Today I met with the U of M Fairview Hospital's neurology nurse and the radiologist who will be in on my gamma knife radio-surgery on Thursday. It was a long, nearly 2 hour appointment. Mostly it was me and the nurse (Pam). Pam walked me through the whole day, showed me the room where I'd be having the surgery, and the brace thing they will be putting on my head. She went over the possible things that could happen but haven't...yet. She had me sign consent forms, read booklets, and I had to have a blood test to prove I wasn't pregnant even though I assured her it would have to be a might miracle of God if I were. (Did you know that they require women up to the age of 60 to have these pre-surgical blood tests? Crazy! I want to meet the woman who has to reschedule her radio-surgery because she's 58 and pregnant.)
On the day of my surgery I have to be there (poor Bob who is driving me) at 6:15am (*yawn*). I am first to go to the area where Pam is and she will dab some numbing cream on my head. Then I am to go to another area where they will prep me. I will be given a hospital gown, an IV will be started, and they will give me some medicine to relax me and the neurologist will come in and fit a head frame on me. This is where I will have a frame attached to my head by 4 screws (or pins as the helpful "So You're Having Brain Surgery" pamphlet calls them). After that I will have an angiogram (the catheter put through an artery in my groin up to my brain thing) and an MRI.
After all of this, my medical team will plan my radiation treatment. They will use a computer to map out the shape, size, and location of my AVM. Based on that they will pick the exact doses of radiation needed. Once the treatment plan is in place, I will be taken to the gamma radio-surgical room. I will be placed on a bed of sorts and my head frame will be attached to the a special helmet-like thing that helps to focus the radiation. The medical team will go into the next room and I will slide into the gamma radio-surgical chamber (insert evil laughing and organ music here). I was told I can bring CDs for them to play for me as the machine doesn't make any noise and the procedure can take up to 2 hours but in my case will most likely take an hour and a half. I was also told that most people fall asleep. Hmmmm. Maybe it's because we have to be up at the ass-crack of dawn in order to get the ball moving on this. Or not.
After the procedure, the head frame will be removed and the pin sites will be bandaged. I may have to be in a recovery room for a bit depending upon how they closed the site for the angiogram. Pam said there is no way to know for sure when I'd be sent home but she said to plan to be there as late as 4 or 5pm.
I am not to have anything to eat or drink after Midnight Wednesday night/Thursday morning. I may get something to eat after the angiogram and prior to the gamma knife procedure. I am to bring my medications with me as my Dr's will determine if I can take my morning dose that day or not. I can bring CDs to listen to while in the gamma chamber (Mwahahahahah...sorry. "Chamber" makes me think of old vampire movies). I can also bring my camera. Pam said they used to take Polaroids for people and while they still have a Polaroid camera at the hospital, they no longer make film for it so now they tell people to bring their own cameras. Once the procedure is done and I've been in recovery a certain amount of time, I will be sent home to recover. Same day brain surgery. Who knew? It's a crazy world.
Once home I was told I would probably feel tired and groggy for a couple of days due to the radiation. Also, the AVM site could be inflamed and "angry" for a couple of days until it starts to heal/shut down. So I could experience more painful headaches and bouts of forgetfulness or language issues since that's where the AVM is in my brain. (Sarcastic font start here: Hooray!) However, if these things persist beyond the weekend I am to call and ask to see my neurologist. My AVM is on the small side so they are expecting everything to go well.
I will be screened again in about a year to see if the procedure worked and if the AVM is shrinking/dying and may be screened annually after that. In the meantime I will keep seeing my seizure specialist and taking my anti-seizure meds. I will have regular neurological visits to make sure my brain is functioning and that I am not regressing.
So that's what I learned this morning. After learning all of this I made an appointment to get my hair cut so I don't look like a doof on surgery day. It's just not doing what I want it to do. It's long enough that the cowlicks make it untameable and short enough that I look like an ugly man. Now I just have to pick out a couple of CDs to get me through the procedure. Maybe loon calls? Or Toby Mac? What does one listen to while a laser is sizzling something the size of a dime inside the language center of one's brain? I am open to suggestions.