I’m recovering from having surgery on my brain. This is what happened…

Well I told you I was ill…or so said Spike Milligan’s famous epitaph – and I did go around telling everyone I was ill, I just had no idea exactly how unwell I was…

LEFT: Me, seven days post-op. Right: Me, Three weeks post-op

COLLAPSED AT HOME

Six weeks ago I took some time off with a pain in my big toe which was making me feel nauseous. The doctors suspected it was gout due to me living through lockdown like Henry VIII. Instead of getting better, things got worse, I began to shuffle like a very old man when I walked, I could not concentrate and felt sick. Eventually, despite trying to fight these problems with treatment for an inflamed toe and regular walks, I collapsed in the kitchen making my kids’ packed lunch for school. I finally got a face-to-face meeting with my doctor, which has been easier said than done in Lockdown Leicester, despite things opening up lately. 

TRAUMA

The GP identified immediately that my brain was experiencing some kind of trauma and I was taken to the Royal Infirmary. A CT scan subsequently revealed hydrocephalus on my brain and I was taken by ambulance to the neurology unit Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham. By this time I was unready feeling very unwell, so it gets a bit sketchy. I was admitted on Monday July 12 – which was the day I should’ve been going for a family holiday in Boscombe, near Bournemouth. I settled on to the ward and tried to sleep. The next day I had an MRI scan, followed by a discussion with a consultant about the result. I was told I had a colloid cyst on my brain which had grown so big it was blocking the flow of fluid away from my brain. As a result, fluid was backing up and putting pressure on my brain, affecting how I walked, my speech and giving me headaches. The neurologist told me the risks of the operation, part of a conversation that started by explaining that if I did nothing I wouldn’t be around much longer… All brain surgery carries risks, but I was so unwell I knew I had to take the treatment and hope for the best. There is so much I could say about weighing up the risks, but ultimately I knew I was in a bad way and the operation was the only way. I tried not to think about a negative outcome. I’m happily married with twin 12-year-old boys. I just felt I had to get well again and put my faith in the team at the QMC.

I had the operation on Wednesday July 14 in the early afternoon. By the evening I was on a recovery ward, full of morphine, woozy and owning an incredibly sore head – see the picture below if you can stomach it…

TURNING POINT

After the operation, I spoke briefly to Sara, my wife. I have no idea what I said. I was able to walk to the bathroom at 4am – aided by a nurse. When I had arrived by ambulance 48 hours before, I could barely walk at all. That moment was a turning point, and from there I felt I was going to be ok. I was on the ward over the weekend and took another MRI scan to check the results of my operation. I was discharged to recover at home on Monday afternoon, with some paracetamol for a sore head and some antibiotics for pneumonia I contracted in surgery. Home in just seven days from being admitted. I thought that was incredible.

Since then I have been getting stronger every day. I’ve lost two stone in weight (which I see as a positive side effect). I’m walking well every day, but get tired very quickly.  It will probably take six months to be fully back on my feet and where I was before all this started. There will be no boozy nights out for a while, no gym/running for months and I’ve had my driving licence suspended until January 2022. That’s ok, we are used to lockdown in Leicester. My wife, Sara, and my boys, George and Joseph, have been incredible throughout this. Friends and work colleagues have been great and given me so much encouragement. Some have made me coffee in their gardens, taken me down to Braunstone Gate for a chat or met in the park. This has been really good for me. Thanks too to the members of Hertha Berlin UK Fan Club for the constant updates and goodwill. My memory, especially my short term memory, which was at risk, appears to be working. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m starting from a good place.

PERSPECTIVE

I finally got a holiday with my family too. I know I’ve really disrupted their summer (and the next few months) and watching me go through this has been emotionally draining, stressful, on top of being hard work for them. Paddling in the sea with my wife and boys was the greatest feeling. I have a lot of perspective on things that perhaps I did not have, or care to have, before. 

This is a long story cut short of course, but I really wanted to share my experience, test my brain with a little writing and praise the Neurology team at QMU from the senior consultants with their surgical wizardry to the many staff on the wards doing all kinds of jobs who show so much care.

Hopefully I’ll give you the longer version when I see you next…

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