I kind of remember being rolled into my room in the ICU after my craniotomy. There was just a bit of a fog. I knew what was happening, but I was just not totally there. My family was on their way to my room and I remember getting sick so they had to wait for a little bit until I stopped throwing up.
Once I was well enough I was given some food to eat and my family was with me. I know they were because there are some pictures. In my mind, this was the worst and I would be on my road to recovery. The first few days are still a bit of a jumbled mess in my thoughts. My family visited, but mostly everyone lived three hours away, so they weren’t always there. I kind of remember nurses taking care of me and I kind of remember my family being there, but it’s not really strong in my memory.
One of my first real thoughts was my concern that I couldn’t read anything. My sister-in-law brought me a gift. It was a picture with a saying on it. I smiled and thanked her for it, but didn’t tell anyone that I had no idea what it said. Now, I know that it says “Not to spoil the ending, but everything is going to be ok.” I’m still not ok, but I’m a lot better than I was those first days. Nurses had to read menus for me so I could decide what to eat. Even that was difficult because once they got through the list I had forgotten most of what they told me. I just tried to pick something that sounded good as soon as they said it.
I knew something was wrong when some doctors came to visit and started asking me what items were. One doctor showed me his pen and I couldn’t tell him what it was. They asked me what I did as a job and I couldn’t tell them that I was an accountant. They showed me a cell phone and I could motion the use of a phone, but I couldn’t tell them what it was. Words had just escaped me. I was completely aware of things, in my mind, but the words were not always there. I could talk, I could make sense, but not always come of with the right words I needed to. This really worried me because I remember my grandma’s speech after she had a stroke. She refused therapy and she was never able to fully communicate with us. It felt the same way. I knew what was there, I just couldn’t say it.
A speech-language pathologist started to work with me in the hospital. She was wonderful to work with. We worked with writing the alphabet, numbers, reading simple things, identifying items. It helped me realize my memory was not great. I started trying to write things as I would remember them. If someone asked me a question I wanted to be able to tell them. She saw these notes I was trying to write down on any paper I had and the last day I saw her she brought me a notebook so I could continue writing.
Physically, I was in good shape. They had me walk around the hallways and do their testing to make sure I could get around on my own. One of the nurses took me for walks to the coffee shops in the hospital to get me out of my room. Toward my last week in the hospital another nurse helped me into their bathing area so I could take my first bath since my surgery. It felt so good to get cleaned up. I still couldn’t wash my head because of the staples, but the rest of my body felt so much better.
According to my doctors, after seven days, I was ready to be released from the hospital and go home. I was happy to get out, but scared because I had no idea what came next. I would continue with a speech therapist in the area where I live and just try to keep getting better. Words had started to come a little easier, but everything was still slow. My son and I had a good laugh about how easy the cuss words came out of my mouth, but I was completely struggling with words like Facebook and Snapchat. I continued to think back to my grandma and her stroke. Shit was one of her favorite words, but she couldn’t say my name. I think that was one of my big concerns. As much as I tried, what if I couldn’t do it.
These were my first days after my craniotomy. Time and working hard have helped. I went back to work two and a half months after my surgery. It’s been hard, not everything is easy, but I do what I can and try to get back to my old self. I am so much luckier than others and I try to remember that every day.