I first met Dr. Ecker on December 3rd, 2010. In all that time and the different medical procedures we have been through, I don’t believe I have ever hugged him. Yesterday I broke that patient/doctor barrier and gave him a very warm, tight embrace.
Twelve years ago, he picked up my aneurysm story where Dr. Kwan left off four years prior. Aneurysm #1 ruptured in 2006 and is the problem child. Even after 16 initial coils, blood was getting back into the aneurysm. Dr. Ecker has been trying to improve the situation and produce favorable results with several attempts. Two stents and 4 more coils later, we might be at a turning point in our professional relationship with this pesky bugger.
As noted in my previous post, I was thrilled and emotional to hear how well the flow-diverting stent deployed back in April was doing. I certainly was relieved, but until I saw the images and spoke to him in his office after he had a chance to review everything again, I still wasn’t celebrating to the point of calling it “done”.
Seeing the images yesterday was remarkable! The areas where blood was previously getting into the neck of the aneurysm had almost disappeared and the artery where the flow-diverting stent was placed inside the older stent had conformed to the shape of the artery. This is EXACTLY what the hope was. Success!
Because this particular procedure, placing a stent inside another stent, is not a common practice, Dr. Ecker felt a follow-up MRA in three years would be best and I agree. Although we’re all thrilled to see how it’s taking shape after 7 months, giving it sufficient time for healing was recommended. THEN if it continues to look good, we’ll look at it every five years.
Below are a few photos I took of my images on the doctor’s computer screen. They aren’t the best, but I tried to indicate where things are for my readers. The two images placed side-by-side were backwards on his screen showing the AFTER image first, then the BEFORE image after it, so I had to cut them apart, flip them and I tried to keep them around the same size for scale. Hopefully, you’ll get the idea. And yes, I DO know I should have added another “m” for the size of my aneurysm. Don’t @ me. It took me a long time to get these images right and I’m too tired and busy to change them. 🙂
Yesterday was my 12th cerebral angiogram in 16 years. That’s a lot of images, a lot of stress, many procedures, successes, and even failures. Brain aneurysms don’t care what else is going on your life…they show up whether it’s snowing or not.
It was snow that greeted Dave and I yesterday morning as we were up before the sun rose to hit the road to Portland, a 60 mile drive south. Thankfully, we drove out of the snow about a quarter of the way there as a driving rain greeted us at the door of Maine Medical Center.
When multiple members of the hospital staff remember you from previous visits over the years, that should never be a good thing, but it is what it is in my case. I supposed it’s a comfort to see familiar faces who know my story.
Down in radiology, I was prepped for the procedure, hooked up to an IV, and answered everyone’s questions. Dr. Ecker came in to greet me and indicated he was excited to see how the flow diverter he deployed back in April was doing. Well…yes, I was too! He even opened up the images from the procedure on the computer in the prep area to view them with me and Jack, the PA, who has assisted Dr. Ecker with several of my other angiograms. Again…they know me here.
The procedure itself went very well. No issues and no pain or major discomfort. I was a good girl and didn’t move this time as some lovely classical music accompanied the staff in the endovascular suite.
While still on the table and hooked up to everything, Dr. Ecker said that things looked great, then he said “What Eddie Kwan started 16 years ago, ends today!”. Dr. Eddie Kwan was the doctor who performed the original coiling on my ruptured brain aneurysm in 2006 with 16 coils.
At first, hearing those words brought tremendous relief and joy, then I saw the last 16 years flash before my eyes in a rapid succession of images…the fear when it ruptured, the loss of my husbands niece, the loss of my sister…my second brain aneurysm, the clipping, the recoiling, the stents…all of it in a millisecond of memories and feelings indelibly etched into my heart, brain, and soul.
After that wonderful declaration by the doctor, a few more images were taken to get a good look at everything else then the doctors left and went to speak with Dave in the waiting room. While the rest of the staff were busily performing their post-procedure routines and unhooking things and cleaning me up, the tears started to unexpectedly flow.
My arms were still hooked up to things and down at my side within the arm guards, so one of the nurses touchingly came and dabbed the tears away from my eyes and face with a tissue for me. They were very comforting, in what was quite a personal and emotional moment for me, and I’m very thankful.
Dave was very surprised and concerned to see tears in my eyes when he joined me in the post-op area about an hour and a half from last seeing me. I assured him they were tears of joy, but he also knew why it was emotional for me because he has been with me through it all.
I was glad to learn what I heard from Dr. Ecker in the radiology suite matched up with what he told Dave seeing how I was a little drugged at the time. The flow diverter (pipeline) did it’s job. It adhered nicely inside the old stent and had paused the flow of blood from getting back into the neck of the aneurysm. He said it was “Done” and I wouldn’t need to go back for five years and it would just be the less invasive MRA scan next time.
The images that were taken yesterday will need to be closely looked at again just to make sure there isn’t anything else we should be concerned about, but during the doctor’s first look on the table, things looked good and it was a great report. I’ll have another follow-up in his office in December.
I pray this is a start of a new chapter in my life where I don’t have to worry about this damn aneurysm anymore. The rest is up to me…live life better and take better care of myself. I am lucky to be here at all.
I am so grateful, thankful, and blessed for the improved medical advancements in treating brain aneurysms and the skilled hands of Dr. Ecker and his stellar care over the last 10+ years. He knows what I’ve been through.
Two Fun Side Notes: Stephanie, my nurse in the pre & post care area is a Buffalo Bills fan and shared photos of her dogs dressed in Bills attire. What are the odds that two Bills fan, in Patriots country, run into each other in the hospital? Then I ran into Sara, our former brain aneurysm support group facilitator on our way out of the hospital. It was great to see her face. Again…they know me here. 🙂
I’ve been scheduled to have my follow-up angiogram in a couple of weeks. It’s to check that the stent (flow diverter) we placed in April is doing well. Then it dawned on me that it’s not only to check on the stent, but to also check to see if it is preventing more blood from getting into the aneurysm.
One would hope that a stent placed inside of another stent would finally do the trick, but with this particular aneurysm, you just never know. It has been a thorn in my side, or a thorn in my brain for 16 years.
Five years ago I wrote, what I contend, is one of my more poignant blog posts about all of THE STORIES I have heard about brain aneurysms. Stories from many different people from all walks of life and at very random times. We heard a new one last week.
As my husband and I were in the pre-op area at the hospital waiting for his colonoscopy to begin, the anesthesiologist came in to speak to Dave prior to the procedure, which is normal. As Ron was talking he noticed the brain aneurysm survivor pin that was on my purse and Dave’s KAT-WALK bracelet and asked who was the survivor.
We proceeded to share my story, which was top of mind for both of us because it was 16 years to that day, that I had suffered my ruptured brain aneurysm. Then sadly, Ron told us HIS story about losing his wife to a ruptured brain aneurysm 12 years ago.
Suddenly Dave and I were no longer patients Ron needed to tend to during his daily routine prior to the procedure, but human beings who had both suffered losses due to this horrible disease. Ron leaned over and rested his elbows on the metal railing of the hospital bed and proceeded to tell us the sad story of his wife, his children’s reactions, the day it happened, the treatments involved at the time, and the tragic outcome.
Obviously, for Daveand I, we could relate to Ron’s pain and the suddenness of losing someone to a rupture brain aneurysm. Ron even mentioned meeting someone else who survived and how that person had survivor’s guilt. I too, have suffered from that.
Dave wears his KAT-Walk hat and bracelet almost daily and I always have my survivor pin on my purse. These pieces of “swag” can result in moving stories of sadness and triumph from complete strangers. Stories we never would have known had they not seen the small trinkets and asked about them.
Five years ago I wrote that blog post because of the anniversary of my sister’s death. This year was the 10th anniversary of her death. 16 years ago last week, I celebrated my annie-versary of my rupture. That is MY story, but there are so many others out there and we continue to realize the importance of sharing them.
Ron congratulated me for surviving multiple times and said I “looked great’, which was very sweet considering he had never met me before and had just shared, what I am sure, was not an easy story to tell. We shared our sympathies with him and thanked him for taking the time to tell us about his wife.
All of these stories are meaningful. All of these stories effect us. And all of these stories get added to the long list of people we have met over the years who have been effected by brain aneurysms.