Wednesday, December 28, 2011
My alarm went off at five thirty, Maroon 5 cutting through the early morning silence in the Rochester Garden Hilton. My mom stirred next to me as if she'd already been awake a few moments; John tried to sleep through it but I could see him twitch from his bed a few feet away. We brushed our teeth and washed our faces and my mom and I put on a little make up though it didn't do much to hide the bags under our eyes. In fifteen minutes, we were dressed, packed and out the door. The air was cold outside, a stark contrast from the desert climate of our room. Fortunately the car wasn't far away and it felt like no more than a minute had passed when we pulled into the best parking spot I'd had yet at the Mayo Clinic.
Standing in the steam, I picked up the pink comb on the ledge next to me and began running it through my hair; first one direction, then the next. I pushed the teeth along the scalp just above my hair line; I combed left, picking up glue and wiping it onto my leg, then combed right, finding a little more, and last forward, leaving wet hair hanging straight over my forehead like bangs with a slight curl at the edge where it met my eyes.
When we arrived at the door, the Gonda building was locked. "The doors don't open til six thirty," said a guard. A handful of other early arrivals sat on chairs or leaned against the glass wall separating the heated inter-doorway space from the white marble atrium.
"What time is it, mom?" I asked.
"Six ten," she replied. "Let's go get some breakfast." Caribou Coffee stood with warm welcoming arms across the street and down the block. I had oatmeal, John had a breakfast sandwich and mom had a coffee. I grabbed a paper napkin printed with the Caribou logo and a short holiday-themed Mad Lib. We ate our food and conversed in a series of requested adjectives and nouns, which I entered onto the napkin using the pen I lifted from our hotel room. The result was a mildly amusing story of buying bacon presents for your scissors and decorating a Christmas chair.
Our spirits lightened noticeably with food in our stomachs and we headed back to the hospital, checking in and being directed to the elevators to the desk on the eight floor of the Mayo building.
I'm quite convinced that the elevator in the Mayo building is the slowest in the continental U.S. It rose oh so incredibly slowly and steadily until the climbing light illuminated a black, printed "8", eliciting a ding and a slight lurch as the doors slid open. We stepped out into an unlit elevator bank, slightly concerned as we turned the corner to find an empty room facing an empty check in desk with half of its lights still out. We took a seat in three adjacent chairs upholstered in a familiar mauve floral pattern and waited.
The blue glue came out almost easily with each scrape of the comb. I ran my fingers through my hair every couple minutes to find the next shadow of an electrode. My hands and arms had become covered with hair and little rubbery balls of glue. The steam had stopped its flow and I reached for the silver handle on the wall, pulling it upward to start a stream of hot water from the bath faucet. I rinsed my hands and the comb in the falling stream and watched the discarded clumps travel down the drain before carefully placing the white, rubber plug.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
All in all, pretty great news! Now just waiting for my insurance to approve the CT and hopefully I can get it done today - preferably early so I have time to get back to St. Paul and wash my hair before dinner out at 7!
Woke up at 5:30 to a wake up call and two cell phone alarms. Got to Mayo at 6:15 but it wasn't open yet, so we went to Caribou for bfast. Eventually got in and went to 8th floor of the Gonda bldg to get my itinerary. They gave me a red pager and I thought they were going to call me up, but 7:25 came and I figured out that they didn't know I was there for my EEG. I went up and told them and fortunately the EEG station was at the other end of the hallway, so I wasn't late.
EEG lasted about 3 hrs and included a nap, reading out loud, looking at pictures, looking at strobe lights (yuck) and hyperventilating for 3 min (double yuck). After EEG, got blood drawn and had western breakfast bagel at Bruegger's for lunch. Hit up the billing dept to deal w the $9,440 that mom paid out of pocket in March when I was still fighting w COBRA. Turns out we might not get it back because it was used to pay for two MRIs that didn't receive precertification. We're gonna fight it but there's a chance we won't win. :(
Right now we're waiting to see Dr. So. He'll give us the results of the EEG and I'll ask about the headaches I still get.
Will give an update on our way home!
Monday, December 26, 2011
<p>Wet hair drapes down the back of my neck, a curtain of dark brown descending from its mat on the flat spot of my head, just above the place where skull joins spinal cord. When it's wet like this, my scar shows clearly: a natural curved part in my hair, a red line carved into the white of my scalp. It's been eleven months and two days since it was stapled back together for the last time. I stood and stared at it in the hotel bathroom mirror, still foggy from my shower. A girl looked back at me, a white towel wrapped around her body, the end tucked in under her left armpit to hold it in place. She had mascara under her eyes, black smudges clinging to her face after minimal success with a bar of soap named after a Mexican grain. Her jaw was set in a poker face, her eyes unreadable, she was neither empty nor full. She looked back at me as if to say, "we've done our best. The rest is out of our hands."
Climbing into bed with a pen and my trusty green notebook, I cannot help but thinking of the last time I stayed here: frightened and determined, awaiting surgery. It was cold that night, January twentieth, but tonight, just shy of a year later, the air is warm; warm for a Minnesota December, at least. The Courtyard Marriott in Rochester is across the street from St. Marys Hospital, where I spent the longest, hardest and most formative eight days of my life. I watched it as we passed by, remembering the early morning when we scurried as fast as we could to the other side, no idea what we were in for. I'm not scared tonight like I was the night before that morning. The alarm I set for five thirty tomorrow morning will bring only the pain of bleary eyes and a pin prick to the inside of my right elbow.
I look at my wrists, the backs of my hands, to see the difference a year has made to their scars - what were once dark red scabs are now nothing more than silver circles ringed by brown. The place where a vice held my head looks today like a slight horizontal line, barely distinguishable from a wrinkle. No, it is not courage or bravery I need tomorrow, it's luck and a willingness to give myself over to whomever is in charge of these decisions. I've been seizure-free since I was rolled out of the operating room on the afternoon of January twenty fourth, two thousand and ten. It was a day I never thought would happen; a year I never dreamed possible. So tomorrow morning I return to the first scene: the check-in desk in the Gonda Building of The Mayo Clinic.
The doctors told me that if I made it a year seizure-free, I would have a ten percent chance of ever having another seizure. So far I haven't had a single one. Tomorrow, an EEG will determine whether or not there's still seizure activity in my brain; if there's not, I'll be able to get off another medication, leaving me with just one. If there is... But here's the thing: the past year has changed me; I'm a different woman from the one who first walked into that white marble atrium. Today, I'm happy, I'm in love, I'm free. Today, I'm no longer a girl and I'm no longer scared. I pray to God that I leave Mayo with good news, but even if I don't, I'll leave as a butterfly broke free of her cocoon to be part of the world.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I wasn't sure. I clutched my right hand in my left like I had so many times before and I waited for the shaking. But it never came. I felt frozen, as if any movement I made would cause me to break into a seizure. What was that? "Water," I asked, "can you hand me some water?" I didn't want the glass I'd just dropped. I didn't want to touch it, worried that a bad energy lingered in it still; a demon of Christmases past.
"It felt like a seizure," I answered to John's waiting form, now handing me water and soothingly rubbing my back, "but not a seizure. It had the feeling sort of, but really weak, and my hand didn't move or twitch or anything." I'd been seizure free for ten months, twenty five days and about eight hours. But it wasn't a seizure. So then what the hell was it?
Psychosomatic seizures are essentially your body remembering what a seizure feels like but without the actual electricity surge. They're often brought on by stress. Is that what it was? Did anything even happen or was it all in my head? My always nervous, ever vigilant, still healing head? Having a seizure is my deep dark fear; it creeps around the edges of my mind every time I startle, or sneeze, or drop something or am tired. It's as if my life since the afternoon of January 24th has been lived on borrowed faith and I'm waiting for my luck to run out. Please, God, don't let it run out. This can't be too good to be true.