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. 🙂
I discovered last night that laughter can be exhausting for a brain 3-weeks out from receiving more metal. More to the point, laughter for 90-minutes straight is exhausting. But it was so worth it as we enjoyed a rollicking night of improv at the Waterville Opera House. Fans of the television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” will recognize the touring show called “Whose Live Anyway?”, which includes many of the same performers seen on the TV show but performing live. They did NOT disappoint.
Prior to the show we enjoyed a tasty dinner at a Greek restaurant down the street from the theater. It was the first time we’ve been out to eat in a legit restaurant for long, long time. The restaurant was full up with other attendees for the show and the background noises and activity stimulated my brain for sure. THEN add 90-minutes of solid laughter and needless to say the nerve endings in my brain were WOUND UP.
I know the saying is “Laughter is the best medicine”, but I was curious as to what the science was behind that. According to the Mayo Clinic,
Short-Term Benefits of Laughter Can:
Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
Long-Term Benefits of Laughter May:
Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your stress, depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier. It can also improve your self-esteem.
So, it’s no wonder I seek out two of my favorite situational comedy television shows time and time again when I’m feeling down or stressed: “I Love Lucy” and “Friends”. They’re both a sort of “comfort food” for me. They’re familiar, they’re still funny even after seeing them multiple times, and they provide a respite from whatever is going on my life and brain. I also prefer funny plays, musicals, movies, and television series over the more serious criminal dramas. There is enough hate and killing in the world – let me find the humor and love instead.
Eight days after my brain stent placement, I’m doing very well. I went back to work on Tuesday and worked four full days. I did take two 15-minute breaks a day to step away from my computer to sit and close my eyes. It did help.
Thankfully, I didn’t come back to an excess of projects that needed my immediate attention. There was just enough to test my eyes. And it was my eyes that felt it the most. After a couple days of headaches, those eased, but fatigue and eye strain weighed heavily on Friday. Based off previous non-emergency brain procedures, none of this is unexpected.
I went to bed early every night, listening to my brain and body. Sleep was welcome and thankfully my kitties let me sleep in this Saturday morning.
During the week I received two special “Get Well” boxes in the mail from family & friends back in NY. I appreciate that they took the time and spent the money to do something to help in my recovery. Tea, tasty bites, and heart-felt messages remind me I’m not forgotten and I welcome the support.
I won’t know for SURE if the stent is secure and stable for another six months when I’ll have ANOTHER angiogram. In the meantime, I’ll continue to live each day, try to take care of myself, and be careful to avoid any injuries.
As we celebrate Easter tomorrow, I too, celebrate another battle with this brain aneurysm with hope, renewal, and new life with more brain bling.
This morning we met with my doctor to discuss the results of my angiogram, his findings, his recommendations, and the next course of action.
In comparing the most recent angiogram with the angiogram from 2016, there are “significant changes” in the bloody remnant in the neck of the aneurysm.
This finding gave my doctor “anxiety that it is at risk” of rupturing in the future again.
Place a flow diverter inside my existing stent to prevent more blood from getting into the neck of the aneurysm.
They may insert and expand a balloon first to push back any “tines” from the original stent to allow the new flow diverter to be positioned better.
The Surpass flow diverter is a more flexible stent that should adhere better to my “ugly” and “challenging” arterial structure around the aneurysm.
It’s an endovascular procedure, so not open head surgery.
Bringing in an additional doctor with knowledge of this procedure and flow diverter to assist if need be.
To go ahead with this procedure here at Maine Med.
Will be put on blood thinners (Plavix and full-strength aspirin) the week prior to procedure then remain on both for 6-months after.
Procedure could be as early as March.
There is a good video about administering the Surpass flow diverter on this page, although it doesn’t show it being deployed inside another diverter: Surpass Flow Diverter
I was surprised to read on my blog that I’ve been dealing with the stress of this darn remnant for 11 years now. When the re-coil and stent didn’t do the job, the next course of action would be the stent within a stent. If THIS doesn’t work, there is a possibility we could sacrifice that entire section of artery, but I’m counting on it working so let’s not even go there.
Making this decision with Dave by my side gave me a sense of relief. Relief in knowing I’m doing something about it and there is a plan of action. I have great faith in my doctor and his familiarity with my case, my brain, and this particular brain aneurysm for the past 11 years. I know he wouldn’t make a recommendation unless he felt there was a good chance of success. And so far, he hasn’t been wrong.