I was brought in and out of sleep during the process, as is customary. The first time I recall waking up was to check to see if the head frame was comfortable. My neurosurgeon told me to be certain in regards to the comfort level, as my head would be stationary in this position for the next four-plus hours (it ended up almost seven). After overhearing a “Can you hand me that wrench again,” and a yank and another crank, the head frame was readjusted to fit more comfortably, then back to sleep they put me.
The next time I awoke I remember hearing, “I think we’re going to have to cut some more of her hair.” And then immediately following: “Yeah, we’ll have to cut some more hair.” Then the hair cutter (which sounded more like a Dremel sander than any hair cutter I have ever heard), started up and again – I fell back to sleep.
The next few wake ups were for asking questions as to what I could see and/or feel, my doctor moving my elbows and knees, etc. This was done to identify where the doctors were in reference to placing the lead wire (I think). Apparently, unknown to me at the time, there were several people in the room. I knew it was busy at one point when I woke up, because I remember groups of 2-3 standing around talking and it seemed like there were 3 or 4 groups of ‘that’. My doctor said at one time there were 17 people in there. This is not necessarily common except to say that my doctor is also teaching/mentoring other doctors (fellows, as they call them) to do what he does. I remember listening to my doctor guiding the surgeon as to where to place the wire (or something like that) and without even looking at the screen, he instructed “a millimeter down” and “a millimeter to the right” and I remember thinking, I’ve got the smartest doctor in the world.
Following surgery - my favorite nurse - my daughter.
The battery back/regulator was also inserted during surgery, so there was also a vertical incision done near my left shoulder where the placement was done.
One more thing I want to share before moving on is that I have read other accounts of other PD’ers experiences with their DBS surgeries and/or care. I have read where they felt they are receiving the greatest care they could ever have while others feel they are ignored and their doctor thinks they are imagining everything. All I want to say is – there are doctors who are the exception – who go above and beyond. And they are out there and available. You just have to keep looking. I prayed that God would be with me throughout the surgery and hold me. He did. Through the hand on my doctor. And He never let go.~ ~ ~
The next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room, waiting to go to ICU. However, when the neurosurgeon came by to check on me, he said I was doing so well that I could go right into a regular room. (Right into a regular room happened six hours later.)
My wonderful husband.
The pain was not what I expected – in a good way. I had two holes in my forehead, a row of stitches on the top of my head where there was now a 2½ inch incision and two other holes stitched up in the back of my head where the screws held my head still in the head frame.
When I awoke in the recovery room, I was awake for most of the rest of the day and felt pretty good. Yes, there was some pain, but as I said before, not what I expected. My head hurt, but then there was a good reason for that.
Back in the surgical waiting room, Ken and the clan were told I had just been taken into recovery and they wouldn’t be able to see me for an hour or so, so they left to get something to eat.
My recovery nurse, Little Jo, was funny and friendly and I was thankful since I was in recovery for so long, not because I had to be, but because they were short on beds. I kept myself entertained by listening to other patients as they came in and out of the anesthesia, their nurses trying to wake them up. There was Dude (named changed to protect the innocent), who entered the area groaning at a rather loud pitch, sounding like he was in much pain. He was wheeled by my bed, which had the curtain pulled, except for about a foot and a half. The picture that passed before me was everyone’s greatest fear when donning a hospital gown. Poor Dude. Made me wonder if I was wheeled in exposed to the world. Those are questions better left unasked as you (as a patient) may not want to know the answer.
Dude did wake up after about a half hour of groaning and when he did, the nurse promptly asked how much pain he was in. I was sure he’d pick the crying ‘smiley’ face on the visual pain scale board. But no – Dude wasn’t in any pain.
“What?!”, his nurse exclaimed. “You aren’t in any pain?” No, dude just liked groaning.
Dude’s wife did come in to see him, eventually, and stayed just a short while as she had to hurry home to feed the babies. The babies, Little Joe and I later found out, were the dogs.
Then there was… let’s just call him Mulder (name changed once again to protect the innocent). He was having a lengthy stay in recovery as well as I, but he had a theory as to why it was taking so long to get his room and shared this intellectual information with his nurse, inadvertently sharing it with all of those in recovery (he was rather ‘loud’).
“I know why my room’s taking so long to get,” he began.
His nurse, having already listened to much jibberish by Mulder, unenthusiastically asked, “How’s that?”
“Some homeless person shot someone at gun point and now he’s hiding in my room so no one can find him.”
Little Jo and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised, and never said a word.
When Ken and Tamara returned, Dr Ponce, one of the neurosurgeons, came by to see how I was doing. He was telling Ken that normally it takes 4-6 times of trying to place the wire lead in position, but with the new software/equipment that Dr. Santiago had presented, it allowed them to place the lead wire with precision, the very first time. He was extremely excited at how it had gone. Meanwhile, Dr. Smith, the other neurosurgeon, had spoken to Ken in regards to how things had gone and his comments were, “It went very well. They were excited about the new procedure and it had gone really, really well.” I didn’t see Dr. Santiago until the next morning.
Eventually, after having something to eat, a room became available but I had to wait a few more minutes because ‘there was something stuck in the toilet in the room’. Upon removal of the ‘something stuck in the toilet’, they called Little Jo and she gave me the good news. I had a room.
The following morning I awoke at 4:30 a.m. and watched the most beautiful sunrise I think I have ever seen. Right from my hospital bed. God is in the little things…
At 6:30, Dr. Ponce came to check in on me and said I would be ready to be released by 11 a.m. He had me perform a couple little tests – raise my eyebrows, stick out my tongue, follow his fingers. Two hours later, Dr. Santiago repeated the test, while asking what time I had gotten to my room, as he said he had tried to check in on me before he had gone home the night prior but couldn’t find me. He asked me what the hardest part of the surgery was and I joked with him and said “Looking in the mirror afterward.” My hair was sticking up all over the place in the back and plastered down flat in the front. He said he’d never thought he’d hear something so vain coming from me. He knew I was kidding. My bad hair day was a small price to pay for a’new brain’.~ ~ ~ This weekend we will repeat the trek south to have my regulator programmed. Stay tuned for DBS – Been there. Done that. Part 2. Sherri
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