Howdy Hydrocephalus

Understanding my unique gyroscope


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One Size Does Not Fit ALL!

It has been a while since I wrote. After the botched Botox and uncooperative Nurse, I had an appointment with my Dr. From the brain injury clinic at Foothills. I asked if I could she could send the migraine protocols that she used on me over to the nurse who did my Botox. I explained that she put needles in my jaw for TMG and in my cheek below my eye. I also said that they didn’t use as many needles and I was in extreme pain so I took desperate measures to get Daith piercings done.

She told me she could not control how the clinic did their Botox for migraines and said I should come back to the clinic in Calgary. I agreed.  

Yesterday I had my appointment with her. I told her I went to see a local MH neuro who basically was shocked that I was not 60 or 70 because I was too young to have Hydrocephalus. Then he asked me to explain how I got hydcrocephalus as he was looking into my eyes, and doing my reflexes. He then interrupted me and told me he really didn’t want to know, but he was just distracting me so he could do a quick assessment. Then He asked me why I was seeing him, I said I didn’t know. He said that Dr??? Sent the referral. I said I didn’t know who that Doctor was and then he said my GP’s name. (SIDENOTE: Oh it was from January when my head was in extreme pain and my Hydrocephalus was acting up due to the sinus thing. I wasn’t the most happiest patient at that meeting. If only the Dr. Said to me at the time that no worries your symptoms get extremely worse when you have a sinus problem instead of saying no nothing was wrong with me just a sinus issue. ) The MH neuro then said that he could not treat me for pain, but another local neuro may be able to. He then asked if I had seen a psychiatrist. I said in hospital, I had neuropsych tests done twice. He said “that is psychology” and brushed it off and said to me that he is referring me to a psychiatrist because I look anxious. I told him I was anxious because he was a new doctor that I had not seen before. Meanwhile, I felt not listened to, pushed off and the typical MH dr. Response of I am not going to treat you because you are not an easy cookie cutter type of condition. So then I asked him…what he specialized as a neuro in MH? He replied that he had no specialty because MH did have any. So then I questioned what did he do as neuro then. Well he was not to impressed and really just gave me a brush off type of answer.

My Dr. In at the brain injury clinic said stop going to these appointments. I told her that I didn’t know who set it up. I thought it was apart of me trying to find local Dr. To take over my case management and begin to treat me. I told her I didn’t realize it was from that Dr. I saw in January. I told her that yes I was upset, but I was scared and in pain due to not only the sinus thing, but also being off the Pristiq for nerve pain (but didn’t  know that at the time) so that the Dr. Basically set this up so I could see a Psychiatrist and get my crazy all taken care of. She told me that I did see a Psychiatrist at Foothills more than once with the testing and they didn’t find anything crazy other than being anxious and slightly depressed at the time.  She then shook her head and said that having Too many cooks in the pot just mess you up so now I will continue to see her ever three months. She will make sure I am on the right meds and get me the help I need. I am so blessed and grateful to be under her care full time again. She has been the best Doctor I have seen since this whole journey began. 

It is so true having that one Dr. Who cares about what he or she does and cares about their patients makes a world of difference. It is the Doctor who wants their patients to become as good as they can and not just say well you hit the two year mark…this is a as far as you go. It is the Doctors who DO NOT provide alternatives, different approaches, resources, empathy, caring and only see patients as a ten minute time slot that keep the TBI suicide rate so high.  TBI is like any other chronic illness, it is lifelong, uncertain, often filled with confusion, isolation, limitations in mobility, sleep, cognitive, executive functions and a wide array of other physical, emotional and financial challenges. Pain and fatigue are the rulers of your day. Pain and fatigue can make you bed ridden for a few hours, to a few weeks. This can affect your mental well being because of continually letting friends, family and work down.
The downside of these caring and compassionate and driven Doctors are that they are far and few between. That because they are empaths, you can see the burnout in their eyes and their actions. My Doctor has shown these signs for the last year.  You can see it in her eyes, how’s she holds herself and the lines etched in her face. I only hope that there are resources available for her so she does not leave this career where she is amazing!!!!!!!!! Or that she decides to put herself on autopilot and not care just so she can survive the long grind until retirement. 

How can I help her? We usually bring a gift card or some sort of treat for her but I forgot yesterday.  Any suggestions? Has anyone else experienced such a great Doctor but see how the corporate pressures of trying to get patients treated in their local communities is hurting him or her.

Please let me know. I think we all should try to rally around the good Doctors who take their profession to heart and string up those shitty cookie cutter doctors who really cause more problems than solutions. How can we make the Canadian Medical system better rather than see it become worse and worse.


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Chronic Pain & TBI

Chronic Pain is a beast. It is not pain from over doing it at the gym, lifting heavy objects or mountain biking, it is pain that does not respond to over the counter medicines and it is often brushed aside by stating that the pain is “psychological”. And when the pain doesn’t go away or get treated, your life can begin to unravel quite quickly. Sleep, cognitive, concentration, appetite, daily activities are negatively affected when chronic pain is not treated or under control. This then leads to anxiety and depression that only add the nasty mix and do not help in day to day living. Because your energy is now taken up by doing everything in your power to accept and move through the pain. You breathe, continue with limited activities, say affirmations, think positive, try herbal supplements and anything and everything that people suggest to try to find some relief. Until it all becomes too much and then you sink into that pit of despair because all the tools in your tool box no longer work. You question worth, value and place here on earth. You can not handle the feel of clothes on your skin, or even someone touching your. Your body is so inflamed that you are old beyond your years. You do not go out because any activity is no longer easy or fun. Joy and happiness are suck from your soul as you are bone weary with every move. You calculate how many years left and if you have the mental and physical strength to actually continue to be here in this pain every day until die. You start to think of ways out…anything to just get rid of this damn pain.  This cycle will repeat itself until….

You finally find a Doctor who understands that chronic pain is real and begins to treat the pain. There is not a text book type way to treat chronic pain. It is more like experimenting with different treatment options until a positive response is obtained. This approach takes time, patience and sometimes putting up with a lot of side effects from different medicines. 

My chronic pain is two-fold; the 24 hour a day migraine with the added bonus of cluster-like headaches that feel like ice picks through the eye. This pain is never gone but for the most part it is managed. The second part to my chronic pain is my neuropathic pain due to nerve injury or nerve mis-communication and response to pain. This has always been on the right side of my body. It feels like burning fire ants, burning and shooting pain that is continually there. Between my knee and ankle fluctuates from burning to feeling like wood. I have had this for five years and it will always be a part of my life.

However, last November, I went off my Pristiq because I told the Doctor that I was doing well and that I was not depressed so I didn’t need it. So I went off the meds.  Then comes January to March where I begin to lose it all. My Neurogenic pain is not just on my right side, it was on my left side too. My chest felt like it was on fire with the flames flickering upwards to my neck and nose. I was worried. My skin was horrible. The itchyness I had on my arm, chest, legs and back was so bad that I was looking like a meth head with open cuts.

Turns out that my Pristiq was not for depression but for my neurogenic pain. An off label use for it…oh didn’t know that. Thus my brain doctor will continue to see me because she just rocks at figuring out what the hell is wrong with me when no one else gives a shit. Also she prescribed this awesome cream that does not contain steroids but instead lanocain and gabapentin to help topically for my pain. Also endless itching is also from neurogenic pain. The nerves are just all messed up and sending weird signals.

So now my pain is not through the roof. It is not 100% managed yet…still annoying as hell. I really do not like the way my chest feels but I really have no choice but to accept it. I hope we can still find a better management solution. I am looking forward to my June appointment to see what my next trials will be.


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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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4 Year Anniversary

On September 4, 2016 I celebrated my fourth anniversay of my brain surgery. I thought about writing that day but I couldn’t bring myself to write. 

There have been some amazing hurtles that I have overcome in the last four years. I have become a stronger, wiser person. My brain continues to heal as I push myself. Life have become liveable and enjoyable again now that we have found suitable meds. I have overcome on the other side of some very dark questionable times as well. I held out and did not quit or give up. I have enough awareness now to be blown away. I know in my head what I have accomplished, but so many people do not because having a disability that is not visible leads to many assumptions.

I still have my sketchy quirks to work on. I notice them now more than ever. For example, my sense of time is often out and I still have not found a good calendar program that has a great nag alarm for my android phone. I still think I can remember a lot more than what I can so I decide not to put items in my calendar and of course I forget. I often forget what I promise to do…mmmm three weeks of saying I will put the boys phones up for sale and I still haven’t done it. I remember, then start and get distracted and then forget until  I am reminded. I have a hard time with conversations still. I will get nervous and keep talking and talking and talking. I often forget the clues that the conversation is over. I still have a hard time with ending a conversation. I am not too sure if the person has ended the conversation or how to end without being rude or too abrupt.

My organizational skills of planning and connecting from a to b to c to d is still a work in progress. I am not walking in a circle in my room trying to figure out what I need to do first but I will go from basement to upstairs to get one specific thing and in that two sets of stairs, I will forget what that item was. I will look around and grab something, walk back down stairs  and start working on what I was doing again until I remember what I wanted from up stairs. The process then repeats itself numerous times  or days. So sometimes getting things done is painful.

I tend to hyper-focus on new things and block out everything…like kids, meals, laundry. I bought a cricut which has been taking up all my time. I am loving the fact that I am suing Adobe Illustrator, manipulating graphics and fonts to create items to sell. I am looking forward to developing my crafty hobbies into a small biz. I am even looking into furthering my education. I am looking at my art therapy post diploma rather than recreation therapy certificate. The post grad diploma is a step forward rather than backwards with a general certificate where they want you to take their technical communications course even though I could probably teach it. How to write an email, proposal letter, make a brochure, resume….yawn. No challenge there. The only problem is to pay for my course. I have no idea what is available out there for resources to help pay.

So many steps and mountains climbed. A few more to climb but it all seems achievable now. Here is to how great and adaptable humans are. How strong we can be and how we can continue to learn on a daily basis. I am truly grateful! I am truly grateful to have been faced with all of this. If I hadn’t been challenged, I would not have grown so much. I look forward to tomorrow, the next day and to see how fare more I will come in the future. 


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Breaking the Seal


I have not written since June 21, 2016 after my Endocrinology tests. There was not much to write about. Okay I admit there has been plenty to write about. My two little energy pills twice a day has allowed me to use the hash tag #summeroffun. I have had the most energy since December 2011. We did kayaking, paddle boarding, walking, easy hikes. I stayed up later than ever. I even painted two walls in the house spur of the moment. Don’t get me wrong these were not all day events.  Maybe  1-2 hour activities with a break then a rest and then another activity then break and even a third activity that day. It has been amazing on that aspect but I was still feeling fatigued and weak. I still was losing weight for July but from August 10th to today I was on holidays where I ate more than normal with big breakfasts, large dinners and plenty of junk food in between. I drank a lot too…those empty beer calories but those beer taste so good sitting on a deck BBQing. From that unhealthy summer binge at least my weight was stabilized and gained 2lbs. When I went to for my follow up Endocrinology appt. on August 22, 2016 I weighed 126lbs.So from undiagnosed hydrocephalus to brain surgery on  September 4, 2012 20 to August 25 , 2016 I was peeing every 15 minutes. I really have no idea how many times I would go pee because it would be in a sleeping pill delirium. I know always at least 6 or more times. I would get about 2-3 hours sleep and then the pee train would start. But hubby says that I go even then but I am most likely sleep walking  and don’t remember. So in reality I was getting very little sleep every night. 

My peeing was overlooked. I mentioned it to my neurosurgeon more than once and he just said I should drink less so I did. With my brain injury, I was not self-aware of how bad my peeing still was after surgery. I had other things going on too such as neurogenic stutter, getting my right side to cooperate, feeling confused and trying to overcome daily chronic pain. 

So I think last summer when I was camping at Elkwater Park I got really dehydrated. So I made it a priority to drink more water. I needed to get in my 8-10 glasses then an electrolyte powder and more water if out walking or in the sun. This is when I first noticed my peeing all the time. This lasted until about December where I couln’t take it anymore so I cut back my water consumption and went to myt GP. Between December 2015 until April 2016 I had many blood tests for Diabetes Mellitus (DM) and each one came back negative. 

I had begun to lose weight. I had no appetite and was nauseated all the time. My sides and belly would hurt. My hair was falling out all the time and I had very dry skin with a persistent rash that would not go away. I had only enough energy to take kids to school, crawl back to bed, sleep all day only to get out to pick up boys. Libido was non-existent. I would wake up each morning feeling like I was hung over.  I was going to the bathroom so frequently that I was going through at least one of those double toilet paper rolls every day. 

Ouch as my  nethers began to feel sore and every time I wiped it was like sandpaper. My life revolved around bathrooms. How long I could make it until the next bathroom. I would pee at least 4 times leading up to leaving house. If local short trip pee when arrive. Pee again at next store…followed the same pattern over until I got home again.

After my testing in June, I decreased the amount I drank even more. But nothing changed. All I can compare it to is if you are drinking with friends at a pub and go to the bathroom and they bug you about “breaking the seal and that you are in trouble for the  rest of the night”. 

So basically if you are drinking and finally go to the bathroom; your bladder will not hold anymore and want to go pee more frequently. So my life had become an out of control broken seal nightmare. That not only affected me but my family as well. That is until August 25, 2016.
I had my follow up appointment with the Endocrinologist on August 22. I found out that my growth hormone was great but my anti-diuretic hormone was not so great. He diagnosed me Central Diabetes Insipidus (DI).  The Doctor said that I most likely acquired it from my ETV surgery. He said that all I would need to take is one spray of vasopressin before bed (maybe one during day too) and that it will work quickly. That you could tell if the meds would work within a couple days. 

The appointment was positive but after being  to many doctors and on a Pharmacy of medicine and treatments that did not work I was really skeptical.  I had to wait until August 25th for my meds to come into town. I took it or tried to and went to bed.  I woke up the next day and felt refreshed. It was still a sleeping pill induced sleep but I was only  two or three times. I was amazed but still skeptical. It is the August 28th and I drove 3.5 hours without stopping to pee. It was the best drive in. A long while. I was not as tired and I was able to concentrate.  My vision didn’t go blurry either. Here is to re-balancing my ADH hormone, electrolytes and no longer being chronically dehydrated. Sorry toilet paper companies….you can shove your mega packs I will be using less of your products!!


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Neurosurgeon says ETV a success

Last week I went and saw my neurosurgeon. I had a scan done in January of my brain. He confirmed that the ETV hole has good CSF flow and everything looked awesome. He then gave me an MMSE or mini-mental state exam.

He has administered the test three times to me. The first time I scored 24, second 6 months later 25 and 26 just last week. Basically this test is usually used to figure out cognitive impairment overtime with patients with dementia. The test does not incorporate your education level so that has to be adjusted when scoring. My neurosurgeon indicated that prior to surgery I showed signs of mild cognitive impairment…no shit Sherlock. I forgot how to read a map, where the hospital was located, how to do my job…that was scary! It was so frightening to see things slip away, but by the time my surgery, I so impaired that I showed no rational fear about surgery or risks. Since surgery I have thankfully shown progress and now considered not to have cognitive impairment in his eyes or so he lets on!
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The test was easier for me on some parts and challenging on others. The second time I took this test, I had trouble counting back by sevens from 100 that the doc asked if I was trying and I got all teary-eyed. This time I did better and I was impressed with myself. I also 3 out of 5 objects without prompt at end of test. With prompt, I am got one more item. I had trouble when drawing my clock. I couldn’t remember which way the hands went. I was supposed to do 1610 but think if came out like 1320 instead. I even admitted that I couldn’t remember where the hands where to go.

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The funny thing is that people often say that my neurogenic stutter is gone. True the brain is healing and the speech therapist tips, tricks and strategies have helped me considerably but the darn stutter reared it’s ugly head showed up again during the counting backwards part of the test. I think the stutter shows itself, not because I am nervous, or anxious but when my brain is working hard trying to get those connections firing again. I have had so many tests like the MMSE and more intense neuro psych testing, there is no reason to be nervous. I get amazed where I have improved now rather than mouthing hanging wide open…wondering what happened to me.

I admit that I have made large strides and that it is somewhat surreal for me still when I have more than one good day in a row. It is now up to two or three good days in a row (with proper resting and time management) and then I have a bad day and go “oh yeah…this shit again” This TBI/ABI recovery is like a clinger….just won’t let go no matter how hard you try to flick it.

This journey amazes and frustrates me every day. I am so grateful to advocate on behalf of myself more. I understand, interact and communicate more easily. The world that I live in is no longer like being continually drunk or on a spinning amusement park ride. I have the attention span to watch most of a movie or tv show. My memory has improved I have also learned strategies to help with organization, planning and memory. I still need to use those techniques on a daily to basis because if I let them slide, I will become anxious, freeze and not get anything done because I can’t figure out priorities or tasks to do on the fly. I become obsessed over ideas,things and projects and forget about all the other things that I need to do in my routine. I will forget the most basic things but will remember the oddest most inconsequential shit. Chris always shakes his head at me like I am a savant…then we laugh. These are just executive functions of the brain. They will also get better with time too! That’s it time…that seems to go painfully slow with my recovery but yet so fast with other parts of my life.


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Irritated

I supposedly had a massive migraine with aura that sent me to hospital to have IV to make me feel better. That happened Tuesday night, It was not like any other migraines that I have had in the past. I usually get aura such as visual zig zags, dots or lightning. I also get wavy vision. I also get a bit numb too. However, what happened on Tuesday reminds me of December 2011 when I dropped to the ground with a sharp pain. I had the same sharp pain at the top of my right side of head and then my neck hurt really bad. I laid down in bed and my vision went really funny. I closed my eyes and held my head hard to counteract the pain.

After an hour of breathing and working through the pain I got up to go to the bathroom and my right side was non existent. I walked and went into the wall. I couldn’t keep my balance, stand. My right side felt weak and very tingly.

It is now friday evening and I am still feeling like crud. My head is still kind of not well; my stomach is off and I am feeling frustrated.

It is Friday night and I am in a hotel room with the three boys (2 kidlets & hubby) who are loud, hitting each other, wrestling with the TV on. I spent 30 minutes trying to get a post for shout out saturday done and then had to spend another 30 minutes figuring out why apps were not downloading in our family account. As the noise level and interruptions kept increasing my level of irritation and ready to snap rose significantly. The words “oh for fuck sake…can’t you all just shut the fuck up” almost slipped out. But what ever little filter held and I survived.

Then I read some dumb ass article about how people who post motivational quotes are intellectually inferior. Wow…scientific research at its best. What about faking it until you make it…there is some sort of counselling jargon about changing from negative to positive mindset. Sometimes it takes many motivational words until things become seen in a different light.

I think bed and a knowout pill are calling my name. Hopefully tomorrow, I am filled with energy and smiles as right now I am thinking an ice pick lobotomy may just be the answer!