"You're going to heal up wonderfully! The Doctor said that they got the whole tumor out; your PGCT was pushing against the left side of your brain, a lot. He also said, usually they have to spend so much time searching for the tumor but because your's was so large it was easy to locate and removing it was textbook. He expects a full neurological recovery, Lasha!" Chris was beaming ear to ear.
This wonderful news was suddenly pushed out of my mind as great pain shot throughout my lower intestines... I started to sweat and my stomach started to expand. I needed to expel urine from my bladder - badly!
"Chris I need to pee!" I cried as sweat dripped from my brow.
"Lasha, you have a catheter, you shouldn't have to pee."
"I know, but it feels like I do and it feels like nothing is coming out... I am even trying to push it out!" I started to panic.
Chris' face was startled, "Okay baby I'll take a look" Chris lifted the blankets to inspect my catheter.
"Do you see anything?" I whined.
"I see a large air bubble in the tube here. Maybe that is what is keeping your urine from..." and just as Chris was examining my catheter under the hospital sheets our nurse walked in.
"Oh Lordie, you two can't be doing any of that for quite some time now. I'd say about 3 months." she winked at Chris.
"Lasha says she needs to piddle but she can't pay the water bill." Chris joked with the nurse.
"Before you walked in, I was examining my wife's catheter, promise no monkey business." Chris winked at the nurse, "and I noticed an air bubble inside of it."
The nurse walked over and looked under the sheets, "Oh my! Okay hunny, just hang on. I'll work my magic over here and we'll get that fountain flowing in no time!"
Chris smiled and handed over the catheter to the nurse who started moving it from side to side.
"How are you feeling my dear?" The nurse asked.
Let me tell you, when someone has control of your catheter (a silicone tube inserted into your bladder through your urethra) you don't want to risk offending them - in any manner.
"Fine" was the only word I could get out.
As the nurse was tugging at my urethra, and moving my insides from side to side, Chris and her started to exchange pleasantries like it was a normal day at a coffee shop:
"So what are your plans after this?" she asked Chris.
"Well, we will be staying at the Wyndham hotel just down the road from here"
"Oh good, you two are staying close. I read in her file you two were from Canada, is that right?"
"Yes Ma'am, Fort McMurray, Alberta" Chris replied proudly.
"I know that place, it had a huge fire a few years back and it was all over the TV down here. Are ya'll recovering up there okay?" The nurse looked up at Chris but didn't miss a beat moving her torture device from side to side.
"After the fire we lost a lot of people and a lot of people ended up moving back home because they lost everything in the fire."
"Mmmhmm" the nurse nodded.
"You holding up there okay, girl?" The nurse asked.
"Fine" I quickly replied while trying to focus on my breathing or ANYTHING other than that damn tube up my hoohah!
To this day, even as I am writing this blog, the catheter experience is the one thing that comes back to haunt me. This was, for me, by far the worst part of the surgery.
"We had a huge flood down here the same year ya'll had your wildfire. What a sad year that was all around for people. My aunt lost her house, my cousins are still waiting on insurance payouts, and ... Oh, there we go, okay hunny, I want you to turn and lay on your left side".
"Thank Baby Jesus" it was as if he sent down every heavenly angel to earth in order to turn on every spout of the Trevi Fountain - let the flow begin!
I hastily flopped over to my left, not giving two damns about my recent brain surgery, all I was focused on was, "drain sucker - drain!" .
Suddenly, relief, instant reprieve!
"Thank you! You're a wonderful woman. I don't know if I want to kiss you or slap you right now." I laughed at my nurse.
She giggled back, "Well like I said when I walked in, there will be none of that for the next little while. Remember beautiful, don't do anything too strenuous or anything that will cause your heart rate to increase. A lot of people don't think sex lands in those categories but it does along with running, cycling, weight lifting, swimming... things like that, no matter how beautiful a couple you are!"
"You are too sweet, we will keep our hands to ourselves, we promise." I replied as the sense of nausea reminded me why I shouldn't move around so much.
It's funny how people see you. I hadn't felt beautiful in a long time. The last thing I felt after surgery (and even before surgery) was beautiful. Going from my wheelchair (shaking and unable to speak) to going in for brain surgery (and coming out with a huge zipper down the back of my head) I felt down-right ugly!
I was shocked hearing this nurse call me beautiful. I was vomiting, weak, and blind in one eye, but the compliment was encouraging and gave me hope that one day I may regain some self-esteem.
Catheters... these terrible torture devices developed in the 17th century were pulled from the pages of Dante's Inferno. If anyone ever wanted to get answers out of someone a catheter would be, by far and still is, the most effective technique. No one would dare lie while under the catheter.
James Bond: "Do you expect me to talk?"
Gold Finger: "No, I expect you to die!"
Amongst all the hardships involved with brain surgery there were also wonderful moments of love and support I received.
My grandparents drove down from Oklahoma to Texas to be with Chris and my family during my surgery. My grandparents were a great comfort during that stressful time.
My sister, Bethany, and nephew, Remi, flew in from Colorado to be with us.
Remi was a great joy to my family at the hospital during my procedure; he brought so many smiles and so much laughter to my family during this stressful time.
My parent's arrived the day of my lumbar puncture and my mama was a huge help in getting me out of my wheelchair and showered before my big day.
As a child, you never think to yourself that one day, when you're 28 years old, your mother will be bathing you, again. It brought back memories of being bathed in my mother's wash basin as a child.
The next day I was discharged from the hospital and the nurse offered me a fancy looking wheelchair but since my loyalty belonged to Hermando (my wheelchair) I asked if I could leave in him instead?
The nurse granted my wish and Chris rolled me down the hospital halls in Hermando and out the front doors of Memorial Hermann where my parents were waiting with their red Dodge Charger.
My parents and Bethany were outside Memorial Hermann waiting to drive us all to our hotel rooms to spend the next two weeks recovering.
Since I was a patient at Memorial Hermann the Wyndham Hotel had given Chris and I (and my parents) a discount for staying with them. For those organizing and planning their brain surgery to Houston, Texas, the Wyndham was a nice option (I have the link pasted below).
Chris reserved a suite with a mini fridge, microwave, and TV in a separate living area away from my bedroom. My parent's reserved a suite with a full kitchen and real life size fridge to keep all our groceries in. All cooking was done down in my parent's hotel suite in order to keep smells out of my room.
I noticed during recovery (and still sometimes now) smells would hit me hard and would cause extreme nausea. If I could offer a bit of advice for those going in for brain surgery don't cook in your hotel room. Keep only drinks and things like, watermelon, blueberries, nuts, and seeds in your room to snack on when you get hungry.
Chris bought me cases of Gatorade and loaded our mini fridge with this great electrolyte. Prior to my surgery, Chris had done lots of research on brain surgery. He discovered that in Europe they have started to provide patients with electrolytes before and after surgery and this has been speeding up their patient's recovery times (Chris purchased "Gatorade Zero" for less sugar).
When I first arrived in my hotel room there were so many gifts waiting for me. I couldn't believe the love and support still pouring in from friends and family all over Canada and the USA.
By week 1 of recovery I had already sweated through all my pajamas, all of Chris' pajamas, and any spare shirts and boxers Chris had laying around the hotel room - brain surgery takes a lot of energy to heal from, even in your sleep. My apologies go out to my husband for having to go commando for that week.
My parents were so sweet, they went out and bought me a new set of pink pajamas just to sweat through - HA HA.
Recovery was spent sleeping (about 12 or more hours a day), taking pain meds, eating, and peeing. I was pretty much a new born baby in an adult's body.
I thank God every day for Christopher being by my side throughout my healing process. The post-op medication list was extensive (to say the least), there would have been no way, after brain surgery, I could have navigated that maze of medications on my own.
"Chris... Chris" I reach over to the other side of the bed but he wasn't there.
"CHRIS!" I yelled in a panic.
"Huh, what? I'm awake. I'm coming!" Chris ran over from the sofa he had fallen asleep on.
"Are you okay baby?" He said as he reached the bed.
"There you are. I reached over to touch you but you weren't there." I complained.
"I'm sorry baby, I didn't go any where. I just fell asleep on the couch for a few minutes." Chris' tone was low and tired. My poor husband wasn't sleeping.
"Is it time for my pain meds?" I whimpered.
Chris looked down at his watch, "Well, I must have been asleep for about 30 minutes so something must be coming up soon." He laughed.
"Let me look at the chart" Chris opened his journal and flipped through the pages of medications and times he had given them to me last.
"Ummm, maybe I could give you a Tramadol in about 15 minutes, but you aren't due for the Hydrocodone for another 3.5 hours"
"I'm so nauseous too" I grumbled.
"Okay..." he started rubbing his eyes to wake himself up.
"Yeah, I could give you some nausea meds with your pain meds in about 15 minutes. Go back to sleep, I'll wake you up soon." Chris walked over and placed his hand on my back and rubbed me gently. His touch and his comforting presence was needed and as fast as I was up, I was out again like a light.
"Wake up Lasha, it's pain med time." Chris was gently rubbing my arm. He had set his alarm to go off on his watch and had placed it on vibrate so he would be the only one who would wake up.
"Thank God, my head is throbbing and I am so nauseous! It hurts to sleep on any side of my head."
"I know, I'm sorry baby, this will help" Chris put the medication in my hand and handed me a big glass of water.
The medication list was something Chris and I were not prepared for. Chris was up every 30 to 45 minutes to give me one pain med or another. All my medications overlapped and if we missed one there was no playing catch up, the pain does not wait for you. Chris was truly selfless and sacrificed sleep, cognitive functioning, meals, and bowl movements just to take care of me. I don't believe Chris had more then 1.5 hrs of a sleep a night.
For those going in for brain surgery try to remember that you are beautiful; self esteem is something that is hard to get back after being so sick for so long.
Also remember, your caregiver is giving up a lot of themselves to be there to help you through this tough time.
You will be cranky, in pain, and extremely hungry at times (I found it came on suddenly and I felt like I must eat - NOW!), but try to set aside your frustrations of things not happening right away - this sounds easier than it actually is. When you are in pain, nauseous, and haven't pooped in 5 days there isn't much room for patience left in you.
Positive thinking, grace, and thankfulness for your healing and your caregiver needs to be kept in mind 24/7.
Thank you for reading part 2 of my PGCT brain surgery journey, I hope you enjoyed it. If so, hit the heart button down below. Also, feel free to leave me a comment down below.
Looking forward to sharing more with you all soon - much love, peace, and grace today special.
~ Lasha Barbosa
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