Update: Sorry, More Bad News.
I did have a second MRI of my lumbar spine. It was more or less identical with the one I had in March, so additional disc compression (from the fall) on adjacent nerves was not the answer. I never did have an EMG. Meanwhile my drop foot progressed to the point where I needed a cane to walk. Over the weekend I lost my footing and fell in the middle of the front lawn and just like that old TV commercial for "life alert" I discovered that I couldn't get up. I thrashed around on the lawn, almost able to regain my footing, but kept falling to the ground with heavy impacts. I told myself I had to stop before I re-injured my right humerus. It took the combined efforts of my wife and daughter to get me up and get me inside the house. I probably scared the neighbor's kids--old man down. I know I frightened my wife.
The following Monday I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon. My mother-in-law drove me to the office which is housed within the Anne Arundel Medical Center. He took one look at me as I hobbled towards him with the cane and immediately said "this isn't your normal gate or balance mode-- hell, you're a figure skater." He also noticed that my speech was slightly slurred. I was wheeled down to the ER and I told the physician that, in addition to the new MRI, earlier I had been referred to a neurologist and he had ordered two additional CT scans (one without and one with contrast). However, I had not received any follow up comments from him. Luckily those scans were done by the hospital's affiliated imaging center, and so the ER doctor was able to directly pull them up on a computer. Once the images appeared, there was a period of silence followed by a low voice level discussion between the ER doctor and my orthopedist and the next thing I knew, I was being prepped for the OR.
My original brain hemorrhage was either a slow leaker or I re-injured it. My drop foot was a symptom of a subdural hematoma. The excess fluid was placing pressure on the right side of my brain and if you read the symptoms via the link, you will see that slurred speech and difficulty with balance and walking are numbers 1 & 2. It took five + weeks for the hematoma to cause me to present with symptoms. In order to deal with the hematoma I had a crainiotomy. I have a scar in my scalp and a very trendy disc of titanium to replace the disc of skull which was drilled out in order to access the hematoma (it's non-magnetic--I won't cause compass deviations!) but mercifully no exposed bolts a la Dr. Frankenstein. For the next two days I had a tube coming out of the extra hole in my head to continue the drainage process. Yes, I am at a very slight increased risk for bacterial meningitis but I'll take that over the very real probability that without timely intervention I would have spent the remainder of my life as a cripple. I was very, very lucky to have a positive outcome. Pressure from a hematoma, if left, quickly causes irreversible nerve damage. So here we start with the good news: immediately upon regaining consciousness in the recovery room I realized that I could move my left leg "normally". After the nurse had me go through some foot flexion and extension tests of my toes and strength tests of my legs I knew without actual confirmation that the foot drop thing was probably in my rear view mirror--however, I was in no position to directly test it.
I spent the next two days in ICU. The day after surgery I has another CT scan before seeing my surgeon. He came by soon there after (about 6 am!) and said that I appeared to be ahead of schedule. That pleased both him and me. On Wednesday the neurosurgeon's PA (physician's assistant) came and removed the dressing (and a lot of my hair with it--they had used a glue to close the long opening to the port rather than sutures). She was satisfied that the drainage had stopped; the remaining fluid coming out was clear spinal fluid and so the drain tube could come out. This last is a tricky decision: they want most of the fluid out before closing the hole but the longer the tube is in place the higher the risk for infection (I was given "MERSA" scrub downs each evening while in ICU). She cut the single suture holding the tube in place on the outside and told me to get ready. She then pulled the tube out of my head. It felt so good when she stopped. The hole itself was sealed with the titanium disc plus a thick layer of skin with a dissolvable suture. She indicated that it would seal overnight and with that the PA departed.
Soon a physical therapy person asked me if I wanted to go for a short walk in the corridors to test out my legs. I can report that the foot drop thing was no longer part of my lifestyle! It felt so good to be able to just walk normally again. We tried several balance tests including walking up and down stairs (our house is a two level house so this was an important test to pass). I did fine. My normal gate was back but I was at times a bit wobbly. My strength will return with use of my legs and recovery from the surgery. That evening I was moved out of ICU and into a "normal" room within the neurosurgical department. This move meant that I was no longer hooked to monitoring devices tracking my blood pressure (the cuff automatically inflated every hour, and then after the first night every two hours--which made sleep very elusive) and other vitals. They still monitored me, but at least it was every four hours rather than every two.
Thursday morning I had yet another CT scan (I'm sure that over the last two months I've received a life time of exposure but at least the current machines expose one to a lot less radiation than the early instruments). My surgeon stopped by later and told me I'd be released towards the end of the day. I had exceeded his expectations. So figure skating gave me a serious injury but figure skating, as part of my lifestyle, without doubt contributed to my overall conditioning, which in turn allowed me to quickly bounce back.
My wife picked me up about 5 pm that day. We stopped at the grocery store to have prescriptions for ACE inhibitors (basically a blood pressure medication--my BP is normal but they don't want any spikes during recovery) and a pain med. I found a chair and waited for my prescriptions to be filled. While waiting I saw a woman pulling a cart behind her. She waked with the unmistakable gate of an individual with drop foot. It was painful to watch her pass, realizing that I very nearly could have become just like her.
So I'm home now, wearing very fashionable "old man's" compression stockings (to minimize blood clots in my legs) and going on numerous prescribed 10 minute walks. People in the houses which I pass who don't know me probably think I'm casing their joints. I have a follow-up appointment in two weeks with the PA. No driving until she says so. It will probably be a few months before I'm back on the ice. It remains to be seen how much of the skater I was before the fall reports back for duty.
Here are a couple of pix for the Skating Club bulletin board (your diarist--a picture of health). Don't expect this costume at the rink.
Oh my gosh! I kept reading and reading with increasing concern. What an ordeal! It sounds like you're on the mend, though, which is so good to hear. Take gently care of yourself.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the kind thoughts Mer. I have more restrictions than liberties at this point in time so I have no choice but to take things gently. And yes, once is more than enough for this type of injury. I am researching figure skater appropriate head gear and will post my findings in a few days.ReplyDelete
I am so glad you got help at the right time! I've worked in neuro rehab & you've had a very good recovery indeed. The extent of recovery is difficult to predict, with time and motivation being the key determinants.ReplyDelete
Wishing you well from here in.
Accordion3: Thanks for the long distance well wishes! I'm fighting my way back.Delete
"hell, you're a figure skater." So, get better soon and get back on the ice! Wish you the best. :-)ReplyDelete
Thanks Babbette! My wife wants to burn my skates, but I know I'll be back...Delete
Wow, George, sounds like it's a good thing you have competent doctors! For a guy who's had a lot done to his head (and who's been deprived of skating for weeks!) you look like you're in great shape. No more complications, okay? You've had more than your fair share. Here's to an uncomplicated recovery this time around.ReplyDelete
Thanks Jo: This ice dancing lark is a tough sport! I'm hoping that I'm truly done with all the current health issues and can rebuild my stamina and strength to the point where I can return to the ice in a month or so. No driving for the next two weeks. Hoping to return to yoga when I'm allowed to drive again. Lots of time to watch Kseniya and Oleg videos on youtube.ReplyDelete
Yikes George! Weren't we just talking about injuries over on my blog? I do know another older skater who has gotten a subdural hematoma from a skating fall. He is still skating (with a helmet). My BIL had a subdural hematoma from a seemingly small fall on a stairway that he thought nothing of at the time-- so it's not just skating, it's life. He also had deteriorating symptoms and neurosurgery and has recovered well.ReplyDelete
Hi Mary: Thanks for the encouraging words--my wife wants to burn my skates! I keep telling her figure skating is a beautiful sport and that I've worked hard to get back to the relatively low level that I've achieved these past 6 years after walking away from skating back in the 1970s. I'm looking at another 4 weeks of no driving, no work, no skating, no this that or the other (good thing I had lots of sick leave and annual leave saved up). The neurosurgeon keeps reminding me that the brain is slow to heal, and I certainly don't want to go down this road again, so I'm cooling my jets and following the restrictions. I plan to wear a helmet when I return but am discovering that many helmets, ice halos, etc. are not built to any industry or government standards. Nor are there any comparative tests. So, I'm at odds as to which one provides safety rather than the illusion of safety.ReplyDelete
I'm sure you will do a good job of researching it and share your results. I am using a ForceField headband, their website says you could use it inside a helmet which is n interesting idea. Meanwhile I'm sure your time off seems long. Two weeks to go now is getting there. I hope you are allowed to read.ReplyDelete
Yep. I'm hoping that when I go to the Neurosurgeon on the 8th of October that the driving and work restrictions will be lifted--they'd better be--I've blown through all my sick leave and am now using vacation leave. This isn't much of a vacation!ReplyDelete
How you doin'?ReplyDelete
Feeling better. Still not permitted to drive or return to work. Those restrictions might be lifted when I see the neurosurgeon this coming Thursday. Thanks for asking.ReplyDelete
Sending a hug to you and Elisabeth!
Hi Amy: Last Thursday I had my six weeks post-op check up at the neurosurgeon's office. I'm now permitted to drive, go to work and ease back into my other "normal" activities, including figure skating. Tomorrow is my first day back at work since the 24th of August. I've blown through all of my accumulated sick leave and have been using "vacation" leave for about a week and a half (a lousy way to burning vacation...). I will soon learn how much of the pre-crash skater shows up when I gingerly put a blade to the ice some time in the coming week. Elisabeth wants to burn my skates.Delete