Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Well, I don't know how quickly I thought this whole recovery thing was going to go. I mean, I've had shunt revision surgery before, but not for nearly 15 years, and an endoscopic third ventriculostomy is a whole different beast. How long is it really supposed to take for someone to recover from having a hole drilled in their head, and a probe stuck into their brain to make another hole in there?

What I can tell you is that I've been tired - much more tired than I expected. Thankfully I haven't had too much disassociation. I guess the change in brain pressure from a ventriculostomy is more subtle than a shunt revision, and my brain didn't freak out too badly. However it has become clear to me that I really wasn't that with it before the actual operation. Hamish reminded me that I'd had a CAT scan and x-ray the night I was admitted to hospital (I could only remember the CAT scan). He also reminded me that he was there for both of them. I even had to ask whether he was there when the neurosurgeon was discussing whether to install another shunt, or whether to do the endoscopic procedure. I'm glad he was, as he's been able to reassure me that I went with the surgeon's preferred option. I'd started thinking that the surgeon actually wanted to put another shunt in, and that the ventriculostomy was something I'd pushed for.

I really wasn't myself for those first couple of days after the surgery. I felt overwhelmingly grateful to everyone who was so supportive to me, but I had to deal with a bit of guilt and dented pride, feeling like I'd become a bit of an overanxious, whining nuisance. Of course the nurses are used to dealing with far worse than me, but I wanted them to know that I'm normally a lot more rational. Stupid woman - you just had brain surgery. Of course you're allowed to lose a little perspective!

In the aftermath I've been dealing mainly with neck and shoulder issues, which were brought on by having to lie flat for two days and lifting my head off the pillow in an attempt to eat. I didn't have a headache as such, but my head felt really tight and standing up was causing my blood to pound in my head. In my more paranoid moments I was worried this meant there was still something wrong, and that the operation had somehow been a failure. I spent too much time reading up on ventriculostomy failure rates and ended up having to tear myself away. It was this tightness, as much as the actual surgery, which was causing me to feel so worn out.

In my defence, I didn't exactly take the weekend quietly. I got up on Saturday morning and went grocery shopping (one week post-procedure), and then Hamish and I went shopping for a new bathroom vanity and taps. I rested up that afternoon, but on Saturday night we walked down the hill to visit friends at their new house. I drank several glasses of wine then walked back up the hill again.

I'm finding that my sleep patterns are still a bit disturbed, and Saturday night was a good example. The tightness in my head bothered me to distraction. I couldn't relax and got maybe a couple of hours maximum. It took a big dose of Hydrocortisone and a long hot shower to get me moving the next morning.

On Sunday I drove Hamish to Paraparaumu for a glider flight. The weather was perfect and he escaped without air sickness, even flying the glider himself. He landed with a huge grin on his face and it was nice to do something for him after putting him through so much stress. Now both of us have expensive hobbies ...

We followed that up with lunch at a beachside cafe, then returned home where I felt unable to rest. Instead I headed out into the garden for an hour or so, and only after that did I allow myself to crash. Thankfully I did at least sleep well.

On Monday the weather changed and it was cold and wet as I made my way to my office for morning tea. My neck and shoulders were still bothering me, the tightness in my head in particular an issue. It was great to be back at work for a while but catching up with everyone was overwhelming. I had optimistically taken a gym bag with me in the hope of sitting on a stationary bike for a while. Instead I headed straight back home again. I put a DVD on and snuggled up under a duvet on the sofa, but fell asleep a few minutes in and woke as it was finishing.

It was only then that I think I really accepted recovery was going to take a little while. I fell asleep quite quickly last night but spent an hour or so in the middle of the night tossing and turning. I made an appointment with my physio as soon as her office opened. A few good cracks of my back later and some gentle kneading of my neck and I was feeling more human. It was becoming clear that the strange head sensations were indeed neck and shoulder tension and not a sign of anything more ominous.

I've taken it easy all afternoon. I have no plans for tomorrow, and although I've said I'll head into work for a few hours on Thursday if it feels too much I'll head home again. As much as it kills me I think any form of workout is going to have to wait till next week. This resting stuff is hard!


Calyx Meredith said...

Good heavens - you don't like to stop for anything do you? Thank you so much for the B2B love! I envisioned my connection to all of the athletic, creative, supportive people I've met in this community - and it almost brought me to tears on the bike on Saturday. Be good to yourself as you get back to working out!!

Michelle said...

Resting is hard but you will be glad you did it. Your body will thank you. Be as easy on yourself and you would be to a friend in the same situation. You are very strong.