If you have been following my blog then you know I have chronic pain and you also know I had brain surgery following a bike accident in my early teenage years. Well here is the story of how all this came to be.
It was the beginning of Summer and I was about to enter my first year of seventh grade in a new school. I was excited for all the perks of summer: the beach, staying up late, hanging out with my friends, acting camp with my best friend Lindsay, and riding my pink cruiser around town. I rode my bike everywhere! Cruisers were like a rite of passage in the town I grew up in and I cherished mine. It was a beautiful day and my step-sister at the time and I decided to ride our bikes down to Ellis Street Video. We wanted to rent a movie and buy some candy. We rented our movies (VHS not DVD’s) If you do not know what a VHS is that just gives away my age more. But, a VHS is what we used to watch movies on before DVD’s and Blue Rays and, well you get the idea. We left the video store and I was pumped to ride my bike home and throw this movie in and lounge around as all kids in summer love to do. During the bike ride home the bag holding my video in hit the front wheel of my bike forcing me to swerve right and I fell into a stone fence. I laid there for a few minutes while my step-sister kept calling my name. I opened my eyes and knew I had broken some bones on the right side of my body as I was unable to move my right arm. A couple of cars pulled over to see if I was okay and I of course said: “Oh I’m fine. Thank you though.” I was definitely the thirteen year old girl who did want attention focused on her. I decided to leave my bike where it lay and walk home with my movie. I limped home holding the movie in my left hand and adjusted my right arm so that the pain was not too bad. The movie did not break so I was happy. I did not know that my brain was bleeding, I just thought I had a head ache and wanted to get home to my dad. My step-sister helped me walk home and I left my pink cruiser lying on the sidewalk. Once home the pain started increasing as did my anxiety. My dad was not home. We did not have cell phones or anything so I sat there and waited for him to come home. I even put the movie in to pass the time. I was beyond happy when I heard my dad’s car pull in the driveway. He immediately took me to the nearest hospital where we filled out paperwork and they did an x-ray on my arm. I had broken my collar bone and my arm was put in a sling. That was that. Everything seemed okay. On our way out of the emergency room I started vomiting which is the first sign of a head injury. One of the doctors said that I needed to get an MRI of my brain: “just in case.” Things went crazy as soon as the MRI results were in. The doctor explained to my dad that I had a blood clot that was pretty large and I needed immediate brain surgery to remove it. Time was of the essence. The doctor explained that for this type of trauma I would have to go to a different hospital that could better handle this kind of emergency. I was put in an ambulance and sent to Cooper Hospital.
Once there I felt like I was in an episode of ER. The lights, the nurses, the doctors, my hand being held by my dad as the Neurologist explained the surgery to him. The last thing I remember was my shirt being cut off of me with scissors. I woke up the next morning in the ICU. There were three other patients in the room in critical condition. My dad was right there next to me. I was hooked up to machines including a catheter, feeding tube, and a bunch of other machines monitoring my life. My head was shaved on the right side and I did not look anything like the Jessica that had been riding her bike the day before. I was alive though.
The next two weeks I was in the ICU. They got my dad a cot so he was able to sleep in a room on the same floor. Visitors came and went and I was in pain and scared and truly missing my hair. I remember the pain in my throat from that damn feeding tube. That bothered me a lot for some reason. Following the ICU, I stayed in the hospital a couple more weeks and was then allowed to go home. I was unable to sleep in my bedroom because I was not strong enough to walk up stairs. My dad turned our living room into an awesome happy bedroom that even came with a bell in case I needed anything. The room was filled with balloons and flowers. Good friends and family where there every step of the way and I was able to start my seventh grade year that September. Let me tell ya how fun it is entering a new school in seventh grade with half a shaved head and a face that looked like I had just come back from a war. I did not make many friends my first year in this new school. I even ate lunch in the bathroom just so no one could make fun of me during lunch time.
All of this obviously sounds awful and one would think the worst experience of my life. But it was not the worst. The worst experience of my life was the years following when I looked completely healthy with my long brown hair and not a scar visible but was suffering with chronic pain. The years I searched for a cure for the pain I was living with was ten times worse than the story I just presented to you. Honestly, no comparison. I would have done the whole bike accident/brain surgery event over again twenty times if it meant I never had to have chronic pain. That is how bad chronic pain is. I got balloons, cards, cakes, and flowers for months following my brain surgery. But as the title of my blog states: No one gets flowers for chronic pain.