IT’S BRAIN SURGERY, YOU KNOW!
CUT TO THE CHASE (15.06.2015)
Surprisingly I slept like a log the night before the big day. Classic me. On the morning of my operation I had a shower singing my heart out at home, gave my dogs nice sloppy kisses and headed off to St. George's with my family, headphones in and focused on the task in front of me. I turned up at 8am for the scariest moment of my life doing my best to keep smiling as I met nurses and surgeons, being the bravest I could possibly be incase I wasn't going to come back from the op.
I got dressed in my mortifyingly embarrassing gown and not-so-sexy stockings and was ready to go. Sat on the edge of a hospital bed a nurse handed me a form, to accept the high risks involved in my op and essentially sign my life away. Signing a form to say I was ok with potential death wasn't exactly a confidence-booster before going into surgery but I refused to waiver in my mindset.
Walking to theatre in a gown and trying to look and feel brave was near impossible. I said to myself, "Stand tall, be brave, for my family." When we got to the doors, the emotion came through and I just started crying as I realised there was a chance this may be the last time I hug my mum, my dad and my brothers. I wasn't afraid of the operation, I was afraid of the goodbye to all four of them. I hugged each of them one by one, we said we loved each other and they passed on last words of encouragement before I walked through the doors, laid down on the bed and told the nurses and surgeons "I'm fine, let's do this." with tears still on my face. Mask on, count to ten....."1,2,3,4,5,6,7" - darkness.
NOTE: Now, what comes next might not be pleasant to read and honestly I have tried to tone it down to make it easier but I think the reality of what people with Brain Tumours go through needs to be heard. This is just my experience and I'm sure some have had it easier and others harder but nonetheless, I want to give an honest account of what happened to me.
MOVE YOUR FINGERS
I didn't come around very quickly after surgery (much to my family's panic) but 3 and half hours after walking through the doors, I woke up, completely disorientated, throwing up from the anaesthetic and then I just blacked out.
I woke again, with a splitting pain in my head. Between bouts of sickness I remember seeing my surgeon asking how I was feeling. My family remember more of this than I do but I just remember that I couldn't string a sentence together, I couldn't talk. Just making noises and grunting. He asked me my name, date of birth, I could just about get my name out. Then came the real blow.
"Can you lift your left arm?".....I couldn't!? I was looking at it, just telling it to move.
"What on Earth? PLEASE f**king move, please?" Nothing.
"Ok try to move your fingers?" I just about wiggled my index finger, he asked me to squeeze his finger, Callum and Mum really urging me to try my hardest. I did and I gently held his finger in my hand - all wasn't lost.
"It's ok Jordan you've just got some (HA ,some!?) left-side weakness from the surgery. It will come back along with your speech."
My heart sank. I felt different and the sensation of not being in charge of my body anymore - there aren't words to describe this sensation. Well, there is; numb.
My family left me to rest and after one night in the ICU I was relocated to a private room. It was like a prison for me and the start of the hardest week of my life. I couldn't walk, couldn't talk, nurses and surgeons constantly analysing me, asking questions I could hardly physically answer. Asking me to do movements that I couldn't do, no matter how hard I tried and constantly reminding me of my situation. Not to mention the cannula, 27 staples in my head AND that catheter..yeezus - less said the better.
Once I was in the private room my family never left my side, taking it in turns to spend nights and days with me so I was never alone. A couple of days in, with help, I made it to the bathroom and got a glimpse in the mirror. I saw a face bruised and more swollen than I knew it could get, my limp body barely able to stand and large c-shaped cut covering the right-hand side of my head accompanied by 27 bloody staples. It wasn't pretty.
A long week passed. I got back on my feet fairly quickly, I can thank my lethal left-foot for that ;) but the simplest things with my hands were nearly impossible. I couldn't push the button for soap. I had to lift my left arm into the sink and wash it with my right. The weakness in that side of my face meant I dribbled meals and drink out of my mouth constantly. I couldn't smile even if I felt like it.
It was a cycle of cognitive analysis (checking I knew who I was, where I was, what year it was), speech therapy (to get my face working again), walking practice down the hospital corridors and stairwells. I remember breaking down in front a physiotherapist when they put a ball of orange putty in front of me and asked me to roll it into a sausage shape. I was hopeless. My lifeless hand and uncoordinated arm pressing down on the lump, so aimlessly. My reality hit me and I realised I'd underestimated the mountain I had to climb after the surgery.
Understandably, I was sulking now and I'd almost started to give up. Then I met the guy in the room opposite me, he had been paralysed from the waist down due to a cycling accident. I could hear him from my room. He was laughing, making jokes with his mates. He wasn't sulking at all. I felt so humiliated about the way I was behaving so I immediately chose to smile more, make some slurred jokes and stop sulking in bed and start working.
For me that guy made me realise, you just have to get on with it and there was light at the end of the tunnel. One afternoon Callum was sat with me as a doctor came in and woke me to check the progress of my arm. He just came in and said "Jordan, lift up your arm for me." I woke to these words and half-asleep I just lifted my arm right up into the air before bringing it down and going back to sleep not really realising what I'd done. Callum was absolutely gob-smacked by what happened. He told me after and I knew from that moment, the potential to come back from the surgery was there.
After lots of sleep in the hospital and walking to the hospital balcony rocking my new scar in my Oakleys and my red hospital socks (with grip on the bottom!! OMG), I was becoming more physically/ mentally ready to get to the luxury of home. The nurses who helped me during my stay were incredible, and so patient with me in outbursts of tears/rage when i was doing rehab with them. I cannot thank them enough.
I was discharged from the hospital 7 days after my surgery and I walked out unaided. "Do you need a wheelchair?"
"No thank you" I slurred ("HELL NA", in my head).
Step 1 complete.
Click here for Part Three of my Journey.