There I was, sitting patiently in room 13 with my mom and my grandmother. I remember seeing other children with surgical scars and largely deformed heads thinking to myself that's not me! What am I even doing here? We were waiting for the doctor to arrive with my CT scan results.
A few days earlier at school, my aunt who had just dropped off her kids stopped me in the hallway and asked me if I ever noticed that one side of my head was bigger than the other. Obviously, I had not. Sure enough, when I got home my mom had informed me that she made an appointment with my pediatrician. Seventy-two hours later in room 13, I met my brand new doctor. He had a folder that unfortunately had my name on it and he had a sad look on his face. I do not know if this part is a false creation of my memory but I have images of him showing us the scan and the large sack of fluid that had pushed my brain to one side and my bone of skull out. I do remember leaving the room and just crying because I was told that the next morning I would have to have emergency surgery. Up until that moment, my biggest problem was trying to decide which boy I liked or which friend was being true. I never could have imagined that this was my new struggle as a 10-year-old girl.
We had to stay there all day prepping and getting informed of my diagnosis which at the time was an arachnoid cyst. They told me that they would be inserting a shunt from my head to my stomach to drain the excess fluid that had accumulated in my brain. I remember the doctor describing it as the size of a peach and that considering I had had many scans done because of my Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis, it is a wonder how no one had noticed. After many hours of crying, we were sent home. I was greeted by my family members coming by wishing me their best. Going to sleep that night was as anyone could imagine, exceptionally difficult. All the questions going through my head wondering; why me? What did I do to God to make him hate me? Eventually, I fell into a sorrowful sleep…
The morning of my first surgery I remember being calm. We went to the hospital where I put on my gown and I was brought into the surgery room with my most favorite stuffed animal. I kissed my parents goodbye. I walked into the surgical room instead of being gurnied in because it gave me a sense of control over a situation I had no control over. I remember thinking everything is silver and cold. My mom had convinced the doctor that she would braid some of my hair in hopes that he would not have to shave everything. Being 10 that was my greatest concern, not if I would die while having head surgery but about losing my self-confidence being bald. The anesthesiologist was very nice. Finally, I lay down while all the nurses around me tried their best to make me feel comfortable and at ease. I can remember them asking me, “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Yes,” I answered. “What is his name? What does he look like?” said one of the nurses. “His name is Luciano* and he has blond hair and blue eyes, he is really cute!” They then placed the heavenly mask over my face and told me to breathe in and count to 5. I stared into the blinding lights and started “One, Two, Three, F…”
The surgery went well. I wish I had more information on how I felt but it was so long ago that it has escaped to the dark corners of mind to be forgotten and I am ok with that. This was the first of 8 surgeries to come.
*All names in this blog and future blogs have been changed for privacy purposes.