Twas the week before Christmas

The week before Christmas doesn’t usually mean much to me.  Being Jewish, Christmas generally means holiday parties at work, gifts for coworkers and a quiet time in the office as many people mentally check out and still more physically check out.  This year was a bit different.  Many of you know my son had brain surgery early in December to remove a  meningioma resulting from cancer treatments 8 years ago.  That surgery took less than 20 minutes and he was in the hospital less than 36 hours.   Couldn’t be better news, right?

Last week I got the call that was eerily reminiscent of December 2004.  My ex could barely speak, telling me my son had a stroke or seizure; no one knew which.  The call had come in at 2:15 and I picked up the voice mail at 3:05 after a meeting.  Last time I was in San Mateo and by the time I got the call he was in a Sacramento Hospital.  This time, he was being transferred from his hometown to Sacramento; I timed it to meet him there at my best guess for arrival.  We arrived at his room about 3 minutes before he did.

Not knowing is the hardest thing in the world.  When you know, you can prepare mentally and emotionally.  But the unknown leaves you helpless.  That’s where I was.  We sat with him that night.  And the next day as his MRI was rescheduled.  My son’s hospital file (it’s a binder and 4 additional files) is so thick that most Doctorrs don’t read it and even when we tell them he only takes his MRI under anesthetic, they don’t pay attention.  Even at 23, between his claustrophobia and his ADHD, there is no way he can sit still for an MRI.

I drove to Sacramento each morning and drove back home each night after dinner.  Having done that drive daily previously, I was used to it.  Nevertheless, I was exhausted each night when I got around 11.

 Without the MRI, they could not rule out stroke.  One Dr. did nothing but backpedal and be non-committal.  When I asked for the probabilities, looking for something to understand beyond, “we don’t know,” I was treated to, “Oh.  You are one of those.”  You can be sure I was more than a bit put off.    I was trying to be reasonable; to understand and use my intellect.  I hated being told I was incapable of understanding the various aspects of what could be.  In today’s litigious society I understand being careful.  But I wasn’t trying to tie them down; I was looking for possibilities –the opposite of commitments.  I was very frustrated.

I did not see one of his episodes until Thursday, when I caught the tail end of one they Drs had induced.  It indeed looked like what I believe a stroke looks like.  It was every bit as scary as cancer.  Cancer is a yes/no problem.  Yes they cure it or no they can’t.  The no proposition is not one I care to think about, but it is understandable.  Sadly, even when “cured” there were repercussions.    They were able to kill the cancer in his brain and spinal fluid, but at the cost of his hearing.  The scar tissue grows so fast that he only hears 50% in his good ear.  And then that impacts so many other things.

So it turned out it was a seizure, perhaps related to his brain swelling after the original surgery in early December.  That meningioma that was removed was above his speech center.  Seeing him with life in his eyes and only able to “yeah” and “mom” was heart breaking.  Even as he regained his abilities, there are still moments when he can’t find the right word or uses the wrong one, without realizing.

When I was 6 or 7 my grandmother went for a surgical procedure.  She had a series of strokes on the table and was never the same.  Her vocabulary was yes, no and Jesus Christ!  She didn’t always use them the way she wanted to, but she was vocal.  As a child and then a teenager, I had very hard time relating to her and communicating with her.  We visited regularly, but sadly I just remember her “being in the room.”  What could we say to her?  I was very scared that my son might end up similarly.  At 23 with his life ahead of him, that’s not fair.  But we learn early on, life isn’t fair.

I was terrified during my son’s stay in the hospital.  On Thursday night they ruled out stroke and were finally willing to shoot straight with us.  He was released on Saturday, with an increased medication level designed to stave off further seizures.  It is not like we know how well it is working.  Either he has a seizure or he doesn’t.  Should the medication need to be changed, we won’t know until he has another seizure.  Let’s hope he doesn’t have one.   He seems to be slowly getting better, but it is too soon to tell if there has been any permanent damage to his speech.

So much for a slow week at the office.  But once again, I give thanks that my son is relatively healthy and has a future.  That much I know.


Leave a comment


  1. Ann

     /  December 26, 2012

    Yet another blog entry with depth far beyond the words on a page. Nicely done – again.

  2. thank you 🙂

  3. I’m glad to hear your boy (more of a man, I guess), seems to be doing all right. Must be bloody tough for all of you. Best wishes are all I can give.


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