Brain Surgery Memoirs Part 2

Part 2 – Dazed and Confused


I never did recreational drugs as a youth. I was never drunk. Ok, I was drunk once, but I was in grade 3, so that is a story for another day…….

I guess I mean to say that my experience with being drugged or “outside” of myself is limited. Now what I can tell you is that for me coming out of brain surgery was a trip. And like no trip I would ever want to go on ever again!

Now I’ve had surgery before ….I know that coming out of a general is never pleasant. Some people say weird stuff. Your body fights to “wake up” and shrug off the cloudy feelings. Only trouble is when they operate on your brain  those cloudy feelings are not necessary the drugs, and they are not necessarily going away any time soon. It’s watch and wait.

My first memory of waking up was finding myself in a quiet, dimly lit room. Since my surgery was 12 hours, I didn’t wake up until night time so it was pretty quiet. It was just me and the post-op ICU nurse – I think I was high maintenance because she seemed very busy, but at that point I was just happy to be alive. Woo hoo, still alive!

When I could finally forge a few words,  I used my rediscovered communication skills to lodge a complaint. I asked the nurse to take me off the wall. My brain was telling me that I was up against the wall. I felt I was in my bed, but vertical. I thought this was odd, but it is not only what I felt – it was also what I SAW. Perhaps that is what they do with you after brain surgery?! Weird.

This is the first time I know of where my eyes flat out lied to me. I was in my bed. Lying down. Horizontal. So whatever information was coming into my brain to confirm this fact was being altered (It turns out my balance nerve was severed during surgery).  What I find interesting now is realizing that my brain made the decision to adjust my sight to match the the incorrect balance nerve information. I guess in the nerve pecking order a balance nerve has more clout than optical nerves, or perhaps my brain is more of a first come, first serve kind of place.

I really understand now that we see with our BRAIN, not our eyes – the eyes only receive information so your brain can processes it.  If you brain is not up for it – you won’t see what is really there. Pink elephants,  purple cows …. they are all possible depending how you brain chooses to process the information received. This experience gave me a new empathy for people who suffer from mental illnesses that includes hallucinations.  It’s crazy. Literally.

What I liked best about ICU was the drugs. Best. Drugs. Ever!

I can understand why people get addicted to pain medication.  The really good stuff eases your physical AND your mental pain.  It’s as they say a ‘stairway to heaven’. It’s a nice little break from your painful reality. I loved it! One pain medication I was given was so powerful it made it difficult for me to breathe. Interesting thing was that I didn’t care that I couldn’t breathe because I felt so amazing –  I guess being miserable has its perks, like helping you stay alive for starters 🙂

The worst part of ICU is you can’t go to the bathroom by yourself. I couldn’t go anywhere actually since  I was not ambulatory (medical-speak for you can’t walk on your own) and I was hooked up to so many machines I couldn’t go anywhere if I wanted to. The other tricky item was I had to keep my head at a specific angle so my brain drain worked properly. It was a two person job to get me to the bathroom so it couldn’t always be accomplished.  Desperate times cause for desperate measures and in this case that means a bedpan.  Yup, not awesome.

Generally, I found ICU a really depressing and isolating place.  No windows and you’re by yourself most of the time. You only get to  see people if they come to you, and you feel terrible so “visiting” is not really possible.  I was told that most people are not as lucid as I was in ICU so perhaps that was where I missed out on the best way to enjoy the pace.

Hearing I was getting sprung from ICU was the best feeling – I was so happy! So happy that I almost didn’t mind my Ivy League resident coming to pull out my ‘brain drain’. (It had to be done so I could be released to the Nuero post-op unit.)

I don’t know why I even asked ‘is this going to hurt?’ They were going to pull a drain out of my head. It went  through my skull all the way in to my brain to drain excess fluid, and it had been in there a week.  They had to pull hard. Yank at it,  a few times.  I thought I was going to pass out – I wish I did! Ouch!!!!! Worse pain I have ever had! All of this trauma, and they didn’t even offer me my favourite pain medication as an one last ICU send-off?! (Injectable pain meds rule! Yes it really was time for me to leave those comfortably numb drugs behind.) Yay for misery! It’s good to be alive!

Next up: Part 3  That Space Between Brain Surgery Memoirs – Part 3

“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”
― Edgar Allan Poe


3 thoughts on “Brain Surgery Memoirs Part 2

  1. ICU was THE WORST part for me. I remember hallucinating (or, at least I hope I was) all kinds. I remember “hearing” the nurses bad-mouthing my neurosurgeon (I had a mild complication), I remember hearing that another person had died, etc. It was HORRIBLE. But, as I look back on it now…I wish I would have asked later if all that REALLLLLLLLLLLY happened or if it was the meds? LOL


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