Howdy Hydrocephalus

Understanding my unique gyroscope


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Creating My Opportunity

I have had my fair share of people questioning me about my ABI. Those people often only see me for a small amount of time. I expend a great deal of energy to act normal. Okay I know that I am not abnormal, but it takes a large amount of effort to have a conversation with people who I really don’t know especially if Chris is not there to let me know that the person does not want to talk anymore. I have come a long way but the cue reading and may not always be there. Some days I just do not have the energy, patience or gumption to even socialize. I often hole myself up at home and socialize online. 

My fingers type way faster than my trying figure out what I want to say outloud. I have spend the last three months coming up with a great business idea that I feel deep down will work awesome for me. I have applied and been accepted into an Entrepreneurial program for disabled people. I am just waiting to see when I start. I have started putting things on the computer, making my website to the point to where I will need help to finish…long way to go yet; and I have used Airtable to make an amazing spreadsheet to help with Market Analysis. I have the brains…okay I am slower at processing, have attention issues and my science side has been disrupted. This does not affect my overall intelligence. In fact, it has really increased my creative side even more than what it was before all this began. 

Lately I have had some brain function increase (okay I forget what I was going to write, but I was so amazed that some science stuff spewed from my mouth effortlessly like it was locked away and a key was finally found). But then as I improve in some areas, others started to crap out again. My short term memory has been giving me more grief. But oh well…with an ABI you body and brain may function awesome for part of the day and then crap out for the rest. It is that ebb and flow of life long recovery the frustrates others around me. I have to laugh at their frustration because they are only annoyed by little things like stuff I have forgotten. I have to live with it all for my entire life. Do you know how hard it is to maintain that smile, be positive and carry on. To take the continual words of “you must of misunderstood” (often that is the case but not always. Maybe You misunderstood me and I actually know what I am talking about) Or that you can not be productive or worthy…that you are a leach or one of those people wasting our taxpayers money. Or that people only see you for the disability and not see your talents.

I openly speak out about my disability now. I advocate for awareness and inclusion. I write about my struggles so that others who read can gain understanding or support that they are also not alone in this. 

Okay I finally remembered about one part I wanted to share…I recently watched the movie Wreck it Ralph with the kids. I wanted to watch it for two reasons. First, I like animations movies and second it has a great analogy of a brain injury.  The locked secret files (where the evil king hid the games memories that he was not really the leader) in the computer game brain are a great visual of how a brain can be after an ABI or TBI. Where information that has been stored in your brain is all of sudden locked away because the neurotransmitters have lost their connection. This connection may re-wire itself with no help; it may re-wire with lots and lots of rehabilitation or it may never re-wire. It means you may have to re-learn the information again or that you just say screw it I will find a new way to do/think/act…it is apart of the new me and you own it. 

Then the Boys and I watched Finding Dory…okay I only saw about half of it but it was the first time I had seen it. Another great ABI, TBI type of movie. I totally understand and love my boys even more because when the first time the boys saw the movie they kept calling me “Dory” in their little boy loving ways. They are perceptive and accurate and just call it like they see it. They saw me pre-surgery, post surgery in neuro ICU…at home struggling until I could get into in patient Unit 58. They saw all the other residents in Unit 58 in all shapes and capacities. They saw me when I couldn’t drive; when I could drive only to the school and back to now where I can drive to Coleman or Calgary. Next will be my trip with them to Vancouver, BC. It may take me three or so days to get there but we will!

So instead of trying to fit in….I am going to stand out. I am making my own legacy. I am going to make my family proud. I am going to make this business work for me and not just work for a business. This business is not just about money. It is about giving back and to hopefully include people who are often excluded in the workforce. I believe I will be able to help make at least one or two people feel that their lives are meaningful again. Maybe even help more. I am setting my sights high. I am positive that my hard work, persistence and re-learning of who and what I am and what valuable skills that I have to offer over the last five years has cumulated to now where I feel comfortable knowing this is the right move for me. 

I am moving forward with the new me and I really do like her alot.  This is the right time to take the risk, jump in with both feet and just go. I can create a legacy by being stagnant….especially since it is Brain Injury Awareness month and I have been overloaded with the negative news posts and research about how exponential the chances of me acquiring Alzheimer’s are after a severe brain injury. Geeze thanks alot…Hydrocephalus, ABI, Steven Johnson’s Syndrome, Pituitary, Sleep issues, Mental Health issues…hell I am not taking that kick in the pants. I know I have amazing genes on one side of family. I am living as long as my Gran Gran.  So I hope that you can discover and create your own legacy. 


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March is Brain Injury Awareness in The United States

It has been a very active Brain Injury Awareness month. I have read so many wonderful tweets from fellow survivors and bloggers. I was even asked by Lyrysa Smith about Hydrocephalus. She is a journalist, book author and caregiver to her sister’s ABI after carbon monoxide poisoning.  She read my blog and then messaged me some questions. What an amazing person.

It is always meet such positive advocates. People with TBI and ABI need positive advocates. We also need to have more up to date resources in smaller centres.

I hate how I have to explain what my condition is, what an ETV is and now have to explain that my hydrocephalus gets worse when something is affecting my body to ER doctors. I will voice stronger rather than be put off like I am over reacting. I have a reason to be concerned. When my Hydrocephalus symptoms increase…head pain, pressure, more right side fire ants/tingling; I begin to walk funny again. My right side grasping and coordination start to fail…I can accidentally drop or throw items in my right hand. I also have a hard time understanding people especially when on the phone. My cognitive gets worse too. My short term memory is really bad normally and it takes and extreme amount of effort and time to move items from short term to working memory to long term memory even gets worse. My perception begins to change and the world can begin to get all swirly again and off balance again. 

These symptoms are the only symptoms I have to go on if there is issues with my Hydrocephalus. I do not know when I go into the ER if my ETV hole is partially plugged and flow is disrupted or anything other. I am told to go the the ER by all my Doctors in Calgary when I experience these symptoms. But When go to the ER here in Medicine Hat. I am shoved off into the cubicle B of less serious cold, flu & malingerer section and made to wait. (I don’t mind waiting as I know people come in with serious conditions but my can go sideways quickly and being blown off all the time is not cool). By the way the same one where I sat with Stephens Johnson’s Syndrome all blistered, bloodied mouth and peeling skin) as triage didn’t think I was serious when in fact I was being poisoned by my Meds and burning from the inside out. (PPL make mistakes and that nurse made a huge one. I still have rash and skin issues to date). 

I dislike that when you have a life-long condition and that you are made to feel you are wasting the medical system, hospital system, tax payers money when I go into the ER. No my condition never gave me a huge fever and my blood pressure would always read 120/80 (which is high for me but they always ignore that with a polite tight lipped sneer of someone who fully believes they are more qualified to know my body better than me) even before my brain surgery and definitely not after. Only once was my blood pressure at 170 or higher and they stick couldn’t figure out what was going on…infection…partial blockage. No on really knows…most likely me panicking because I couldn’t stand. 

 It is not like I go in on a whim. By the time I voice my conditions to my hubby I have thought long and hard if they are serious, is it just me over reacting etc….By the time I mention to my hubby, he will usually say it is better to waste your time in the ER and find out rather than sit and wait and maybe have things get worse quickly. He always asks if we should drive to Calgary and get the on-call neurologist. I always say no, that it is too much of a drive.  I dislike that knowledge level is not that good here. I dislike that I am going to explain more and more at the hospital. And then for them to say…it is not the hydrocephalus…it is my sinuses, anxiety, in my head, i am faking. Why put me on the defensive. Do you realize how much that hurts to me mentally especially when I am so much in pain and on the last rungs of hope. But when in fact they symptoms are my Hydrocephalus increasing because my body is fighting something. My neurosurgeon explained that Hydrocephalus symptoms will increase when there is something going on in my body. That my hydrocephalus baseline should return once what ever is going wrong in my body has been addressed.

So far I am three months of feeling off and I am not any better. The regular doctor gave me nose spray, I am taking allergy pills and I am now debating to go back to my Dr. Office and be a stronger advocate. The last time, the Dr. I saw thought I was a little aggressive. Hell yes! I am sick of not being heard. Sick of no solutions. Sick that they experts keep pawning me off saying not me…and saying I need to see someone else but no indication that a referral has been made. I am sick of the same cycle of treatment I had before my surgery five years ago. It is like they want you to fall through the cracks.

Why don’t  the Doctors and nurses just say…well your hydrocephalus symptoms are worse and that is an indicator that something is wrong in your body. Let’s figure it out so you can feel better. But no none of that. Oh hell no…no patient care…more like lets see if we can get her to go away. Truly our system is broken when you have to be a broken wheel, act like you are in severe traumatic pain (I don’t I get quieter and quieter as I focus on mindful meditative breathing and imagery) to be seen quicker and to be taken more seriously.

Thank goodness I have an appointment with the brain injury clinic in Calgary in April.  I know my Doctor there will listen to me. I am counting the days to actually be heard. Why is it that the brain injury clinic, endocrinology clinics and neurology clinics in Calgary take the time to really listen and find solutions. Why is there no out of the box thinking here in Med Hat? suggestions…the “let’s try this” type of approach. I mean really it does not take that much time to sit down and brain storm ideas. To verbally communicate, visually communicate with pictures from the computer. To take a risk and try something new.  


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How many layers of an Onion

A long time ago in a blog far far away, I wrote about the cliche of how a TBI/ABI compares to an onion in my recovery.

Well now I am wondering just how many onions are there in this journey? Definitely more than one, two…three or a whole sack? Can someone tell me? I would really like to know.

I mean I am definitely way more cognitively aware this year, even my memory is remembering weird stuff but forgetting the easy stuff. I have been trying to cut down on the naps and pushing through with the aid of my sleeping pills at night again.

I successfully handled my son’s first hockey tournament, thank goodness for hubby to help get my son ready, ear plugs, across arena seating. I even enjoyed watching the games. I even did 50-50 sales. It took me a bit with adding and splitting funds as I had to re-count over six times but I did it!!!

I made it through the feelings of anxiety and overstimulation by breathing and sleeping. I felt so exhausted by Sunday, that I exclaimed that it was weird that Wy had energy and I was sapped when you would think that the person playing on the ice (Wy) would be the tired one. I now can work with the fish trying to go upstream type of visual & feeling in a public situation. I still have a hard time trying to watch hockey via netting; it is very distracting and gives me a headache instantly.

A really big accomplishment for me was not shoving a horn up a guys butt. We were sitting on the other side of ice away from stands to avoid excess noise and visual distractions. I had ear plugs in and of course dude comes and decides to watch the game where we were. OMG. I was so close to snapping, but I didn’t. I acted like an adult but in my head horn guy didn’t fair so well. Especially since the other team scored 12 goals and I had to endure that excessive horn blowing for all 12 goals and then some added horn blowing as well.

So many positives this year already but then when I have accomplished a goal of living, another little thing decides to become a challenge. I am not too sure if it is because I was focussing on issues that these ones have now become important to me. I have been to the doctor three times, have had blood tests once. I had a form for other blood tests, but lost it. So the good news is that I do not have diabetes but now we are thinking the my pituitary or hypothalamus may be acting up with hormone and/or body regulation. With that I really do not know what that means just yet or what direction we will be going. I guess this can happen right away to a person with a TBI, the next day or even years after the initial injury.

So here’s hoping to a sale on onions in the produce department because I may have a whole sack to peel layer by layer
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Pieces of a Puzzle

I had been meaning to go to my GP doctor since September, but that all fell by the wayside as we scrambled to deal with cast boy, then holidays and of course I forgot. Finally last week I went to the doctor. Ever since being in the hospital with SJS, my skin has been so sensitive, very itchy and has had a slow healing rash that has been present on my back, shoulders, arms, fingers, and ankle. These were getting to be annoying as I had finished my cream that somewhat kept everything at bay. I had mentioned symptoms to my specialist since June, but she seemed distracted and didn’t think it was anything.

I show him the rash and get a new batch of cream prescribed. Then I tell him about my disrupted days and nights by having to pee all the time. I mean all the time if I am hydrated and not so bad when I dehydrate myself. I told him that the dry mouth and this I thought were side effects of my meds, but I wasn’t too sure but this has been going on since June and I have had enough. I know I live in a perpetual dehydrated state…or at least it feels like it for me.

So today I went for my MRI for the hydro clinic then had blood and urine testing as well. We are trying to figure out what my body is doing. Right now the symptoms are:

itchy skin, round blistery rash that doesn’t go away, cuts take forever to heal, peeing every 15 minutes, hair falling out and always a dry mouth that makes me thirsty.

My hubby had stated that my symptoms could be diabetes. I went to my computer and followed up with Dr. Google with these common symptoms they all point to Cancer (LOL) nope it was Diabetes. Unfortunately, I do not have the profile of  someone who is a type 2 diabetic. I am not obese; do not have high blood pressure (low); do not have high cholesteral or hypertension.

I did know that there was a risk of diabetes inspidus and other endocrine disorders after brain surgery and with a new TBI/ABI. I did not know that they still can potentially occur long after initial brain injury. So now I wait for results so we can put the pieces of the puzzle together.

 

 

 


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2015 Theme was being grateful and blessed

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2015 has been over all a great year with some brain recovery strides that were noticeable. Two events really stick out the most to me. Okay I must admit, they are the only two that I can remember. Sometimes having memory issues are a blessing.

The first big stride for 2015 includes finally finding a med combo to ease the 24/7 migraine pain. I am truly grateful to have the migraine pain under control. Our bodies and minds are amazing on how they adapt to situations like 24/7 chronic out of control pain. On the other hand, once that pain is gone it is mind-blowing on how quickly your mind and body forgets how to deal with the pain too as I recently had nine days of constant migraine. Let’s see how can I explain what the pain is like….something like being hit with the worst flu you have every had and still expected to function with work, family, and social activities. I don’t just mean slight body aches…it would be full body aches, head fullness, pain, nausea, slow thinking, slow moving, light and smell sensitivity. The full meal deal and you can not escape it so being resilient beings that humans are, you adapt to it. You minimize you life to the bare essentials and spend the rest of the time recovering to be able to fulfill the next task on the daily living.

The second was having my neuropsych assessment done. This has now put me on a more realistic course for re-entering the land of being a more productive person. This has re-directed my thinking. I have begun to look at my likes, dislikes, abilities, adaptions needed and have some viable options that are now presenting themselves. I still need to re-learn some software programs and do some more soul searching and viability of what my ideas are.

I am truly looking forward to what 2016 holds for me. The “sweet 16” year already feels like it will be great. Deep down I know it will be amazing, prosperous and know that what bumps happen will be easily overcome. I am wishing you all a wonderful 2016 and hope you all feel as positive about the new year as I do. I wish everyone mainly forward motion with 2016.


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Acceptance

There is a large tribe if TBI/ABI/PCS (Tramautic/Aquired brain injury, post concussion syndrom) on Twitter. We tend to like online social connecting sites becuase when we are feeling like shit, stuck in bed in a dark room these sites may be our only source of connection to the outside world. I remember, I had relied on social site for four months once. I could barely get out of bed without feeling like I would pass out.

6181aee523d4e4937731bfac6e6b48bcThere was this post “How do you cope with TBI/PCS symptoms?” yesterday. Now this may seem to an easy answer for those that are clinical…look it up on the Net and list off…rest, eat healthy, follow your medicine, blah…blah…blah. However “How do you cope with TBI/PCS symptoms” answer is not so simple. It is really a big whoop ass can of worms.

First off people who are “normal” will just say here is a list just follow it and you will get better. These are innocent, well-meaning people who really have not walked this journey before but instead are taught what to say and do.

f118d7a457ea10f91cc29d9648c1df35When you are knee deep on this new life adventure (so much nicer to write than sucky life-long condition) is to grieve. I mean grieve the loss of who you once wore. Believe me this is not easy at all. I am over three years in and I still grieve.  I still get mad and frustrated at where I am that it often clouds how far I have come.

I mean who wouldn’t want their old life back where everything was easy peasy; thoughts swift & quick; anyltical skills and crital thinking intact; planning & organizing there; coordination; strength; energy to work, look after family, have hobbies & social life at a moments notice and above all live pain free…But I am not that person anymore and I accept that I am not that person most of the time.

cf07f453bef187cb4c57a7e706c33b45So we have our pity party for a bit then I mentally kick myself in the ass & my drill sergeant tencacity kicks in. I mentally say suck it up sunshine; usually something about not quitting and other motivational stuff to get me out of a funk. I take responsibility for getting myself out as no one else can except me.

  1. I read motivational pictures & quotes images
  2. I watch motivational videos. Unbroken or Why do We fall
  3. I read Motivation Facebook Group Bright Side or website Elephant Journal
  4. I focus on anxiety reducing activities such as breathing. (I do alot of this)
  5. I remember I how I have come. The challenges that I have overcome.
  6. I focus on the positive. It really becomes easy after a while. For example, the biggest positive is that I get to become a new me. I am learning what I like and don’t like. I get to experience things for the first time that were old hat for me. Trying foods to see if I like or dislike etc….
  7. I move forward.
  8. But above all I am grateful. I am grateful to re-write my life. I am grateful that I have learned alot about myself with the journey. I am grateful that I am here living. I am grateful that I have found who my true supports are. I am grateful for a new approach to living. I am grateful to explore each day with new perspective (literally & figuratively). I am grateful that my kids are hopefully learning about compassion and empathy (no zombie comments lately – LOL) I am greateful allowing myself to fall & get back up again. I am grateful that I am able to express myself via writing and art (verbally and body language not so much). I am grateful for the opportunity to start fresh each day.

So really to “cope” is not simple there are many emotional and mental steps. There is a lot of time needed. And I didn’t even include all the physical, organization, planning steps that you learn via OT (occupational therapy) that help you function. This is a vast black hole of a subject that just can’t be thrown around in a black & white fashion. It is more of a comfortable grey blanket.

 


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The Wandering Nerve

kelly dec 2014 234 I had originally been told that I had neurogenic stuttering due to my brain injury. The stuttering began at the end of June in 2012. I guess the increased pressure from my hydrocephalus had damaged my language centres enough for the stuttering to begin. When I was released from rehab, I began speech therapy at the Medicine Hat Hospital. It was there I worked with some great therapists. We worked on speech techniques, word finding, categorization and a variety of other speech related things to do with muscle control and rhythm. I remember that I learned of one the two damaged cranial nerves that was affecting my speech. The Vagus (wandering nerve or tenth cranial nerve) is important for many functions other than speech such as heart rate, sweating, digestion and blood pressure (mmm so many answers are now coming to light).

A damaged vagus nerve can cause issues with muscle control and swallowing in the mouth and neck. I am no expert at any of this but it was explained to me simply that speech comes from the brain figuring out word to diaphragm with the air flow up, to voice box (larynx) where the vocal cords vibrate. From there the sound then is resonated into nose, mouth area. Speech can be disrupted anywhere along the process. I know that I still have trouble swallowing quickly and sometimes choke on water etc…if I drink or eat to quickly. I have noticed this more since I had SJS as my mouth was so beat up and sensitive with blisters, open wounds. It feels like there is a large marble around my adams apple. I am guessing that I have muscle weakness and lack of control on the right side of my neck and mouth that was similar to every where else on my right side. As part of my therapy I had to work on my breathing, hold my hand up on my neck and face to feel certain muscle movements when I said certain words. I know that my stutter comes out with certain letters or letter groupings. It also can come out when stressed, overwhelmed, sick or if I am stuck with the cognitive process of what I wanted to say. Thus I love social media or online interaction more than in person.

kelly dec 2014 118Along with speech therapy, I also attended an Aphasia group at the mall that was run by the speech therapists at the hospital. This was a very good group because we played games and did activities that not only worked on speaking but on word finding, grouping of words and rhythm of having a conversation again.

I had started out with really one word answers of either “fine” or “good” for my conversation depth and breadth. Then I was able to pre-plan a sentence that I would knew would get a person talking so then I wouldn’t have to talk anymore.  From there the amount of pre-planned sentences went up. I would also have a stash of questions to ask. I knew if I asked questions, I would not have to talk much and lessen the chances of me having to stutter. This went on until about mid-way last year.  I stopped going to speech and began going to the Brain Injury Re-Learning Service (BIRS is a part of REDI enterprises), the big red building with paper planes flying. We began cognitive, memory, visual-spatial, awareness and attention rehabilitation. By the end of last year my speech had improved greatly. My stutter was almost non-existent and the biggest thing that no one probably noticed was that I was having conversations that were less and less planned. I was able to be more spontaneous and talk more freely. I had volunteered with the Kindergarten class to help with reading January 2014. I remember reading the Dr. Seus book “Mr. Brown Can moo, Can you?” So everything was going along just perfectly with no verbal glitches. The kids were repeating all the sounds in the book. I was having a great time until and then I got verbally stuck on a word. Here I was stuttering on a stuck word with 16 kindergartners repeating the sounds as they thought it was a part of the book.  Both the teacher and teaching assistant are cracking up at the back of the room and I am now cracking up laughing with my little parrots doing the  same thing. I had tears running down my face as it was so funny and priceless. I loved those kids, they just went with the flow, like I did!

kelly dec 2014 396I think the reasons for my improvement are re-connection of brain pathways due to neuroplasticity, lots of practicing in front of mirror, breathing exercises, word finding exercises, luminosity, word puzzles, boggle, volunteering, helping my kids read, helping my kids with their homework (last year I found some grade two homework hard), speech therapy, Aphasia group, BIRS, becoming slightly more cognitively aware, not giving up, not being afraid of failure, time (as slow as this process is), getting pissed off, frustrated and not settling for a brain injured status quo. I am have also been helped by the wonderful support that I have found on Twitter. There are so many people that I have connected to. Just supporting one another with ideas, suggestions and strategies has been very meaningful for me. Some days my fellow #TBI #ABI tweeters are the only people outside my family I connect with. I was fortunate to meet up with the founder of #ABIchat. This is an online support group on Twitter that I have participated a couple of times to.  I just need to find out when the chats are again (in the brain and out the brain syndrome). I really think healing and recovery of the brain is being re-defined.  Hearing from other high-functioning brain injured people has given me hope that I will find my niche and happy place being a productive member of society again. It really bothers me of the negative stereotypes and judgements that happen when you are labelled disabled and on disability as a form of income. The flippant comments and the poor treatment is often jaw dropping. I know that I shouldn’t let the comments hurt but they do. And it is often just general comments from people who do not even know that I am on disability. I have kept that mostly to my self and immediate family until today. I have to just shake my head and wonder what education level and knowledge where the people with these comments are coming from. I have to remind myself that it is not me but them that is broken.