I stayed in the hospital for 9 more days after my brain surgery. Some doctor almost threw me out exactly a week after my brain surgery, but my body said no and I was given 2 more days. In average, they say it is between one week to 10 days, which does not seem like a whole lot of time considering someone just cut your brain open.
I covered my initial 24 hours after brain surgery in a previous post plunging into some detail about various things from eating and drinking to catheters. Really delightful.
I think a quick recap of the risks involved and the location of the meningioma would be useful for your eyes and understanding, so head on over here before continuing. Otherwise, no guarantees.
I never really know how much detail I should dive into or how much is best to share to give you all an understanding. In my head I feel like that person that cannot shut up, and true, sometimes in real life I am that annoying person. I suppose it is cathartic to write everything down that comes to mind, though I want to keep it digestible and helpful.
Bruised and Battered
I read somewhere that it would be a mix of Frankenstein and car accident. I felt a bit like a Game of Thrones survivor. At first, my face was glowing, then swollen, then I had difficulties opening my eyes because of the swelling. I truly looked like someone who fought for about 3 days straight by the end of the stay, though I only saw a recap of the early metamorphosis about 2 weeks after the surgery. I didn’t dare look in the mirror. It took me well a few days until I summoned up the courage, too scared to know what I’d be looking at. But it wasn’t all that bad, kinda, I just didn’t really recognise myself. My face also turned all colours from yellow to purple, so yeah, the whole rainbow. But mostly, a swollen, yellow-ish egg shape with blue, purple and red specks, dipped into a bit of dried blood. (Oh common, you’ve seen worse on TV!)
Oh and I couldn’t chew or smile properly.
Taste & Smell
I couldn’t taste or smell anything. There was a risk I’d lose my sense of smell and therefore taste, but it took a lot longer for the sense of smell and taste to come back, and then only on the left side. Here is something to remedy the visuals from the previous description: I smelled my husbands lovely, natural smell every day to check for any sensory changes.
It only took a couple of days for any changes. Weirdly, my eye sight on the right eye, which was impaired, came back very quickly and clear. The left eye though was a bit blurry. Normal enough, nothing else to report here. I even managed to read some articles without problems on my last 2 days.
Steroids and Food
Where to begin…In short, I had turned into an eating machine. I don’t think the fact that I couldn’t actually taste anything helped, cause if I had, I am sure I wouldn’t have finished all those culinary masterpieces in the shape of hospital food. Boy, was I hungry. Though to be fair, the hunger came with a vengeance towards the end of the stay and persisted well beyond that for quite some time. Luckily, the hospital portions are tiny and husband and mother reigned my food desiring monster back in with bananas, carrots and other healthy things (all soft stuff, naturally).
Which brings me to the second point with regards to steroids. You will gain weight. It is inevitable and also logical. I mean, you’re not moving, you’ve been given steroids which basically dig a wide hole in your stomach and your body is needing energy to recover. Steroids also make you look like you’ve been pumped with additional air to float around on the search for more food.
Following a conversation is exhausting. I had to take a nap every time I interacted with someone or listened to my mum read. It is as if you have the tiniest brain only capable to fill a few words. Noise was also not my friend. I only functioned on certain sound waves and volumes and could only deal with one person at a time. Also, I talked very slowly and quietly cause it was just too tiring.
It took a week until I could read on paper, one paragraph at a time and even then, I napped in between or just looked at images. I couldn’t bear looking at a screen of any kind and that lasted for about 3 weeks.
My mum told me that she’d read to me every day in the hospital. And without fail, she did! By the way, she has one of the most soothing voices there is. She read a book called The House of the Mosque. It was perfect for letting my imagination flow and falling asleep (not like it was very difficult).
More Sound Effects
Remember those sound effects from the drain? Well, there was more. Loads more over several months. Some cracking and clicking. I suppose I heard my head heal?! Or just fluids moving around. I don’t quite know, but I was told it’s normal and nothing to worry about.
They told me to move on day 2. Day 2! One, because my catheter had to come out. Two, to avoid blood clots and stuff that comes with that. Three, to get me out and about and eventually home. Pfft, yeah right. Panting like granny, I used all of my evaporated core muscles to heave myself up on my elbows…from an already upright positioned bed. Every time I needed to go to the loo, I had to plan it several minutes in advance. The remote for the bed always in reach (stinky eye to those nurses moving the remote).
I also had physiotherapists making me walk to the tea cart, which was right outside my door. I had to make tea or coffee or whatever was in reach and go back to my bed. I hated it. I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep. After that it got a bit better until my husband and I practised the walk out of the hospital. I made it outside of the ward but it was downhill for me after that. The feeling was a mix of anxiety, sickness, dizziness and hyperventilating. I just think I wasn’t ready for such a long walk, mentally and physically.
It ties in with the previous point. You don’t have any physical strength. Holding a spoon to feed yourself porridge is about all you can master at first. Pouring water from a jug into a glass seemed like an impossible feat, let alone pulling the tray towards me. I especially felt helpless when nurses would check on me and move the food tray aside and not put it back. Same for the remote. It was such an undertaking each time and my muscles just would not do what they were supposed to.
Sorry, but it has to be addressed. They won’t let you leave the hospital unless you passed something and if you can’t, well then there are various levels of interference. I was told this before admission, so I was well prepared for the abundance of that one question by basically everyone who checked on me. Luckily, I didn’t have to go to the most invasive level. I think the sheer pressure (ha!) just made my body voluntarily continue with its bodily functions as it is supposed to. But, let me tell you, the combination of steroids, having to eat all the time, painkillers, trying to isolate your tummy muscles (no straining the brain!) and the pressure to perform does not bode well.
My mum, bless her, tried to get me to relax by reading to me for well over an hour, twice! Other more natural ways of helping yourself are to eat dried plums (ugh, my worst nightmare), carrot or apple purée (homemade, of course), and to try to move.
Having the Clips Removed
Let me begin by saying that I like to know in detail what will be done to me. Just give me the heads-up, a minute to take it in and ready I am to have done to me whatever needs to be done. Well, the nurse who took out my clips refused and started to fumble on my head. I panicked and had an anxiety attack similar to the one before surgery. In hindsight I think the nurse wanted to spare me the details and thought I’d be better off not knowing.
I would have wanted to know how many clips I had in before the nurse started to take them out, the tools used, the technique, basically everything.
Don Juan and the Jamaican Mamma
The kitchen staff changed only a few times compared to the daily turnaround of nurses. Don Juan, the charmer, sometimes snug in a yoghurt or chocolate cake for me and generally kept all the ladies on the floor in a good mood. To clarify, he himself goes by the name of Don Juan and that’s how he introduced himself to me.
There was another food lady, I called her the Jamaican Mamma in my head, because she bossed everyone around and told all the sick, recovering people what they can and cannot eat. Nurses had great respect for her and tried not to offend her. Her accent also didn’t help me trying not to stereotype her. Anyways, one lovely afternoon, I managed to go all the way to the balcony. I enjoyed the warm-ish weather when I realised that the kitchen lady usually comes around at this time to take orders for dinner. Afraid of not getting anything, my mum ran to tell her what I wanted. Apparently they argued about the fact that I wanted gravy on mashed potatoes. The Jamaican Mamma only puts gravy on chicken.
The evening I got home, my mum made the most massive pasta bolognese. It was probably very delicious. I know it was even though I couldn’t taste anything. But the mere fact that there was some kind of texture was rewarding enough. And who doesn’t like their mum’s cooking.