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My Day at the Gamma Knife Center

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:53pm
I am feeling fine, my eyes are still very swollen, but I can see! I took off the bandages this morning and it is surprising how small the marks are from where the pins were. Anyway, here's how it all went down.

I woke up Thursday at 6am. I tool a shower the night before so I wouldn't have to get up earlier. I got dressed and my friend picked me up at 6:30am. We were just about to get onto the freeway when I realized I had left my medication at home so we had to turn around to get it. Its antiseizure medicine so its not good to skip a dose, especially with all the stuff they were going to be doing to my head and brain! We picked up my medicine and headed to the hospital. I actually made it on time. I waited in the lobby for the nurse to pick me up and take me to the Gamma Knife Center. He arrived ten minutes later and picked up me and one other patient. When we got to the center he put us in our separate rooms and told us to change. I put the gown on and signed the paperwork he gave me then I sat down and waited. I thought I'd be allowed to keep my shirt on, but it was long sleeve and he made me take it off. I think if I had worn a short sleeved shirt I would have been able to keep it on. The long sleeves interferes with the IV. I waited in the room for awhile, they worked on the other patient first so I just sat there waiting. After a little while the nurse and a nurse trainee came and and prepped me. She put in the IV and he got the "cocktails" ready. The gave me what they called a lollipop, it was a lollipop of sorts, but it had pain medication in it, Fentanyl, and waited for the drugs to kick in. I think it was about 7:30 when they started prep, next thing I know its 8:30! I don't know what happened to that hour! After 8:30 they, the nurse and the neurosurgeon, came in to put the headframe, the metal thing they screw into the head that attaches to the machine that you get the radiation from, on me. That was by far the worst thing I had been thru. They start by injected lidocaine into the head in the 4 places where they attach the headframe. That in itself is painful. Then when the lidocaine kicks in they start to attach the headframe. OMG that was so painful and uncomfortable! They put 2 screws in the front of the head, at the temples, which causes pain all the way thru the jaw. And they put 2 screws in the back of the head, they were no where near the amount of pain as the front screws. Once the halo was attached I had to wait to get an MRI. They wheeled me and the other patient over to the hospital to the radiation dept to get the MRI. We were there for about 10 minutes, but it turned out the machine wasn't working properly so we either had to wait for hours or go to a different department. So they wheeled us over to another building and there we had to wait another 10 mins or so because there was a patient ahead of us. This was the weirdest MRI I had gotten. Because I had this thing attached to my head I could actually FEEL the MRI working. MRI's are magnetic. I thing the headframe is made of titanium or something that is metal but is safe to be in the MRI. (I know Titanium is safe because the Doc told me that is what he used to put my skull back together after my surgeries- the white area seen in the X-rays.) Anyway, every time the MRI went off my head vibrated, at one point I even felt my teeth chattering! Very weird feeling.

After the MRI we were taken back to the Gamma Knife Center and put back in out rooms to wait while the Docs figured out their plan of attack. A woman from my brain tumor support group came to visit me. It was very nice of her because I had only met her once, at the support group. She stayed and talked to me for awhile and told me what it was like for her. After she left I played my Nintendo DS- Brain Age 2 Sudoku, I'm addicted to it! It started to get difficult to see the screen, I was getting very drowsy. And all I could do was sit and wait. They took the other patient in for treatment first, I think because she only had one tumor so her treatment would not take as long. I tried to take a nap but the headframe was so awkward I couldn't get comfortable.

Around 2:45 the Doc came in and told me his plan. They were going to try to get all 4 tumors. This made me very happy because when he first told me he wanted to do the treatment he only planned to get 3 of them. That would mean if the fourth one ever started to grow I would have to come back and do this all over again! I went into the room for the procedure around 3pm. It took 3 hours! They attached me to the machine and I would go in and it would do its thing for a few minutes, then bring me out and adjust the headframe and bring me back in to do its thing again. I brought a cd and they played it for me, the machine has speakers inside. That made it seem to go much quicker and made it a little less scary. The machine doesn't really make any noise, except for a little beep, but after awhile the beeping can be annoying and without music it would have driven me crazy!!!! There are several different sizes of helmets that they attach to the head so I had to be put onto 3 of them so that took awhile to change the parts. After 3 hours I was finally done! My head hurt so much, even with the meds all the movements the machine made my head do and the discomfort of my neck, i just couldn't get rid of the pain. Believe me I tried, they gave me two lollipops while I was having the procedure!

When it was all done they took me back to my room and took off the headframe. I thought putting it on was bad! Taking it off was worse because I had the headframe on for about 9 hours and when they took it off all the pressure was relieved all at once! The nurse put pressure on the pin sights, but the left front one didn't want to stop bleeding! Man it was painful! They wrapped up my head and gathered my stuff preparing to send me to the short stay area of the hospital. The nurse gave me my discharge instructions, when to take the bandages off, when I could wash my hair, etc... and told me I could go home in two hours. I went upstairs and was given a shot of delaudid for the pain. That helped for about an hour, then the headache came back.

By the time I left the hospital it was about 8:30pm. I had been there for 13 1/2 hours for a procedure that took 3 hours! But it did go by pretty quickly. My eyes were already swelling up so by the time I got home it was getting difficult to see. I watched TV for a little but was so tired I went to bed at 10pm. I had a headache but didn't take anything because of all the pain meds they gave me in the hospital. I fell asleep quickly and slept well.

So that was my day at the Gamma Knife Center. No one tells you how swollen you get after. I am glad I am not working because I don't want to go out in public looking like this! I felt bad for the food delivery guy yesterday! Today would be even worse because at least yesterday I had bandages on! Hopefully the swelling will go down by tomorrow. Its only supposed to last for 72 hours. They also said there could be some bruising around the eyes, but that really hasn't happened so that's good. I am taking tylenol regularly, they said to take it regularly because if I wait for the pain to start it might be too late for tylenol and they didn't give me a prescription for anything stronger. So far it hasn't been too bad. I just wish the swelling would go down, its very uncomfortable!

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