Sitting in a tiny consult room in a dingy corner of the Outpatient’s Clinic at the Alice Springs Hospital, I tell my surgeon it’s nice to see her without having to catch a plane and fly interstate. She smiles. “How are you coming along?” “Good,” I say. I know she is itching to look at the scar so I pull back my hair at the fringe and side and let her examine her handy work. Content it is healing well, she returns to her seat. I neglect to tell her that I keep catching the scab at the top of the incision with my comb (yes, the same way I pulled out a stitch). Before she can change the subject, I make a point of thanking her for such a neat incision. She shrugs this compliment off. I imagine doing neat incisions is the easiest thing in the world for a neurosurgeon. I then tell her the nurses were very impressed and constantly marveled at how much hair she saved (as opposed to shaved). It appears she didn’t anticipate this comment and smiles whilst looking a little bashful.
We chat about headaches, swelling, and pain medications. She reassures me that the headaches will continue to improve as will the swelling, although she does stop to have a gently poke at the side of my face where the puffiness is most obvious. I tell her I have returned to icing it, which should help, and after a two night trial of sleeping flat and an associated increase in pain and swelling, have returned to sleeping upright.
I wonder then how long it will take for her to mention the ‘elephant in the room’, the patch over my right eye.
In hospital, Dr. Harding was vehement that my surgery was textbook with no complications (which it was). However, she eventually acknowledged that it was possible that my post-stroke symptoms would be exacerbated by the surgery; but was steadfast in her position that she hadn’t caused the vision problem with which I woke from surgery. As an aside, she also didn’t think my blood pressure reaching 165/107 (stage two hypertension) was an issue and lectured me as to the un-likelihood of any problems resulting from it; that was until I reminded her that I had a stroke at 36 and all the doctors then had told me that wasn’t supposed to happen either. My blood pressure was spiking due to ineffectual pain management and amazingly it returned to normal once I had morphine on board!
Returning to this week’s consult and I decide to broach the topic myself asking if she received a letter from the Ophthalmologist I saw whilst in the rehab ward. She had and the look on her face told me she wasn’t convinced. I then explained I had seen the eye doc a second time and she felt it was likely the swelling around my eye and surgical site causing the problem as it was unlikely my surgeon had damaged all the nerves of my eye – which were all testing poorly.
Dr. Harding was very certain as she told me she didn’t go anywhere near the cranial nerve during surgery, so surgery had not directly caused any visual issues. I told her that was good to hear because it confirmed the likely cause as postoperative swelling, that would eventually, slowly resolve and with it, my vision. I reassured her that I had no desire to wear an eye patch any longer than necessary and we both left it at that.
I asked about the Cerebral Angiogram she had said I would need within a few months of surgery and here I received another piece of good news. As my in-surgery angiogram showed everything was exactly as it should be post-clipping with no bleeds whatsoever, I won’t need to have another done until the end of the year. It is her preference that I fully recover from the craniotomy before she subjects me (and my brain) to anymore intrusive tests. That is fine with me!
Dr. Harding then scribbled a quick note for the administration staff, to have me scheduled to see her on her next visit to Alice, near the end of the year, smiled, wished me well for my recovery and showed me out the door. I think I was with her for all of five minutes but that’s probably good, demonstrating that I am doing well in my recovery.