20-Cent Neurosurgery

Looking back, I see it’s been even longer than I thought since I published my last post, “Wary Little Jumper”, on May 12.  I knew it would be a while until I posted again, but wasn’t sure when that would be, due to some medical issues.  Not knowing what was going on, I didn’t want to give out erroneous or unsure information. But now I have the situation behind me (mostly) and can let you know exactly why I have been absent from my blog posts, Twitter, and Facebook. So here is a timeline of the events I have been experiencing:

May 08

On May 08, after having experienced very severe headaches for 3-4 days (I’ve never been prone to headaches, only having 2-3  “regular” headaches over a year), I contacted my primary care physician’s office for an appointment. The headaches I had been experiencing, were debilitating headaches, with a heavy pressure feeling, always on my right hand side, just above my ear. I ended up getting an appointment for Wednesday, May 13 at 9:15 am.


May 13

On May 13, I met with my doctor (who is only a couple of years younger than me, and has been my primary care physician for about 25 years). After playing the “50 Questions Game”, he pretty much gave up at making a diagnose. He prescribed me a week’s worth of migraine headache medication and scheduled me for a CT scan of my head, for Wednesday, May 20.


May 14-May 19

In this timeframe, I used a total of 3 of the prescription pain pills (for migraines). After the first couple of days, the headaches failed to appear … a wonderful thing, until that the headaches were being replaced with other, negative symptoms. I started noticing that functions associated with my left side (hand, fingers, and to a lesser degree, walking) were getting out of control and I was not able to control my left side very well. Most notable was my typing. My right hand seemed to type pretty consistently and accurately, buy my left hand typed “jibberish” and what looked like a foreign language.


May 15

I received a phone call from the clinic, saying my insurance company had denied my doctor’s request for a CT scan, but had recommended (and would cover an MRI). So we changed the May 13 appointment to an MRI exam, both with and without dye. This was not an issue for neither my doctor, nor me, as the MRI gives a lot more information.


May 20

In the morning of my MRI, I could definitely tell a difference with my left side. In fact, I asked my wife to help me get dressed. I had much trouble putting on a t-shirt, a pair of sweatpants, and my socks.With her help, I got dressed and she drove me to the MRI test. After arriving and being placed on the cart to enter the MRI chamber, the test began. The first 17 minutes were “no dye” testing. After this portion of the test was completed, I was removed from the chamber to have dye injected, so I could then have “contrasting” images made. But no dye was added. I looked up and saw my wife in the control room with the MRI operator, and she was on the phone. This was my first clue something was unusual. A few minutes later, I was joined by my wife and the MRI operator. I was told that an ambulance was on the way, to pick me up for transport to a local (Kansas City) hospital. They had found a subdermal hematoma on the right side of my brain.

After ~ 15 minutes, we reached Research Hospital, where I was admitted into the Emergency Room. The ER doctor sent me for a CT scan, for additional information. A little later, I was moved to a room on the 4th Floor.

About mid-evening, my new neurosurgeon, Dr. John Clough, visited me and discussed the options we had. I voted for immediate surgery (early next morning) as this was presented as potentially the quickest recovery and most likely to be successful. It was called “Burr Hole” surgery, and consisted of drilling 2 holes, via a drill and bit, and each about the size of a dime, through my skull in the area of the pooled blood. The doctor would inject a sterile saline solution into one hole. This solution would dissolve the blood in the solution, and would then be forced out the second hole. After draining, the 2 holes would be stitched to heal the wounds.

I was scheduled for the first surgery of the day, 7:30 am the next morning.


May 21

At 6:30 am, I was wheeled down to the Operating Room prep area. Dr. Clough prepped me by shaving a strip, where the holes would be drilled (by the way, Dr. Clough is a wonderful neurosurgeon, but he needs to stick to his day job … he is a terrible hairstylist!). The surgery took about an hour and I was wheeled up to the 6th Floor (NeuroSurgery) after recovery from anesthesia/surgery. My first 24 hours were quite rough. I had to lay totally flat on my back (to help my brain to move back to it’s normal position) and could only sit to eat and stand to go to the bathroom.

In the evening, Dr. Clough stopped by and said he was very pleased with the surgery and the results (I should add that my recovery during the day was totally surprising to me, with a turnaround in my left side functions, getting stronger with the use of my left hand, all day long! He mentioned I would be restricted from mowing/riding my tractor for 2 weeks, and would be restricted to carrying 10 pounds for 2 weeks. And he specifically mentioned that I couldn’t pick up/carry my photo backpack. He also restricted me from hiking the prairie (afraid I’d get disoriented and forget where I was).

Here are a couple of images that one of my daughters captured after surgery (fortunately, I was allowed to take a shower prior to these images. Otherwise, some of my hair/scalp would have still been orange, from the antiseptic prep before surgery):

Sutures, after Burr Hole neurosurgery

Sutures, after Burr Hole neurosurgery

Not pretty, I know! Sorta reminds me of the famous Nick Nolte photo (I believed it was a booking photo, taken a few years ago) :o)

I was also assessed by the hospital’s speech therapist (was given a clean bill of health!), the hospital’s physical therapist (we took daily walks around the hospital, and they cleared me for using stairs), and the hospital’s occupational therapist (we worked with manual dexterity and regaining my typing skills).


May 24

In the morning, one of the Research neurosurgeons visited me and said someone would take me downstairs soon, for a final CT scan. Following the scan, I was given my final papers and was able to check out/go home! But this doctor placed more restrictions on me:  no driving, can’t lift more than 5 pounds … yikes!

Since then, I have continued to gain strength, and am looking forward to being able to type accurately and quickly again! I phoned the doctor’s office and have a followup appointment this Tuesday, June 02, with Dr. Clough. He will remove the sutures and (hopefully) remove some of the restrictions I currently have (can’t pick up more than 5 pounds, no lawn mowing, no driving). I’m starting to get a bit stir crazy and am longing to get back to photographing on the prairie!

My time on Twitter and Facebook will likely be sparse while I continue to regain strength and heal, so please be patient. While I’m out for my doctor’s appointment this Tuesday, I will be looking for a better keyboard for my Apple iMac 27, one with higher profile keys that should make it a bit easier for my brain to relearn the locations of keys, and to help my typing hands stay in the correct positions on the keyboard (if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!). I hope to share more posts soon, although they may be a bit shorter, and with less typing :o)

I also thank those that have been praying and sending positive thoughts my way. They’re much appreciated and are helping make a difference!

I also wish to thank the entire team at Research Hospital; all my nurses and staff were extremely pleasant and helpful! And a hearty thanks to Dr. Clough and his staff … a great group of neurosurgeons … but please get more training in hairstying!  :o)


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