 7:45 a.m. on Saturday morning to 5 young residents gathered around my bed, staring down at me. They looked at my incision and said, "Yep, that's Dr. Vollmer's signature move." They are referring to how Dr. V. stapled gauze to my head to cover the incision. A nurse removed the two staples holding down the gauze. The rest of my staples in my incision will be removed 8-10 days from now, which means NO HAIR WASHING for that time period.
Amelia helped me get discharged around 10:00 a.m. and Jeremy and I arrived home by 2:00 p.m. The pain in my head is hard to manage, but I'm trying to stay above it. There is always a dull roar and I can tell when my medicine is wearing off and it's time to take more. Every time I move, my head throbs, so it will take some time before I can go for walks. I can only focus my attention on one thing at a time before I need to rest and take a break. I will improve each and every day and will respect my recovery process.
One day I'll look back on this and think, "remember that Christmas where I had brain surgery?"
I have so much love and gratefulness for my in-laws, Tommy and Holly for taking care of Huck and for my friends who have taken him out for exercise already. I appreciate every note, comment and text that you've sent, and am looking forward to receiving your support during recovery as well.
Writing about this journey is therapeutic and healing. This has been one heck of a holiday so far, but I'm oh so thankful.