When A Golf ball is not a Golf ball

Posted: June 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

I kid around about my husband on Twitter, and whine about his lack of enthusiasm for the manly stuff that needs  to be done around here. There is a reason for that. Coping.  Coping with the fact that in August of 06 I received a phone call from him. A phone call than would eventually take me places emotionally I never dare thought existed.

He wasn’t feeling well on this August day. He had just got done dropping our son off at a friend’s house and had to pull the car over. He was dizzy and had a bad headache. I was up at our campground home, oblivious to his strife. He drove himself to the emergency room with his complaints and the ER physician was concerned enough to order a cat scan.

My husband’s symptoms technically had no bearing on what the cat scan brought to light. It was sheer luck and maybe a hunch on the part of that ER doctor that something was amiss. My cell phone rang, I remember it like it was 5 minutes ago. It was hot, I had just taken a shower and I was standing by the door of the camper. Seeing it was my husband calling, I said “hey, what’s up” when I answered. He didn’t sound good, not good at all. Not like I”ve ever heard him sound before. He stated that he was in the ER and had a cat scan, also that he had a “golf ball” size aneurysm in his brain.

The rest is a blur. I know my knees buckled. I know I screamed out the camper door for our neighbor Mike. I know I went into shock. What I didn’t know, was how long and hard the journey ahead was going to be. It was all about damage control at that point. Survival mode, scared out of your wits mode.

The findings were such a surprise to the  hospital staff they didn’t quite know how to handle the remarkable situation they had uncovered. An aneurysm the size of a golf ball is enormous in terms of aneurysms. Everything stepped up a notch or two when it was found. My husband was treated as though he were a time bomb, the priority of his condition was totally in the red zone.

Our phone call was brief. The staff was working  on getting him to another hospital, Hartford Hospital, where there is an entire neurology team to handle these types of delicate situations. The little hospital he was in had us in fear that the aneurysm would burst at any moment. Transporting my husband by helicopter was out of the question, as he was much to unstable to sustain air travel. The decision was made to use an ambulance to get him where he needed to be. In the very competent hands of a fine brain surgeon and team.

As this was transpiring, I called my sister and daughter at the office. My sister answered the phone, and I recall saying something like, “Sis I need to call in the troops, now!” Within an hour she and my daughter arrived at the campground to pick me up. I had made arrangements for our sonVincent to stay at his friend’s house, to shelter him from the goings on.

We arrived at Hartford Hospital and once he was looked at by the neurosurgeons, the level of alarm came down a bit. They reassured us that there was time. Time that was desperately needed, as this was the largest brain aneurysm Hartford Hospital’s neurosurgery team had ever seen in an adult.  We were advised that due to its size and location it was inoperable. The neurosurgery team needed to perform many tests to come up with a plan to stop the blood flow to this horrible thing, shrink it down and make it go away.

This is a very long and drawn out ordeal and to make it a reasonable length read, I’ll cut to the chase. My husband was sent home and we were back and forth to the hospital several times while a plethora of tests were done. The decision was finally made to surgically “correct” the aneurysm by sending a scope through the groin, which is a clear shot to the carotid artery. His left one was closed off to restrict blood from continuing to feed the “golf ball”. Coils were placed in the vicinity of the aneurysm to further isolate it from any new blood pumping into it. My husband had a small stroke during the procedure, which was “reversed” . 27 days recovering in the hospital. Things were looking great. The aneurysm was already shrinking. Despite the success of the procedure, the recovery time at home was very long.

He came home a skeleton, a mentally impaired skeleton and I did my best to meet his needs and take good care of him. Time passed, and within a year, the follow-up cat scan showed the aneurysm was gone. Great news! There have been permanent “deficits” because of all of this. Subtle ones. Changes in his personality, his ability to find the proper words to use when he speaks, and others. Mostly ones that I, as his wife notice much more than those who weren’t married to him before the “golf ball”. Yes, I’m thankful he survived. Yes, the changes in him have deeply affected our relationship and I feel really guilty about that. I’ve come to accept that it’s my problem and nobody elses.

2 weeks before Christmas 09, he came home from a follow-up cat scan and the news wasn’t so good this time. It was back. It has taken all of these months to get a definitive result dealing with the Veterans Hospital where my husband receives his medical care. Tonight, after taking out the garbage and before eating his dinner he told me, again, he has an aneurysm in his brain. This new one is “smaller” and in a “different place”. That’s about the quality of information he is capable of passing on at this stage. He is the hands of a good neurosurgeon with the VA who will monitor this new situation and do what needs to be done, if anything, to correct it. My husband also told me, “the doctor said it was about a million to one chance that this one would burst”.

The good news, is the long wait from December 09 is finally over. A truly ridiculous amount of time to diagnose something as serious as a brain aneurysm reoccurrence. From here on in, it’s not the huge crisis it was back on that day in August 06. The acceptance has already settled in and life goes on. The other good news, is that the “golf ball” is gone. Why doctors have to use this type of non-medical terminology is beyond me.  Every time, I see or hear the world golf ball, I don’t think of a white, speckled ball made by Spaulding or whomever. I think about that day back in August, when my knees buckled and my heart broke into a whole bunch of pieces.  As well as a lot of other stuff too.

This is long, too long but like any arduous journey you’ve taken and are ready to make the scrap-book and move on, you discover it’s not over. The playing field just got moved. So with all my angst and harsh emotions about my husband’s health, I am, right now, swinging a number 9 club and smashing that “golf ball” out into the wild blue yonder where it belongs.  I can only hope, when describing this new, smaller and much less threatening aneurysm, the neurosurgeon uses a proper medical and mathematical term to describe its size and not anything other.  A golf ball is a golf ball, let’s keep it that way.

June 17, 2010

Coventry, CT

  1. joannefirth says:

    My sweet little Dani kitten. Thank you so much. Yes, I love prayers and thrive on them. Thankyou for being politically correct, but all prayers are welcome. We are doing ok, the big wait is finally over. I can’t begin to tell you what a relief it was to finally get some kind of diagnosis. Illness of any kind really sucks and hubby and I seem to have had more than our share. I’ve realized over this last 6 months how important patience and acceptance is. Without it, things just go haywire. Haywire bad. 😉 Much love and squishy hugs back to my sweetest angel. ❤

  2. Dani H says:

    I know how hard it was for you to write something so personal to share, Joanne. Just remember that though you may have exposed more than you are comfortable with, it’s we, your friends and family, who are reading your words. With the knowledge of what you are having to deal with, you have gifted us with the opportunity to send you our love and support and friendship. {And prayers, if you want them.} You are always in my heart, bunny. I love you. *Healing Hugs**Soft squishy hugs just for comfort* ❤

  3. Janet Blackford says:

    Joanne, we have talked before, and now at last you and hubby know what your dealing with, again. I wish you and hubby all the strength you need to be able to do this. You are an amazing woman I know how strong you can be. I wish I was there to give you a hug. Bless you for sharing and writing so eloquently. Why it took so long to be diagnosed is beyond me, lifes a bitch sometimes, but if anyone can kick it into touch you can. You are in my prayers. Much love xo

    • joannefirth says:

      Jan, this means so much to me. We both know how precious life is. We are ok, accepting and greatful that after 6 months waiting, the news isn’t as bad as we thought. I appreciate the time you took to read my story, as well as your support over these last months. Your friendship means so much me, I know you already know this….but your kindness is never ending. Much love to you my dear g-friend. ❤

  4. joannefirth says:

    A humble thank you Joanne, for reading and commenting. It was a difficult story to tell in so few words. And yes, many layers…each one lifting off as I write about them.

    By the way, it’s so nice to have confirmation of a name to go with that beautiful pair of eyes. ❤

  5. Joanne Schiffbauer says:

    A story, beautifully told! You are a lady of many layers…each one more surprising than the last!
    Thank you for sharing!


  6. Linda Adcock says:

    Wow Sis beautifully written and thanking God that you are moving on from this frightening time in your life! May you feel His loving arms wrapped around you today as you have chosen to allow Him to heal that place in your heart!

    Love you!!!!!

    • joannefirth says:

      Thanks Sis….all this waiting since December. Geeeze! Healing. By the way, since you are the hole-in-one golfer of the family, I hope I used the correct club to do my “golf ball” smashing. 😉

      Love You,

  7. Good heavens! And thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    • joannefirth says:

      Thank you Diana! Sometimes the urge to write about something is so overwhelming that it’s written and posted before I really have had the time to think it through. I do feel a little exposed at the moment for having shared this, exposed in not such a bad way though. Thanks for the visit and comment, you are very kind. ❤

  8. joannefirth says:

    Thanks so much Caroline and Judy! I can’t tell you how, after 6 months of waiting and thinking the worst, the relief that things are a little better than anticipated. Not perfect, by any means, at least now we are at the stage of treatment which is a whole lot better than the stage of “waiting”. I appreciate the time you both took to read this and your kind comments. ❤

  9. Caroline says:

    I can’t say anything more than Judy just did, exactly what I was thinking. xo

  10. judy says:

    Joanne, this is so touching. Feel like I saw more of you in this post than in all the time we’ve been talking. (Like finding a little treasure.) Thank you for writing it.

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