Plates, Screws, and Dents

I have often referred to the hardware in my brain as my “brain bling”. It’s not a term I came up with myself, but stole from another survivor. I’ve always considered my brain bling to consist of my 16 coils plus 4 more, 1 stent and 1 clip: Basically, metal that is keeping me alive.

The black blob is my 20 coils and there is a stent in there somewhere. The clip on the 2nd aneurysm can be seen to the right.

But wait, there’s more! I keep forgetting I have more metal in my head in the form of the plate and screws used to hold my bone flap in place.

The 20 coils and stent came first, then the clip via a craniotomy came after. A craniotomy is a type of surgery that removes part of the skull (a bone flap) to access the brain underneath. When the procedure is complete, neurosurgeons put the bone back in place and secure it with tiny plates and screws.

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Simulation of the plate and screws securing the bone flap

With my fingers, I can feel the plate and screws under my skin, and at certain angles and lighting they’re very visible sticking out slightly under my skin. The much more visible aspect of most people’s craniotomies is the “dent” or a skull compression that can occur.

The dent is a common occurrence due to the refitting of the bone flap. It is impossible to reattach the bone flap for a snug fit, for any number of reasons. Therefore, a space is created between the two bone surfaces and fitted as closely as possible. The bone is reattached and secured with the plates and screws to ensure very little movement and easy surgical access if it is necessary. However, the piece of bone can shift slightly and create that indentation.

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The dent

They can use synthetic fillers to restore the normal contour around the dent, but I have opted not to have it. It just makes me nervous having something injected around that area. I pretty much try to cover my dent with my hair. I’m not horribly self-conscious about it (if the wind blows my hair up….THERE it is!), it’s just not that attractive. So, as long as I have bangs, why not use them to cover it up, right?

My Actual Brain/Head Bling Count:

  • 1 Titanium Plate

  • 2 Titanium Screws

  • 1 Titanium Clip

  • 1 Stent

  • 20 Platinum Coils

And no, I do not set off the x-ray machine at airports.

Here is a short video clip I took a week after my 2nd brain aneurysm was clipped back in 2014.

It’s Show Time!

Because this is MY blog and I can write whatever I want, allow me to toot my own horn for a wee bit.

For many, many years, we have tried unsuccessfully to reach out to local print & television news outlets for coverage of our organization’s efforts to raise brain aneurysm awareness in the state. We have provided stories to the right people at the right times, but there has never been coverage of our annual KAT-Walk and Karo-5k.

Last summer we FINALLY received some television love after I responded to a local news reporter’s story on Twitter. She immediately responded to my reply and Dave and I ended up hosting the reporter in our home for a short interview and two very short spots on the local news station that evening.

NewsCenter Maine Video 1 — WATCH NOW

NewsCenter Maine Video 2 — WATCH NOW

A few people saw these videos and commented and we have no idea of knowing how many people actually saw the report and subsequent videos on social media, but if one person saw them, listened to what we said, and went to the hospital to get checked, it was worth it. We haven’t heard if anyone came to our KAT-Walk & Karo-5k as a result of watching the story either, but we still want to get the word out there.

When Mira, one of our committee members who lost her 27-year old daughter Karolina to a ruptured brain aneurysm, was trying to solicit sponsorship funds for our walk & 5K last year, she met a Portland, Maine lawyer. Derry Rundlett offered up his services in the form of impersonations of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis at our Dance for Awareness event in March, in exchange for a television appearance on his monthly cable show in Portland.

Derry is 75-years old, full of energy, and was extremely generous with his time and money at the dance. His performances were great fun and fit in perfectly with this year’s Rock n’ Roll theme!

Dave agreed to be on his show some time in April. He asked me to be a part of it as well, so we drove down to Portland, met Derry for lunch, then walked over to the studio to film the 25-30 minute show.

Because Dave and I have spoken to so many groups and organizations about brain aneurysms over the years and how we came to be involved with raising awareness, speaking to Derry came naturally, it was just in front of cameras and in a studio this time. Neither of us were nervous but we certainly wanted to make a good impression, represent our organization well, and raise awareness about brain aneurysms. I think we were successful on all counts.

We had a rough outline of the show, but weren’t aware of exactly what questions Derry would be asking us.

Watch the Derry Rundlett Show about Brain Aneurysms in Maine

WATCH SHOW – approx 25-30 minutes long

Although I have spoken to many people about my own experiences with brain aneurysms as well as about my sister’s death from one, for some reason after this taping I was quite sad and subdued on the drive north back home. Dave and I chatted a little bit, but I really wasn’t in the mood to chat. I have yet to figure out why talking about it on this specific day and in this arena made me sad. I suppose it just “hits me” on some days. I also think because Derry expressed such an interest and appeared to be deeply touched by our stories and our efforts, it rubbed a nerve/emotion that had been resting comfortably for awhile.

And, as usual, I don’t hear much feedback from my friends or co-workers when these shows are brought to their attention, which also depresses me. I need to stop expecting that support. If I stop expecting it, then I won’t be so disappointed when it never comes. You’d think after 12 years I’d learn….oh, well. You can lead a horse to a computer or cell phone, but you can’t make them watch things, right???

Ghosts From The Past

At work today, as we were discussing a return of flower bulbs to the catalog, we were looking at older catalogs when we sold bulbs previously. For about three or four years we sold Narcissus and Tulips. As I was looking through one of the older catalogs, I noticed a major typo! The word Narcissus, was spell with an “M”!

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Marcissus (oops!)

My first thought was embarrassment because I would have been the one who typed that and then I was laughing because…well, it was funny! Obviously our copywriter/editor/proofreader extraordinaire missed it, and probably many others did too. A group effort!

Then I realized the year of that particular catalog – 2007. Which means I was producing it in 2006. Which means, that’s the catalog I wasn’t able to complete because I had my ruptured brain aneurysm in October of that year.

It was NOT easy for those left behind to complete the catalog that year. They did bring another graphic artist in, but it must have been horribly difficult for her to pick up where I left off and not know how I pulled in information from our database, nor any of the processes, or where I had left off.  I seem to remember I was able to tell my husband to tell them a few things, but beyond that, they were on their own.

Seeing this typo brought back a lot of memories of that period and also of Jeanne, our proofreader. She was brilliant at her job and worked tirelessly to make sure the information that went out of the building to customers was accurate. So, seeing this typo, I wanted to contact her immediately, because I know she would have felt the same way about it as I did.

Heidi & Jeanne (left to right)

Sadly, I’m unable to contact her because she passed away almost two months ago from cancer. Even though she retired two years ago, I always knew I could reach out to her and she’d understand. I also know she’d be some pissed that this typo went out to customers, but she would have also stated that it was a stressful time for everyone while I was out and that “shit happens”.  Yes, it does…so I look upon this little typo as a badge of honor. Jeanne and I BOTH survived that catalog season. Marcissus be damned.  You can be sure in this, my 17th year of catalog design, I’ll spell it correctly!

Head Over Heels

A fellow brain aneurysm survivor posted on Facebook tonight that she had fallen and hit her head pretty hard. After a CT scan, she was given the “all clear”, but I know it must have been scary. She has been through multiple procedures and suffered a stroke.

This week I celebrated my 9th Annie-versary: nine years ago I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. The 11mm (almost 1/2 inch in diameter) aneurysm I didn’t know was growing inside my brain suddenly ruptured. The annie-versary day went by with little fan fare. My husband made me dinner, which is always a special treat, but beyond that, because I’m always so busy at work, I didn’t do much to celebrate.

The first couple of years, I would take the day off and have a spa day. I think I need to start doing that again…regardless of how stressful & busy things are at work this time of year…which it always is. They’re lucky to still have me.

Falling and hitting my head is probably my biggest fear. I hate it when I get to work late and have to park up on the very steep hill parking lot. I always fear falling down and make sure I grasp and have a good hold on the PVC pipe railing along the “side walk” up and down the hill. The railing is always covered with snow or ice too, so not sure how much of a help that is.

I probably didn’t share this with many people, but on our last night in Scotland in 2013, our tour guide dropped us off at a hotel near the Edinburgh airport. Dave and I enjoyed a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant, then I REALLY wanted to take a long soak in a tub and there was a deep, soaking tub in our room at the hotel. As I was getting out, I misjudged the height of the tub to the floor and slipped on the tile floor as I got out, BARELY missing hitting my head on the tub and landing on my backside pretty hard.

Dave immediately ran in from the other room. I was laying on the floor with my head pretty much laying up against the tub. Once we both realized I was okay, we both shook in fear. It was a scary moment and one I hope never to repeat. And that was before I had my craniotomy on my 2nd brain aneurysm.

I suppose the fear is that a hit on the head could produce some sort of shock on the aneurysms and force them to bleed. Or that the surgical work that has already been done…could become “undone”. I’m not even sure how realistic that fear is. I supposed I should ask on my next visit with my neurosurgeon. Because I’m susceptible to aneurysms and bleeding, I would think any hard hit could be a risk. So, I’m very glad Lori got a CT scan after she fell and hit her head. I’d do the same thing.

I didn’t hit my head when my first brain aneurysm ruptured in 2006. No warning, no symptoms, that I recall. But I know that brain hemorrhages can occur when hitting your head. The tragic death of Natasha Richardson is a sad example of that.

So, nine years ago this week, I was in the ICU at Maine Med, then moved to the 608 Neuro-ward. I was in the hospital for two weeks then had six months of recovery before going back to work full-time. Only one person from work visited me and it was simply because she was in the area. I’m so glad Lori has such a wonderful group of friends to support her. I’m sure this fall scared her very much. I know her daughter and husband keep a close eye on her and I’m sure THEY were just as scared as she was. Her service dog Tober will make sure she’s okay. What a great dog he is. Love him.

I’m a NASCAR fan, and the race at Charlotte, NC is this weekend. I remember watching that race in ICU with Dave and my sister Dori (who died of a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2012). They were impressed I knew the drivers and was so responsive. I was one of the lucky ones. Some times I wonder WHY I was one of the lucky ones when so many beautiful, vibrant people who had children to live for aren’t here anymore. It just doesn’t make sense some times. Survivor’s guilt? You bet cha. I’m not a mother and I think I’m a very selfish person, so I’m not sure why God chose ME to live over all of the other beautiful, strong individuals who have lost their lives and devastated their families over ruptured brain aneurysms. It just doesn’t make sense to me some times.

So, yes…I walk slower in snowy & icy conditions. I drive slower in snowy & icy conditions. I don’t ride a bike anymore because of the fear of falling off and hitting my head. I don’t do any strenuous physical sports anymore…not that I ever did before. Falling and hitting my head can happen at any time…even slipping on some of the acorns in the driveway, which is like walking on marbles, gives me pause. I bought this fear up at a support group meeting, but I was on the only one who addressed it. I’m sure other’s have that fear. I’m so glad Lori is okay after her fall. Aneurysms survivors have another added fear. Goody….but I’m still here.