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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Back on the writing bandwagon!

images-8It has been an really long time since I have written. I have not fallen off the planet, but have been challenging myself even further. Even though I love to write, there are many other things I have been focussing on such as creating art, graphics, starting a small very part time graphic design and creative life coaching business. I am unable to fit them all into my life at the moment. One day soon I will be able too! It is a goal I am working on.

My life has been changed since September to end of December. I had amazing energy, concentration and steps to move forward. I was able to attend  two craft shows and make for me a lot of goods. Christmas and the New Year were a success. I got everything done for the family, rested & played too! But then January 1st, I woke up with the worst cold ever. From January to now has been an interesting month. I have learned some takeaways about Hydrocephalus that I did not know before. Because of my new knowledge, I have finally decided to work with the Hydro instead of fight it in this case. Fighting it will only make it worse.

So What did I learn? I learned that if there is a stressor on my body like a cold or a completely blocked sinus (with a mass that potentially they think means trip to Foothills again soon) can affect the baseline of your hydrocephalus. So what does this mean.

fb_img_1443293628775My MRI showed that I had amazing flow. I love that my Dr. Sits me down and we look at the images. I love that he explains what I am seeing. He said the grey area where my hole from bottom of 3rd ventricle show cloudy grey. He said that was turbidity. I said “that is to be expected. When flow of fluid has to go from big space down a narrow tube – it speeds up – basic physics…you know my background before all this was science!:”  I almost knocked myself off my chair when this came out of my mouth. I was shocked as shit that my brain just pulled off something that I thought was long gone.  Nope just in hibernation waiting for my neural re-connection.

Distracted Side note Inserted here:

The black hole of my brain injury released some new information. Lately I have been experiencing this more and more…snippets of old knowledge and experiences pop into my head.  I wlll write a blog post of what I can compare this to in hopes that it can help fellow TBIers but their experiences into words.

images-5So my new baseline was how awesome I was doing before feeling cruddy in January. This means that until my stressors on my body…the blocked sinus thingy will continue to put negative stress on my hydrocephalus until it gets addressed. So in the mean time I will experience and increase sleepiness, tripping, falling, dropping (or accidentally throwing items), weird walking stance, numbness, tingling, head pressure, pain, and cognitive decline. I have been having a hard time figuring processes, and steps to getting things done again. Decline in remembering what to do with Adobe Illustrator again. I have been saying the wrong words for things more and more. For example for the last month I have kept telling the boys to put their laundry in the dishwasher.  

images-2You know that gets old quickly when you have two parrots who are like okay and start to put their dirty laundry in the dishwasher. My kids are jokers I say…but when I am stressed mentally with the weird symptoms that have popped up in my life, my sense of humour is greatly diminished. Actually irritability, and anger have popped their dragon heads up again so much that the boys have noticed. They joke that driving with mom is like “beepidty boop boop beeep” with the added family finger.

kitty-fingerI have been reassured that symptoms, although scary will go away once the stressor is fixed.

Let’s hope this happens quick before my control and filter completely disappears and I actually tell off a stranger who is pissing me off.

 


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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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Water Deprivation & Glucagon Stimulation Tests

I had started this post at least three times. I had even started writing but then there was a glitch and my iPad shut down. I lost what I had written. Then I couldn’t even access what I had started. Duh…Wordpress updates created new menu layout. Crud talk about not reading what is right infront of my eyes.

So the lowdown is that for me the water deprivation test was easy peasy compared to the glucagon stimulation test. Going without food and water was not an issue. What was an issue for both test was me forgetting my sleeping pills so I was up peeing until 3 each night before I passed out from exhaustion.

I had to do the long haul water depreviation test from 7am until 4:45pm. I had to pee and give blood every hour. I was given a saline solution interveniously around 3pm because I wasn’t dehydrated enough. The weird things throughout this testing process is that my urine didn’t darken and that the amount didn’t decrease. So what did I do all day? Sleep mostly, my vision was acting a little wonky so I really couldn’t read. I played unblock me and look at my pictures maybe for ten minutes each hour. The lights in the room were out for most of the day becausee my head hurt like hell. Chris came for 4:30pm with two smoothies that I had to wait to drink until my last pee and blood sample time. Then I drank  quickly and had to wait to see if I had some sort of reaction. I then had my final blood pressure test 113/75 and was sprung for the night. 

The next day was awesome. I arrived before nine and led to a nice warm room with two unique reclining cushy chairs. I was given warm blankets and heating pads. It was like being at the spa. Then I was set up again to be able to draw blood again. This time it went really quick because we used heating pads to warm up my arms so my wobbly evasive veins cooperated. I felt that this was going to be an easy test like yesterday. I was injected with Glucagon. The nurse warned it would hurt or burn. No didn’t feel that and was positive that all was going well. I dozed off. I felt my arm getting eaves and then of course about  an hour after the injection I had to go pee. In the bathroom I felt a little off. When I got back the nurse took more blood and commented that I didn’t drink that much water. I told her I drink much because I didn’t want to be sick to my stomach.  Then it was like a switch, I felt really sick to my stomach. Chris grabbed a garbage can and the nurse came running with one of those tiny paper containers. Thank goodness there wasn’t much to come up.Then I broke out in a sweat and I got dizzy and really hot. We had to get all the blankets off and my hoodie off with keeping IV in. Then I felt like I had to got the the bathroom. The nurse and Chris tried to stand me up but I couldn’t stand. The stomach cramping started and I started to shiver. The bathroom was not a priority anymore. I curled up in a ball and was covered in blankets again then I passed out. All these sick things didn’t happen over a period of time but instead minutes. I felt like I was hit with a bad stomach flu or food poisoning. 

When I woke up I felt better but tired. The test was almost over so I guess I was out for a couple hours. Then the last blood draw down and was allowed to eat. I ate  what we brought two Apple juices. I really had to go the bathroom but before I could stand I had to get my blood pressure taken again. It was down to 90/50 so I was not allowed to stand. I was offered a bedpan that I declined. So I waited and continued to eat more food. After I ate two packs of cookies my blood pressure was taken again. It had risen enough hat the nurse let me stand but accompanied me to the washroom. I started to get the shakes. When we got back to the room I had to stay a bit more then had my blood pressure again. When she took it again my blood pressure had risen to 110/70 and I was able to leave. Chris had parked down the street and it took a bit of slow walking to get there then we went to a nearby baker to get treats and went back to Medicine Hat.

My stomach felt sore and I had even less of an appetite for almost two weeks after. I couldn’t even stand the smell of meat.  I have not received my test results. One of the tests had to be sent to the Mayo clinic in the US because there is no labe in Canada that does the testing. 

In the meantime my brain injury Doctor prescribed me a short term/acting energy prescription that has been working.  I had the best birthday in four years. I have been on it for two weeks and this morning I needed. A body rest day so I didn’t take any pills.

Here is to hopefully long term positive solutions!