It was February of 2011. I had experienced headaches for years, and had gone to the doctor numerous times trying to find the cause of my pain. I never had a doctor really listen or take my pain seriously. Fed up, I cancelled my insurance. I was 25 at the time. After numerous appointments with different doctors, I finally got my primary care changed to someone my grandmother trusted, Dr. Donald Gates. That same day, a CT of my head was ordered to see what exactly was the source of my pain. Not one hour after my exam, Dr. Gates was calling my cell phone to let me know there was a 7.8 cm mass on my brain. I went into surgery to remove the tumor less than 30 hours later. My first surgery lasted most of the day, and when they finally brought me out, my surgeon did an extra precautionary head CT. That extra scan revealed I had a lot of bleeding around my brain from a skull fracture I endured during surgery.
They then went back in to the OR to repair the bleed. Left unrepaired, I may have never woken up from surgery. Much of the tumor was removed in that first surgery, but a small portion was left, as they did not think my brain could sustain that much assault at one time, and were planning on another surgery in the coming months. The following week however, my status began declining and they felt that going in sooner rather than later was the better option. I was in the ICU a total of 33 days that first round in the hospital, but about later that year, after returning to work, a follow up scan revealed that I had developed a rare condition known as Hydrocephalus, or water on the brain.
My surgeon did not want to subject me to the most common fix, as it would result in a lifetime of care, so he went for the newer and much more conservative approach known as a Ventriculostomy where a small perforation is made to drain the excess fluid naturally. That surgery however, was not successful and I became symptomatic once again. The following May I went in for my fifth and final surgery, where a device known as a VP Shunt (ventricular peritoneal shunt) was inserted into my brain to drain the fluid manually. I will never get rid of this device as long as I live, as there is no cure for Hydrocephalus. The shunt is just a fix that will fail eventually, and need to be replaced. But I am eternally grateful for the amazing doctors I have in my life, who will continue to help me remain healthy.