Two years post onset of symptoms and what I think I know

Chiari Malformation is an unbelievable Neuro problem that only affects a few americans each year in comparison to the population.  However, it is a devastating problem for its victims.  I have talked to so many people over the last two years that are fellow Chiarians.  Some that have had results with treatment and others that have not.  Over all the recurring theme seems to be the difficulty in finding a Doctor that will listen and take things into consideration.  I ran into this problem myself.  This is my soap box.

Either the Doctor was uneducated as to what Chiari is or they were afraid to treat it.  That is right, they were afraid!  Why is this?  Well here are some of my ideas about that question.  One; most medical books used to teach our doctors only have a paragraph or two about Chiari.  See Merc Med Manual.  Two; Most doctors in this country are not in it for the patient, therefore they verse themselves in the every day treatment of every day medical problems that are common and easily treatable.  Three; There isn’t a pill to fix it or make the symptoms go away and there never will be.  Four;  There is a stigma of “the headache patient” that has been created in our society. (There is a lot that can be said about that one and I do not have the time nor the space here to address it properly).  Five;  Neurology is a specialty science and most neurologists don’t want to admit that they are not the person for this job. (This is another one that can be discussed for long periods). 

So what do we as Chiarians need?  I think that awareness is at the top of the list and there are some great folks out there that are doing just that.  Raising awareness through websites, walks and even going to the government and petitioning for more education.  I commend those folks and pray for their success.  Research is the next big one and a subject all of itself.  Also we need our doctors to start thinking of the patient again.  So many people are lawsuit happy that some doctors are so busy protecting themselves that they miss the big picture or are afraid to delve into the patient’s problems.  Or they think they know it all.  They want to write a script and send them to someone else.  Again this comes around to “the headache patient”. 

So for those out there that are looking for help I leave you with this.  Be persistent.  Research the condition and the doctors that treat it.  They are out there. Educate your own doctor as well, so that they can understand your needs, and if they don’t want to listen then find a new doctor.  Everyone can learn something new.   Early diagnosis and early treatment are key to life with Chiari. I am a testament to that as are many others.  I have found several articles by various doctors that express this opinion  (see article attatched to this link:  http://store.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/_WMS/publications/wmj/issues/wmj_v101n8/Nash.pdf  ) and I for one will stand by it. How can I not,  just read my Chiari diary.  Also educate your loved ones as to your condition.  There are articles out there that can help with this.  Educate them so that they can understand your situation and empathise with you.  This can help them help you. (Attatched link to Chiari Handbook for  patients and their families:  http://www.asap.org/handbook.pdf )

One Year Post Decompression

Hello everyone.  I know that I haven’t posted anything new in a while but there are some really good reasons for my lack of attention to my blog.  I have been busy these last 6 months being myself again.  I do have some minor things that pop back up if I over do things.  But otherwise I feel great.  It has been such an amazing journey, and not one that I ever want to repeat of course.

Last year before surgery I was in constant pain from the skull base pressure headaches, my balance was off by a mile and  the left side of my face and my left hand were numb to any sensation .  In addition to all of this I developed central sleep apnea and I was mildly addicted to pain meds and lived in a fog.  There were other things also but these listed were my biggest problems.

So now I am back to wrestling the kids, teaching hands on rescue classes, fighting fire and being a full time paramedic.  We have started some home improvement projects that I am once again capable of doing.  Yeah it sounds like I am cured.  I’m not of course just a whole lot better off compared to a year ago.  I found this out the hard way of course.  We had a fire in a large multi floor home and short on man power.  After going through three airpacks of air and then working the outside of the structure for a bit I found my headache again.  Luckily I work with a good group that  made me sit out for a bit and even arranged for my meds to come to the scene.  The only bad thing they did was tell my wife on me. LOL.

Now that I have learned my limits I am doing well.  I know what I am capable of and just how far I can push before I put myself down for the count.  Yes I will probably push things in the future because that is me but I know just how far I can push now.  To all those out there with Chiari Malformations I hope and pray that you too can find at least this kind of result.  To those that have tried but still suffer I hope and pray that research can find new ways to help each and every one of us.

Take care and be safe.  Kyle

2010 Update

January 2nd, 2010

Hello everyone and Happy New Year.  This year I am hoping and praying that My family and I will be safe and stronger.  I thought that 2008 and 2009 were the worst years of my life while they were happening.  Now as I look back I realize that they were not the worst.  Yes I developed Chiari and had decompression surgery and we lost my Father in Law to Cancer in those years but there were some major high points that I now see.

Decompression surgery was and is still a success!  My wife and I grew closer than I ever imagined.  I met some great people online in the Chiari community.  I met some terrific Healthcare people.  I also found support from people who I least expected it. And most of all I believe that I rediscovered my faith.  Even though we went through some really bad times all the things that I mentioned above were greater than our defeats.  Friends and family and new found friends came through to help when it was least expected and I am very Thankful for them.

This has renewed my faith in the world that there are individuals and groups out there that do care and will act upon that feeling.  This is what keeps the Human Race plugging on and growing.  May we all learn that even a little compassion can go a long way in helping each other whether we know the person closely or just in passing.

Most of all to my wife I say this.  God Bless you My Love.  You stayed by my side through it all.  You have been so strong.  There were so many times that I could not see your suffering, fear and pain through my own.  There were times that I knew that you were hiding it all from me. At those times I knew that if I said anything it might break your resolve but mostly I was unable to help you because I could barely help myself.   I realize how much that it hurt you to see me like I was,  because I see the twinkle in your eye now watching me be me again.  I am sorry that I was unable to be stronger at times for you and I hope that I am able to do that now.  I want to be there for you and the kids and that is my ultimate goal this New Year.

My Surgical Journey

Part 3  The day after surgery. 

I awoke from surgery in recovery confused and groggy.  There were nurses going back and forth and I could hear the couple next to me talking about their daughter that had surgery by Dr. Oldfield before me.  I remember the back of my head and neck hurting a lot.  However it was a different kind of pain compared to the Chiari Headache.  As I lay there I finally got my wits about me a little and I thought “Wow, why did I let Jessi talk me into this.  This sucks!”  I then cursed her for getting me into this.  Yeah, I am not proud of that but I won’t lie.  All I could think of at that point was that I was going to hurt like this forever and the headache was sure to come back.  My nurse realised that I was awake and checked me over and gave me pain meds.  Welcome Lala land followed.

The next time I woke up all I could think about was that I wanted my wife.  I needed my wife.  Where was my wife.  She would make things better.  She always did.  It was her nature and what she did for me.  Just to hear her voice was all I wanted.  I couldn’t see well because they had removed my contacts before surgery and that was frustrating.  I waved someone down and asked where my wife was.  They told me that she could come back and visit soon but they were very busy, it would be a few minutes.    I then began to think and realise that something felt different.  Not just the surgical pain but an awareness that I hadn’t had in a while.  I closed my eyes and took my finger and tried to touch my nose.  I did it on the first try.  I hadn’t done that in months.  I always missed because my coordination was so messed up.  This was awesome.  Wow!  Then there was more pain meds and welcome Lala land again.

The third time I woke up still in recovery Jessi was there beside me stroking my face and watching me sleep.  It was sooooo good to see her.  My angel was with me finally.  I wanted to talk to her and ask how things went but I wanted to show her how I could touch my nose too.  She was amazed when I did it for her.  Don’t get me wrong I still hurt but not like the first time that I woke up.  Jessi stayed with me for a while and talked to me till I fell back to Lala land with more pain meds. 

I awoke a while later and they were getting ready to move me to a room on the Neuro Step Down floor.  I thought I was going to be in ICU.  Could this be true.  I had developed a terrible migraine at this point though and I didn’t care where they put me, only that they made this migraine go away.  So more pain meds and a relatively regular room followed.  My new nurse was terrific.  I asked her for something to break the migraine because I could hardly think it hurt so bad.  Jessi had gone back to our room for some much needed rest and I was thankful that she was well taken care of by her mother and my best friend.  But wow I hurt.  My nurse gave me their Migraine Cocktail and I finally slept for about 5 hours straight restfully.

When I awakened this time it was the next morning and my head felt a lot better.  No migraine just the soreness and pain from surgery.  The assisting neurosurgeon showed up and evaluated me and told me how surgery went and said they would be back in later.   A nice lady came in and got me cleaned up and shaved and they got me a soft breakfast.  Jessi and her mom came in and then the wonderful nurse came and took out the Foley Catheter.  Wow was that a relief.  Physical Therapy dropped in a little after that with a walker and a plan of attack to get me up and walking.  I so wanted to get up and move but I was afraid of falling or busting something loose.

This is probably the coolest part of this time of my journey….. I walked down the hall with the walker but I walked a straight line.  No bumping into walls or swaying uncontrollably or veering off in the wrong direction.  This was the first time that I had walked half way normal in 3 months.  Jessi was standing behind me watching in awe.  Not much else I can say.  I was amazed myself when I realized what I had done.  WOW.  Yippee! Yeah!  Amazing!  I was ecstatic, amazed and thankful beyond belief.  I really don’t know how to say how this felt.  There just aren’t the words to express it.

At this point I was thrilled with the results of surgery.  There was none of the constant Chiari headache pressure.  I had at least 70% of my coordination and balance back.  Yes I hurt from the surgery and I could barely move my head but I knew that would get better with time and therapy.  I considered this a huge leap to mean that it was successful.

More later in part 4 of my Surgical journey.  This was just the beginning of my recovery and my road to wellness.

Six months Post Decompression

I am now a little over 6 months post decompression.  I am doing very well to say the least.  I am so thankful to have my life back.  I recently realized how symptomatic I was before surgery.  Too think that I actually wanted to put it off at one point.  Jessi (my beautiful wife)  and I were talking about some of the things that I was doing before surgery the other day.  I did not realize that I was dropping off mid-sentence and not finishing my thoughts.  I was not only losing words at that point but whole thoughts.  I do not remember reading anything about that kind of cognitive problems associated with Chiari.

I have recently found some new studies on neuro function that are pretty amazing.  Not only does the cerebellum control motor function but it also discerns auditory and focal processes.  That means that cognitive function can be drastically affected by Chiari.  I recently spoke to my old partner at work and thanked him graciously for carrying me.  If if weren’t for him I never would have been able to work as long as I did before surgery.  He is a great guy.

So now that I am better what does this mean for me?  Well I have been thinking about a lot of things lately.  Such as how long I can keep up being a paramedic?  Just because I am back to work and functioning 100 % now doesn’t mean that I can keep putting my body through 24 hour shifts, lifting on people and climbing upside down in cars.  Yes just recently i’ve been upside down in a car with a 70-year-old lady.  She is doing well though, but I digress.

I am considering getting either my Physician’s Assistant or my Nurse Practitioner and looking for a neuro that needs an experienced medical professional and Chiarian.  It will mean going back to school but my wife thinks I can do it.  She has been my rock, my love, my nurse and so much more through all of this.  I am so thankful for her.  We celebrated our 10 year anniversary this year.  It wasn’t a huge celebration but it was very special for us.

So take heart.  There is life with Chiari.  I know that I have been fortunate with my journey and it is not always this way.  But I wish all that suffer from this the best days possible and that soon there will be more that can be done for us and that we can all rest easier because of it.

And so I sign off today with this.  Take care and be safe.  Remember BIG FIRES START SMALL!