Howdy Hydrocephalus

Understanding my unique gyroscope


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LA Kings support Hydrocephalus Awareness

download (4)I remember seeing an article about how the LA Kings support Hydrocephalus Awareness and Research. Finally I remembered about the article and looked it up.

LA Kings Support Hydrocephalus

It is great to see that some high profile teams are actually supporting this cause. To date three NHL teams have supported the Hydrocephalus Awareness; LA Kings, Anheim Ducks and Washington Capitals. It would be great to see more professional sporting teams support Brain Injury Awareness and Hydrocephalus Awareness. This would be great because any sport head injury can cause a brain injury and if it was severe enough hydrocephalus can also be added to the mix.

To say that Hydrocephalus and Severe Acquired Brain Injury has changed my life dramatically is an understatement. I am fortunate, I do not have a shunt, but I do have an ETV Free Flowing CSF hole that could close and malfunction sending me for another brain surgery. Also my vision has been affected from the Interncranial pressure. I still have issues with my one eye and if there is an increase intercrananial pressure, it can negatively impact my vision considerably.

I am not angry or upset with this new life time journey, but continue to fight daily for small improvements in my life. I always hope that there will be a new medical soloution or strategy that can help make my time here a little better. Whether that be reducing pain, increasing executive functions, visual improvements, increasing energy and controlling my wacky right side which has been getting weird again. For example, I was painting on a picnic table this weekend and my family was sitting around the campsite when all of a sudden my paintbrush flew out of my right hand…and the weird thing is that I am left handed but thought I should try to do some broad painting strokes with my right hand. Then this morning I go to sit down on couch to write this post with open laptop in left hand and contigo coffee mug in right hand. As I sit down, my right hand squeezes the drink button and hot hot coffee continually flies in air as I do not realize my hand is hitting the button all over couch, laptop and my burning my leg.

images (9)All I can say is that Brain Injury and Hydrocephalus is quite the adventure and that more education, awareness and support are needed!

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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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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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Volunteering the Next Step

I hope to take big steps in my life for 2016. I am wanting to volunteer at the hospital to help with the recreation department. I know it will be portering and just helping out, but at least I will be able to see what the job entails and how I react in a hospital situation.

I am saying that I can only volunteer five hours max a week and those five hours can not be done in one day. So I am thinking two days a week for 2.5 hours. I know I can handle that…or at least I hope that I can handle that and maintain doing it for a period of time.

I am so excited…..BUT! I had to fill out an online volunteer application. This weirded me out. For example, it asked about me. Now what do I say there…I had no clue. I am human, female, breathing, alive but a little kooky and broken at the same time. So I scrolled down to the next question. Work experience.

Easy Peasy! I listed off that I worked in the environmental industry. Did contract management ranging from tree planting, silviculture, bridge and road engineering. My largest project was 20 million road to help get approved, built and inspected. I worked in compliance and enforcement where we inspected activiities and tried to work out problems without resorting to enforcement. However, I have and written crown council reports and investigation reports. I worked as a website coordinator for a government organization and had a budget for 120,000 for one website and 40,000 for another website. I took photos, worked with film crews and interviewed people. I also taught at MHC for one semester before my surgery as I experienced hydro induced dementia like stuff. (I still feel guilty for not being a good instructor…showing same video like three times) I loved my work. Work was my life that is the green in me coming out. I am a Green/Orange mix with True Colours.

However, after I wrote all that I was like wow…impressive but I am no longer that person. I can’t even pretend to fake who that person was. Although it never looked like I was organized, I was. I was able to problem solve and think on the fly. I could remember legislation and understand it when I read it. I could easily navigate, read maps, GPS, drive long distances, work long long hours and get up early and do it again. I supervised fire fighting crews and even been on nine wildfires as a sector leader. I could remember regular and scientific names of plants, shrubs, trees, soils, rocks etc… I was able to stand up for myself and hold my professional standards & practices even if it meant pissing people off. I was good at that . I would frustrate the bejesus out of contractors and companies because I would take any shit for their short cuts. I was a fierce one and passionate to boot!

Then it asked for education and awards. So I fill out scholarships,, awards, and my degree, diploma and certificates that i have earned. So now I know the meaning of looking good on paper and really sucking in real life. You know the potential hire that had a great resume and interviewed well but when they got into the job, they just plained sucked and you know exaggerated the truth…god I look like one of those people. How embarassing except I am not lying.

I am at a loss. How do I represent myself now? I have no clue. It almost feels like I am lying when I put down my work experience and education because it seems like so long ago. I struggle with so many things that used to come to me instantaneously and now requires time to think about thinks, process, work out, organize steps etc….

When the person interviews me for volunteering, I am really not too sure what to say. I really no idea how I will perform, if I will make it to every volunteer day or anything. It is like a blank slate in my head. I have nothing to go on.

But I need to go through this; it is the next step in my recovery to get back to the “real” world. I will figure it out and find out what the new me can do successfully at this time and find small goals to work for in the future. It is just today I once again realized the truth in what the Docs saying a seven year recovery time. I am almost half way where.

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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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Look’n Good

images (5)I saw my very good friend today and she said that I look tired but very good. I had to agree with her. I am looking but feeling exhausted. I am so dragging, headpressure and pain. Not enough to get me completely out of the game of life but enough that I know it is there. This feeling is like an annoying hangover which would be okay if I had earned it from the night before.  Nope just get the feeling. Lucky me.

Last Monday, I had my neuropsych assessment. This is the second one I have had. The first was when I was inpatient rehab when in Unit 58.  It started at 9am and went until 12:15ish. I was exausted and felt sick to my stomach after. It was an interesting series of tests. I had to laugh at the peg test and the grip test. Oh yeah…lacking coordination and strength on the right side…it was quite amusing as I was doing it. I like the block test where I had to do patterns. The attention and memory tests were sucky but I plodded through everything.

downloadI then went to cafeteria to get lunch. It was so busy that I only sat there a few minutes and decided to go check in to sit in waiting room where it is usually quiet since I had an appt. with my Physiatrist for 1:30pm.

I check in; walk down the hallway where the waiting room nook was empty…score!!! I settled in and tried to eat my sandwich but I still felt sick to my stomach so I stopped. I was sitting there with eyes closed, relaxing in the relative quiet of a busy hospital when a person comes down and he is loud. He is another outpatient like myself. However, noise is not an issue for him but being loud, obnoxious were some highlight characters he exibited. Then he said he was there for his anger…while stating that the police are  corrupt and he got his injury from police when trying to arrest him. OMG…I think that I am going to lose it and police might come arrest me becuase he will not shut up; I am tired; feeling like shit and trying to really be polite. I do this for forty minutes. Finally I get up to go to the washroom and a young intern doctor motions to me as I come out that the escape route is to the left. I explained that I need to wait and the look of pity was did not go unnoticed. Then he gets called out…peace & quiet again. I shut my eyes and sleep again.

When it is my turn to go in, we talk about how I am doing. I tell her that there is no way I think I can be a sucessful counsellor, I don’t think I could really listen to people all day. We check go over meds and then do the Botox. Chris was in room with me by then and it is his first time waching the process. I guess when it goes in, the skin all inflates and there is a big bubble. The needles never seem to go quick enough. I even yelled out once or twice. 20151120_094254I even ended up with bruises on my scalp & forhead this time.  So the remainder of last week and still this week has been a little uncomftable.

The Psych called today to give me a rundown on my results. He said that I had improved in all categories but memory went down. He said that if I want to go back to school or re-train, that would be best at visual and hands on. That is good news at least. Options. I don’t think a Masters is in my future anymore, but I have a couple other ideas in the fire right now.

The memory going down is a concern! I have been experiencing other potential hydro issues but have been ignoring them for the last couple months but today I ended up sending email to Dr. to see if we can get a head scan. If there is another issue and I need to get an ETV again, I would rather do it sooner than later.  Below is a list of common symptoms when your hydrocephalus is acting up or things are not flowing right:

Older children and adults may experience different symptoms because their skulls cannot expand to accommodate the buildup of CSF. Symptoms may include headache followed by vomiting, nausea, blurred or double vision, sun setting of the eyes, problems with balance, poor coordination, gait disturbance, urinary incontinence, slowing or loss of developmental progress, lethargy, drowsiness, irritability, or other changes in personality or cognition including memory loss. taken from.Hydrocephalus Fact Sheet


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Fatigue Tips – my ass

images (2)I remember when I attended a support group for ten TBIers like myself. The support group was run by two to three employees who basically ran it Nazi style by shoving their agenda and information down our throats. Instead of facilitating. It was interesting to be a part of in slightly sick and twisted way. I felt like it was a train wreck and I couldn’t look away. I really hated going as it was kind of embarrassing to sit through. It allowed for very little discussion and information was spoon fed to you like you could not understand. It felt that there was a us versus them scenario and we were the broken “thems”.

However, I know one of the facilitators and it was run with the best intentions, but from the intentions of a “normal” person. Because this person worked at a Brain Injury Rehabilitation place, she should have known that brain injury does not affect intelligence but instead affects other cognitive factors that can make us seem not intelligent. It felt like we were not respected as adults.

I remember that that one week of the eight week program was about fatigue. It really irked the information fed out was that fatigue was our fault because of exercise, motivation, eating, and sleeping habits. The suggestions were all well meaning but fucking utterly useless and made me angry that Brain Injury workers had nothing useful to give use. Everyone went very quiet in the room and looked down. There was anger, defeat and pure frustration oozing from everyone. I really didn’t like the suggestions because each one was more of an assumption that it was your personal fault for the fatigue and you were not working hard enough to fix it.

For example, you are experiencing fatigue because you do not exercise enough, eat healthy enough, do not have proper sleeping habits, not motivated etc…. We were not all newbies with our TBIs we have tried all and continue to try to use all the techniques but still are experiencing issues. When I asked about medicines. We were not encouraged to discuss what meds or techniques have worked for us, the TBIers, I was not able ask any of my fellow warriors. We were told that we had to discuss anything with our doctors. Doctors are human and sometimes at a loss too so hearing what other doctors have tried with other TBIers is very important.

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My fatigue level ranges from moderate to the extreme fatigue all the time, even with my awesome new meds. It is no fun, but mid day rests are still mandatory in my life. My energy levels fluctuate throughout the day like anyone else’s but they may wane and fluctuate way quicker.

Fatigue is defined as:

fa·tigue
fəˈtēɡ/
noun
noun: fatigue; noun: fatigue detail; plural noun: fatigue details
  1. 1.
    extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.
    “he was nearly dead with fatigue”
    synonyms: tiredness, weariness, sleepiness, drowsiness, exhaustion, enervation,languor, lethargy, torpor, prostration;

    war-weariness
    “his body was slumped from fatigue”
    antonyms: energy
    • a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.
    • weakness in materials, especially metal, caused by repeated variations of stress.
      plural noun: fatigues
      “metal fatigue”
    • a lessening in one’s response to or enthusiasm for something, typically as a result of overexposure to it.
      “museum fatigue”

images fatigue-symptoms

600px-Signs_of_fatigue pain sc TR_6_1 fig 1

TBI fatigue is often very hard to manage and is often a long-term affect when adapting with a TBI. I still have a hard time dealing with fatigue. I loath being fatigued. I really could not explain it to anyone until a friend of mine with Lupus posted The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino at www.butyoudontlooksick.com. It is the easiest way to explain to anyone about chronic conditions and fatigue.

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The normals methods to help with regular fatigue such as exercise, cutting caffiene, cutting sugar, eating healthy, and reducing stress do not work for TBI or other chronic conditions. I was going to write down my own list of suggestions to help minimize fatigue in daily life, but I found a great blog post by a fellow blogger and TBIer. Simple Tips to Manage Fatigue with Brain Injury, Memory Problems, and Chronic Illness to Self Rehabilitate

I am will not waste my precious energy re-inventing the wheel when this article has some awesome advice.  Cheers to the days with extra spoons and Boo to the days where you boom then bust.