Friday, December 16, 2011

Nine Lives...And I Have Used Eight!

Here I sit pondering the flux of precious life from my hospital bed, having narrowly dodged the icy gripping fingers of death. Escaped its evil clutches once again. Remember that "worst headache I ever had" I was bitching about last week? Well it turned out to be the initial onset symptom of the most terrifying experience of my life. Last Friday afternoon while in the shower a sudden writhing and gripping pain violently struck my head and sunk me to my knees. Over the course of about an hour the vice-grip slowly released it's choke hold as I pushed, prodded and tried to massage the constricted muscles of my head, face and neck. It settled into what I believed was a horrific migraine. This was a pain that should have warranted my rapt attention. But I was so pathetically weary of being sick and for some stupid reason believed I could just will it away by refusing to acknowledge it. So I did nothing. After a few more excruciating brain-pain episodes accompanying a constantly pounding head I finally relented to an appointment with a P.A. at my doctors office on Tuesday morning. I calmed myself up to this point by chalking it all up to some sort of hormonal shift or another. We discussed, she examined, and we agreed I was indeed suffering from a hormonal induced migraine. She gave me a shot, waved her hands in front of my face to rule out any neurological origins and sent me on my way with a prescription for migraine meds. The pain never went away.

Wednesday morning I was getting ready for work when suddenly the most intense throbbing, stabbing, excruciating pain gripped my brain, permeating each cell and every membrane in my head. I flung myself onto the bed, pressing and poking every spot on my face, head and neck for some pressure point or way to diffuse the pain, to no avail. Yorkie, my baby boy, pressed himself tightly against my body in a distressed attempt to comfort me while I clawed my face, wailed in agony and thrashed around wildly. I was desperately seeking some relief from what was becoming quickly obvious needed immediate medical attention. It literally felt like my head was about to explode. I somehow sobbed through a phone call to my neighbor and she raced over to give me a ride to emergency. Each pulse of my heartbeat sent electric shock waves of torture through my brain. I was screaming in pain. She took me to the ER and I was given both a CT and an unsuccessful spinal-tap before a neuro-radiologist discovered blood in the frontal region of my brain scan. I was immediately ambulanced to Neuro ICU at a nearby hospital and given a contrast CT, regular then contrast MRI, spinal-tap and catheter angiogram during the next two whirlwind days. Two arteries were intentionally punctured during this process and I was mandated 10 hours of strict bed paralysis, not allowed to move a single muscle while I recovered from these risky procedures. I required constant eyes rolling back in my head narcotic shots to keep the pain at bay. My husband and mother rallied around me, all three of us completely terrified because each test was successively ruling out the more mild possibilities and words like aneurysm, stroke, brain tumors and death were whirling around my hospital room high up above my head.

Then suddenly Friday evening around 6pm the Dean of Neurology emerged from the drug induced mist before me and declared he had a diagnosis. I was shocked he could decipher the conclusion so quickly, used to the 3-ring circus of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. We listened to him give us the best case scenario that could have possibly come out of this horrible situation. I suffered from an extremely rare subset of Vasculitis called RCVS (Reversible Cerebral Vasoconsriction Syndrome), fitting the medical school text book definition to a T. I suffered not only one but at least two hemorrhagic strokes, luckily with no obvious neurological damage. No drooping eyelid or drooling face, memory impairment or paralysis with a lifetime of assisted living, or worse. The first word in the name alone was cause for rejoice, REVERSIBLE! He then went on to describe the treatment; steroids (yuck but I better shut-up and be grateful there is a treatment) for about 4 months and calcium-channel blockers for under a year with no residual aftermath and very little chance of re-occurrence. 

We just heard the words from the doctors mouth that hundreds of faithful voices had been pleading to God's ear these last few days, and I was not dying any quicker than the rest of us! He left the room and my husband and I stared uneasily at each other with a surprised if not quite believable glee as I watched the stress and tension visibly roll from his back, the light sparking back in his eye. Here I laid for two days, death repetitively and obnoxiously knocking on my door, watching the devastation this was having on my husband and mother through a Dilaudid filtered haziness, with so many questions and so much fear. But once again the grace of God was upon my life and it was spared, and not just my existence, but the quality of it as well. So as I sit here coming to terms with this journey, off of the IV pain drugs and out of the ICU, I have come to the conclusion THIS IS IT FOR ME, I have had it! I am marching toward a long and full life of nothing but amazing health, happiness and prosperity. I have paid my dues, worked through my karma, put up with more than my share, and I am done. Besides...I simply don't have any more lives to spare and its time to go bother someone else!

Thanks for joining,

This blog was originally published on 7/31/10, two days before I was discharged from the hospital.


  1. Leah, I have no words. Just no words. Thank God you came through it unscathed. How are you now?? One other thing. As I find these sites and "our" people, I find more similarities between us. I too, poke and prod my face to try to "accupressure" headaches away.

    Beth M

  2. I have had vasculitis and boy it hurts. I am glad you are fine now and let's hope this NEVER happens again!!!