Monday, July 7, 2014

I Present To You, The Newest X-man: Rock For Brains

Good news: I live!


I had the Onyx embolization procedure of my aneurysm last week and now in place of an aneurysm, I have a 10mm glue rock in my brain. I shall henceforth be known as Rock For Brains. Yes, I am finally a Real Pathan. :P

I guess I should share all the interesting stories. The day before the surgery, I had what is called an angiogram to give the doctor an updated image/map of the aneurysm. I've had one before. They're not fun but not a huge deal. They sedate you, open up your femoral artery, thread a catheter through your circulatory system up to the base of your brain, where they release dye and then take contrasted pictures. Or something like that.

In this instance though, because they were going to open up my femoral artery the next day anyways for the actual aneurysm treatment, when they finished, they didn't stitch the opening closed. They just put pressure on it to make the body suck it shut, so to speak. That usually works fine. But me being me, I don't get to do anything the usual way. So when they finished the procedure and I completed the supine recovery, the time came to stand me up and see how I was doing before they discharged me. There were two parts to this challenge: peeing and not bleeding. I passed the peeing one. I failed the not bleeding one.

Yep, my femoral artery popped open mid pee test, resulting in my life's second and hopefully last "Hey This Looks Like A Horror Movie I Once Saw" experience. My leg was cascading blood. Like a slow red waterfall. "Ok. Ok. Ok. You're bleeding. Just stand up. Flush the toilet. Wash your hands. Clean up some of this blood. You don't want to scare the next bathroom user. No. No, never mind. You're bleeding on what you need to be cleaning. Just get up and get out of the bathroom. Who cares if it's rude to leave the toilet unflushed and covered with blood! They will deal with this." So I stumbled out and said "Uh, nurse. I'm bleeding." And she said "Why yes you are!"

I had great nurses and this one was the best. She was this tall, broad, wry Queen Latifa, with braids. She picked me up and set me on the gurney and tried to stop the bleeding by..... crushing the artery shut. Manually. So I had Nurse Dorothy squeezing the life out of me for 10 minutes before she decided it wasn't working and she had to call in The Marines. The Marines in question was the 6'3 kindly countryboy who I guess was the interventional radiologist or head nurse or something - I never did find out exactly what he did or his last name, just that he was The Stuff and named Danny. Danny applied his version of the Jaws of Life to my artery and managed, with bone crushing compression action, to get me to stop bleeding all over everything. "I am so sorry. That is definitely going to leave a mark." And it has. But Alhamdullilah.

I went back to our hotel for a night and then the next morning, I was to have The Real Deal - Zee's Brain Repair.

The aneurysm embolization procedure is endovascular, so the doc went in from the same femoral artery opening. The angiogram the day before had revealed that my aneurysm had an aneurysm - called a daughter aneurysm - resulting in congratulatory messages to our folks about their new grandparent status and one from Zeba saying "Ha! Your aneurysm had kids before you did!" Aside from the need for us to start saving up for a tiny deadly jehaiz/dowry, having a daughter aneurysm meant that my aneurysm was working towards a rupture. The weak part of my artery artery that bubbled out to make an aneurysm had it's own little weak corner that was stretching my already compromised tissue further. So, not great news but didn't change the plan of action.

And that plan was to go in from the femoral artery opening with a big and special catheter, enter my brain, there inflate a balloon below the aneurysm, and then pump the aneurysm full of Onyx - a type of surgical glue made to become solid on contact with blood. When the Onyx hardens, then they deflate the balloon and evacuate my brain. Mid-way through the procedure, I was woken (though I have no memory of this) to check for paralysis, brain damage and loss of sight. Alhamdullilah, I have none - at least none that I didn't have before anyways. :P So the aneurysm was defused before it could rupture and I suffered no brain or nerve damage, Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah.

While they were in my head, the doc discovered that I had developed a second daughter aneurysm in the 24 hours since he had checked last, which means I was very very close to rupturing. I probably would not have made it another week without the aneurysm popping. Classic Zee, cutting it so close to the wire. I did have a scare when I came out of the OR, as apparently, when they took out all the tubing they had in me, they badly scraped/bumped my throat and sinuses. I woke up in the OR recovery area feeling the steady flow of blood down my throat, and scared that it was coming from my brain, decided the best way to get medical attention was to shout "Guys? GUYS? GUYS? UM, I THINK I AM SWALLOWING BLOOD. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU CUT ME AND THIS IS COMING FROM MY THROAT?" God knows why the word 'nurse' did not come to mind, and why I become so polite/legalistic when facing medical emergency but I hope the nurses can laugh about it.

The next thing I know I was violently vomiting blood everywhere, which I proceeded to do for the next few hours. It ended up taking 12 hours for the bleeding in my throat/sinuses to stop, during which time I coughed, gagged, vomited, and sprayed blood in gradually diminishing amounts. My thoughts during one of these bloodbaths? "Hehe, it's like I have Ebola. WAIT, DON'T TELL THEM THAT. THEY MAY QUARANTINE YOU." You see, my brain, beyond being a suicidal jerk, is also quite an idiot. Anyways, when I was taken to my own ICU room, Mali finally was able to see me, and with huge eyes in a pale face, said "you look beautiful." I was laughing and calling him a liar when my mom came over and revealed the extent of my movie monster visage: "Your lips, teeth and face are covered in dried blood. We'll try and clean you off." They ended up keeping me in the hospital for 3 days till the bleeding in my throat and sinuses slowed enough to be a non-risk - but I suspect it was really to prevent rumors that the zombie-pocalypse has come.

Now, for the next 6 months I'll be on the blood thinners plavix and aspirin to reduce my risk of stroke, clots, etc, so I've been told to avoid smashing into things. That lasted about 2 days. Furniture, walls, and doorknobs are out to get me. I am considering making myself a bubblewrap suit of armor. And after a day of wondering why my brother has an indoor firefly infestation, I have realized that these are the visual auras/distortions that the doctor warned me about. I keep seeing bright sparks shooting past, lending me unnecessary dramatic special effects to things like brushing my teeth, which should go away in time. I'm also on a barbiturate for the migraines from my incensed and possibly still swollen brain but am up and around, shuffling, (a bit zombie-like, I admit, but I promise I don't crave BRAAAAAINS) around to reduce the risk of clots in my legs.

I will probably fly back to the US in 6 months for an angiogram to see how the Onyx has settled in, and am due to have other checks at the 1 year and 2 year mark. As far as long-term prognosis goes, the doc says I have less than a 1% chance that these Onyx filled aneurysms will recur or rupture, but a fairly significant chance I will have another aneurysm elsewhere in the years to come, on account of the vascular fragility I have from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I am hoping though, that my brain has learned its lesson and will stop trying to kill me, as that is a very poor way to get attention.

So that, Inshallah, is the story of the time my brain tried to kill me and we fixed it by putting rocks in my head.

The End.


  1. The "you look beautiful" part and the following explanation for the wide eyes and pale face, made me laugh unexpectedly. But. Alhamdulillah, so glad you're okay. I pray for your complete recovery and good health and that the doorknobs and fireflies and various thingamajigs stop chasing you. Much love!

  2. Alhamdullilah! Hope you are feeling less zombie like now and recovering well.
    Take care and Salamtak :)

  3. Alhamdullilah! whyyyy do you persist in trying to give us all heart attacks! slow your roll, girl!

  4. Tazeen: Yeah, Mali has a knack for making things funny - mostly intentionally. Poor guy. I'm amazed how he calmly stood by my side (albeit, while pale and scared looking) as I vomited blood for hours). Mashallah. And I am ON those damn doorknobs. They will not get me again! Walls though, walls are evil.

    Mahwish: Subhanallah. I am feeling so much better. I still have to take pain meds every 4 hours, otherwise a migraine-ish headache builds, but hopefully that will go away.

    Baji: WELL HELLO AGAIN. FANCY MEETING YOU HERE. :D Dude, I dunno man. I thought the whole medical misadventure thing was Zeba's bag, but apparently, sibling rivalry knows no bounds. Inshallah though, I will try and behave for a while. Give my health insurance some time to recover from its losses. ;)