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Growing Pains

MRI tech

Kiara Ward, Staff Writer

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I don’t even remember opening my eyes after surgery, in fact, I don’t remember much at all. What I do remember is each excruciating, brain splitting, unbearable sensational headache, every vision mishap and every balance mishap. It all still feels so vivid.

Prior to the surgery, the first symptoms that presented were distorted vision and headaches. They would transpire every so often. First would come a sharp headache, (that is if one developed) then the distorted vision. It would either look like the walls were moving upwards or solid stationary objects were slanting.

“I remember when [she] first told me about [her] symptoms, the most prominent one was the headaches.” Says my mother Cheryl Ward. She then continued to say, “she would always complain about waking up with constant headaches, but it was allergy season so of course, I thought they were allergy related.This ended up going on for a while so I took her to her doctor just to clarify and what do you know? They diagnosed them as allergy related headaches and prescribed her a slightly stronger allergy medication.Here, I thought it was over, but it only got worse.”

The next symptoms that presented were more vision issues, hearing loss, and loss of taste. Between the new vision issues, one of them frightened me more than any of the symptoms had presented before and after these had. There was tunnel vision, and from what I can recall, what looked like static from a tv with a weak signal which then either turned into everything I see turning temporarily gray me not being able to see anything in the lower portion of my peripheral vision. This is what scared me the most, I thought I was going to go blind. I started to think  I was dying because my senses were declining. When I notified my mother of the new symptoms, she suggested otherwise, she said, “She was always staying up late so I suggested that it could have been sleep deprivation related.” I immediately disagreed with her. Spring High School Senior Kaira Ward (my sister) explained:  “I don’t think my mom fully understood the extent of her pain so she couldn’t really comprehend what was really going on.”  

The last symptom that presented was dizziness (balance mishaps), it developed in between the time I was diagnosed and when I was due for surgery. The day I was diagnosed, it was in May,  I  remember falling down stairs on my way to the car. It wasn’t the first time, I dismissed this symptom as just me being clumsy.  My mom kind of panicked and rushed me to the car.as soon as we arrived at the ER I climbed out of the car with one of the worst headaches of my life with slight nausea, it was the worst I had ever felt. As we proceeded to the building, I couldn’t exactly walk straight.

After I was signed in and got my vitals taken, I was finally moved to a room.  We were in there for a couple of hours I ended up falling asleep. All I remember seeing when I woke up was a man with an I.V and a needle. I started to panic because I am not a fan of either. I don’t remember what he did to convince me to become one with a needle, but I ended up getting bloodwork done, contrast for an MRI, and had an I.V in my arm. A while later I was taken to get an MRI and then taken back to my room. After a while of waiting for the results, I fell asleep. Once again, I was wakened up by something unfortunate. A different doctor this time, said that they were concerned with what they had found on my scan. I ended up being transported by ambulance to a hospital. When we arrived at the hospital, the EMTs went through a back entrance where I had to be processed and then moved to a room.While in my room I was hooked up to something that monitored my heart and O2 stats. Later, a doctor walked in to ask questions about my symptoms and notify me that I’d soon be getting a CT scan because they wanted to make sure that what was on the MRI was nothing.

More time went by and I was finally sent to get my CT scan. After the scan, I was sent back to my room where I again waited for results and fell asleep. I was once more woken up, but this time with some moderately good news. The results were in, I was diagnosed with ‘Chiari Malformation Type 1’.One doctor told me that my symptoms fit and another told me “that they can be difficult to diagnose since the symptoms can be vague, or there may be no symptoms at all. A definitive diagnosis is generally made after an MRI scan, where the abnormal protrusion of the cerebellum toward the spinal cord can be seen. But because [they] weren’t sure about my case [they] had to do something extra”. I was then told that surgery isn’t necessary for most, but unfortunately for me, it was. I remember my mom having some sort of undertone frantic and stressful energy from this day until the day I got my surgery

The doctors then talked with my mom and confirmed that there was a doctor who could perform the surgery there. She did her research on the doctor and didn’t like their ratings so we ended up spending more time searching for a different. I’m glad she did. It was in July and his name was Dr. Subrata Ghosh. He had a great energy and gave great life advice.I trusted him, he had an answer for every question as well as questions for me which he expected answers from. He had a very positive presence and demeanor as well as a sense of humor. While talking about the surgery he informed me about a reference line that is used to diagnose the condition (which is shown in my picture) then his approach he’d be “cutting into the dura, removing some tonsil (near the cerebellum) and vertebrae”. That was the simplest form of explaining a decompression surgery, which is classified as brain and spine surgery. He then informed me that for the surgery there was the risk of brain and nerve damage.At first, I was kind of skeptical because I didn’t want to be a vegetable but I also didn’t feel it was necessary to live the painful problematic life I was living before. According to Kaira “he had great energy and I had complete confidence that he would perform the surgery exceptionally”

The day of my surgery ended up being on the first day of school. According to my family, after the surgery, I woke up and was doing crazy things out of the ordinary and along those lines I mentioned Kanye West giving me a custom made velvet cap and being Michelangelo painting the ‘Sistine Chapel’. I honestly don’t remember doing any of the mentioned things but there’s live footage, I’ve seen it and it’s definitely me.

I was in the hospital for almost a week post op. Whilst being confined to ICU Dr.Ghosh came and visited me. I remember him telling me “you have an exceptional pain tolerance, most adults that have gotten this surgery would be complaining about their pain. I have yet to hear you complain once”.  I don’t remember the pain being that bad, I just remember being in and out of sleep, watching tv, and being on fluid restriction because of low sodium. It was so miserable, I wanted to cry but realized it probably would have further dehydrated me.

As the week neared its ending, I was finally sent home. While at home I was confined to one room and minimal activity. When I say minimal activity I mean, eat, tv maybe, sleep, bathroom repeat. I couldn’t do anything due to the fact that my neck was swollen In and had stitches starting in mid-scalp (where they had to shave) down to my neck that had to heal.

The first two weeks I didn’t want to risk having to go back to into surgery so all I did, was ‘eat, sleep, bathroom repeat’. I was then instructed to start doing neck stretches so that my neck wouldn’t fuse together.  

After a month of repetitiveness, I was finally assigned school work, but it was a minimal amount. Around this time my body was tiring out very easily so it hard for me to do the work assigned if any. To add insult to injury, my reading comprehension and my focus declined. Sometimes it would take longer to do small amounts of work which would be considered average at conventional school, basically a day’s work in a week.

Because of this, I thought the transition back to school would be difficult. I ended up pulling through and now I’m able to do the amount of work I wasn’t able to and more, but every so often I still tire out easily. I survived.

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Growing Pains