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.

hqdefault
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.

IMG_1001.JPG
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.

Two-Year Clip-Aversary

Me! Brain Aneurysm Survivor
On the anniversary of my ruptured brain aneurysm in 2006 and subsequent coiling, I call it my “Annie-versary” stealing the phrase from other survivors from the Brain Talk Community online who helped me through my recovery. For some reason I feel I need to give my 2nd brain aneurysm procedure (the clipping) a different annual name. Like I’ll be criticized for calling that an Annie-versary too? LOL I doubt it, but I do.

Saturday is the two-year anniversary of the clipping on my second, unruptured brain aneurysm. It turned out to be a delicate aneurysm and it was a delicate time. I had lost my other sister just a few weeks prior to my scheduled surgery and I was wrestling with whether I should go through with the surgery or not. It wasn’t until my niece and mother (who we lost last year) spoke to me and encouraged me to proceed, that I made the final decision to keep the date and proceed. I truly didn’t want to put them through anymore.

I think some angels were watching over me because it was a good thing I DID get the craniotomy & clipping. It was an ugly, thin-walled brain aneurysm that would have surely caused me issues, if not caused my death, at some point down the road.

For my two-year update I’ll recall an earlier format I used to update my family and a few friends on my blog about my recovery process.

FATIGUE: There are still days I KNOW my brain had too much stimulation. It’s difficult to describe other than my brain is tired. I suppose that is something that will never go away. It does get better, but I’ll be able to realize when I need to rest my brain. Not just sleep, but do nothing…think about nothing…just nothing. I need those days still. I also notice my left eye lid will get a bit droopy when I’m overly tired and haven’t eaten much.

PAIN: 
These days, the only pain I feel that is associated directly to the clipping is on the left side of my skull. I have no idea what triggers the pain and I often have difficulty laying on the left side of my head. It “feels” like my brain shifts to the left against my skull and there is pressure there. It’s not a daily pain, but I certainly notice it when it is bothering me and I have to roll over and lay on the right side. Sneezing doesn’t bother me, but coughing really does. I feel it throughout my head and it makes me tired.

NUMBNESS:
 As many people said, including the Dr., this may or may not go away. The skin on my skull hasn’t completely “reconnected” all of the nerves, so a great chunk of it is still numb. I only notice it when others touch my head now. My hair dresser or Dave. At least it’s not painful….just odd. I certainly could have worse issues, so I consider myself lucky.

STITCHES/INCISION:
 I can feel the incision under my hair line and the hair has all grown back so that part isn’t even visible anymore. As the swelling went down and I lost a little bit of weight (20 lbs at one point), the bone flap area “settled” into the skull quite a bit and a dent has appeared. The pins and small plates that secured the bone flap back onto the skull area are also visible and sticking out under the skin on the skull and I most certainly feel them. I’m not crazy about the dent or the brain “bling”, but it is what it is and I doubt anyone but me would really notice them. Although when I have my hair parted differently and the light hits it just right, Dave will notice and always points it out. I’ve seen much worse dents on other survivors I have met, so in comparison, I’m lucky.

Found this great PDF: https://profiles.utsouthwestern.edu/profile/67812/assets/patient-information.pdf

And this one: http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/PE-Craniotomy.htm

BRAIN FUNCTION:
Well, I have survived two more catalog seasons, so I guess my brain function is doing okay. I certainly feel tired at times, but I’m very, VERY lucky that I can drive, work, read, and function on a daily basis. I’m a little slower and a little more careful when walking and traversing walkways, hills or paths because I have a bit of a fear of slipping or falling and hitting my head.


I do still struggle with some survivor’s guilt. Why, dear Lord, am I so lucky with my multiple brain aneurysms when two (and possibly three) people I loved so much were victims of the same ailment? One can say because God has other plans for me to help others. If that’s the burden I have to carry, then so be it. I can’t say I’m crazy about it though. I’d rather have Kim, Dori, my mom and Rhonda back.

So, I will celebrate my clip-aversary in some fashion I’m sure. I’m glad I’m still here and I hope a few others are as well.

11-Month Update

I realized I haven’t given much of an update on how my brain aneurysm is doing for many months. My 2nd aneurysm was clipped 11 months ago.

Physically, the hair has all grown back and didn’t ALL come back in gray, but certainly one streak snuck it’s way through. A few blonde highlights helped cover that up temporarily.

The incision where the skin was pulled back, then replaced and sown on with 53 stitches is almost non-existent. I say “almost” because there are still some dry, itchy spots directly along the incision cut that’ll flare up occasionally.

I do still have quite a good chunk of my scalp that doesn’t have much feeling and some nights it’s uncomfortable to lay on the left side of my face and head still. I haven’t been able to determine what triggers that uncomfortable feeling yet. But I certainly feel it and know that the brain bling, the bone plate and screws are there and making their presence known.

A good indentation has now become more pronounced where the piece of skull was removed the replaced, however. I can cover it up with my bangs for the most part, but I know it’s there and I’m a tad self-conscious about it. I don’t know why I feel that way….I should be proud of my battle scars and brain bling.

I believe I’m supposed to have a follow-up angiogram in January and I’m looking forward to finally seeing the images of the clip and it’s location. And hopefully everything will look good with the clip as well as the other, older, clip-filled aneurysm and they don’t locate any others.

I’m so ready to kick the year 2014 in the arse and kiss it goodbye.

IMG_1001.JPG

Still looks better than it did 11 months ago below

IMG_0852
Post-surgery. Yikes!

The day after craniotomy & brain aneurysm clipping