Popping Sensation In His Neck
5 October 2005
I write our story to give others hope. My husband is a 52yr old relatively healthy male, with a pack a day smoking habit. Efforts to persuade him to quit fall on deaf ears. We enjoy a comfortable life...two children, dog all of which are surrounded by family and friends. Tony works as a School Business Administrator.
Our nightmare begins on 9/16/05, when Tony who frequently suffers from insomnia wakes at 3AM. and heads to the family room to watch T.V. About one hour later, Tony wakes me describing a episode that leaves him in a cold sweat. Rising from the sofa on his way back to bed he experiences a "popping sensation in his neck" followed by shooting pain in his head and a brief loss of consciousness, falling to the family room floor. He relates "coming to" and struggling to get upstairs. I immediately want to take him to the emergency room. He adamantly refuses. Three hours later he is still shaky and experiencing head pain.
I call our family doctor who instructs us to go to the E.R. I transport him to our local E.R. where he describes his symptoms as stiff neck, shoulders and headache all of which are generalized. On physical exam by E.R. doctor, Tony's neck flex with no pain...he describes the pain as "inside my head" He is taken for a CT scan which comes back negative. He is treated for muscle-skeletal issues. Dilaudid, Toradel are administered I.V. We are sent home with prescription of Hydrocodone, Flexeril,Motrin and instructions to follow-up with our family doctor.
Upon arrival at home I immediately call our doctor and given a follow-up appt. for six days later. I figure this will give time for any swelling to subside. Tony continues to take his medication as prescribed. Our appt. is scheduled for Thurs. 9/22/05, on Weds. night Tony experiences extreme head pain but is insistent that his pills didn't "kick in". Symptoms seem to subside later that evening and into Thurs. AM. On Thurs. Tony describes his head as "sensitive". Upon exam by Tony's family MD, he immediately arranges for a neurology appt. which is set up for the next day. On Thurs. night Tony once again experiences extreme head pain. I plead with him to seek treatment. Again, he refuses, stating he just needs his pills. I go to bed with the reassurance that we will get some answers when we see the neurologist the next day.
I am relieved it is Friday,9/23/05 also our daughters 19th birthday. Today we will get answers. I want to believe this is just a pinched nerve and we will get a consult for physio-therapy. Dr. Sambuchi conducts a detailed interview while tape recording our answers. After the interview he performs a physical exam. When we are seated in his office I am overwhelmed with the feeling of dread, Dr. Sambuchi feels a stat MRI is needed. He also relates that with it being Friday afternoon he sees little hope of getting approval from are insurance company, He suggests going to our local ER, he will call ahead and give the ER physician heads up (no pun intended).
Upon arrival at the ER, Tony is taken immediately. Blood work is obtained. Shortly after Tony is taken for a MRI. He goes down in a wheelchair and returns on a gurney in so much pain he can not talk. The ER physician promptly assesses Tony and states he will medicate him for pain. Dilaudid is given IV. This relaxes Tony and makes the pain bearable. We are instructed that all tests are being run STAT but it still takes time. As Tony is resting, I start making phone calls. I check on Chrissy to see how her birthday is going..reassuring her that we are at the ER all will be fine. She is preparing to compete in a Miss America local scholarship pageant with dress rehersals @ 6pm. I wish her luck. Sarah are youngest at 16 is getting ready to board a bus with the varsity swim team. I also wish her luck telling her to swim fast and I will see her at the meet.
Time seems to pass slowly, it seemed like a long time but was probably only one hour. It is around 4:30pm. I see Dr. Sambuchi enter the ER, I am baffled since his waiting room was full when we left his office for the ER. His face looks white, we speak outside Tony's room. He relates Tony has an aneursym and he will not perfrom a spinal tap because he does not have the equipment to save his life if the brain aneursym ruptures. He directs me to Dr. Fabiano at Dent Neurological located at Millard Fillmore Gates Circle-Buffalo. Dr. Sambuchi makes the referral. Tony is taken by ambulance..a 15-20 minute ride to Buffalo. I follow with my car and given instructions to stay calm. If it hadn't done a full rupture by now we still have time.
I arrive shortly before Tony and wait for the ambulance to arrive. I experience a flood of emotions. Tony is wheeled in the ER physician is waiting. The ER doctor relates that Tony will be prepped for a Angio-Cath which includes chest x-ray,additional blood work and CT scan. After all these test results are assembled the neurosurgeons will review and be down to ER to talk with us about thier plan of treatment, I am reassured with the ER staff's confidence.
As we are waiting for the films to be reviewed the ER doctor enters to do a physical and neuro assessment. As the doctor is talking with Tony - Tony's right eye closes the left eye remains open. Upon inspection the pupil is fixed and dilated. The ER doctor relates to me that the neurosurgeons will be notified. It seems like time is standing still. The neurosurgery team appears (it seems) out of nowhere. One performs a neuro assessment on Tony. He relates that there is optic nerve involvement they will speed things along. The surgeon has order Dilantin to be run IV to decrease brain activity. This all makes sense to me (a trained Registered Nurse).
I am comforting Tony, I watch the nurse hang the Dilantin and open the clamp. Ten seconds later Tony has a full seizure and becomes unconscious. I am asked to step aside, time has stopped. I feel as I am kicked in the stomach. I stumble to the waiting room where I am sobbing that I did not tell my husband I loved him. I am comforted by the reception staff. One of the neurosurgery team finds me to explain that when the Dilantin was hung, Tony seizured because there was "leaking" of the aneurysm site and quickly explains he will have no long term damage from the seizure. Are close friends enter the waiting room. It is confusion. I am instructed to follow the gurney. Tony will be angio-cathed to find the aneurysm the the neurosurgeons will let me know their plan of treatment.
I am swept up to the Angio waiting area. I finally am able to contact Tony's parents who are in their eighties. They are extremely upset. My brother-in-law, Robert is on his wat. I vow to stay in contact via cell phone. The neurosurgeons come out to explain their plan. They state the good news is there is only one aneurysm and it is encapsulated around bone. If it fully ruptured they tell me Tony would have bled out of his nose and eyes. They will go in thru the angio cath and coil the area. It is explained that if the base of the aneurysm is small they can pop a coil in without using a balloon and or stent. However, if the base is wide they may have to use a balloon or stent. I sign for both procedures. Fortunately, the neurosurgeons were able to perform the first more simplified procedure.
I am able to see Tony as he is gurneyed by en route to the ICU. The surgeon explains Tony will not remember anything that has occurred, he advises me to go home but keep my phone near me I will be called if any changes occur. I don't want to leave but I am exhausted. I call my mother to say I am coming home. I calm Chrissy and Sarah. I don't know if my words of comfort are for them or more for myself.
I barely sleep having nightmares that my husband will not recognize me. Sleeping occurs in short spurts. The phone never rings. I am anxious to go to the hospital. First visiting is at 11:30 am. I go early to get information first hand, As I am directed to my husbands bed, I feel gratitude that Tony recognizes me. Confused but asks about our daughters. The first day is a blur. Christine competes that night in are local qualifying pageant for Miss New York State, I tell her to pull from down deep, her father would want her to continue. She looks beautiful but fails on the talent segment by forgetting some of the words of her song. I know she will not place, but know my daughter has made the first step in learning how to find strength.
The girls see their father for the first time on Sunday. I prepare them by telling the full story. We are overcome with emotion. Tony recognizes the girls, but ICU is frightening for Sarah. She breaks down and leaves the unit sobbing. I follow Sarah and explain that she can cry in the waiting room and return if she is able to control herself. I go back to visit Tony. Sarah has found the strength to continue her visit,although teary eyed. I know Tony will not remember this,but I am thankful are family is together. I want to shelter my children from this pain. I tell them that this is a lesson some never learn...our time with each other is limited.
On Monday 9/26/05 I search the Internet for all information I can find on brain aneurysms and realize from Tony's symptoms he has experience a subarachnoid hemorrhage. I am reduced to sobbing. The outcome looks grim. I stumble across pages of survivors stories, I read each one looking for a story that matches ours. I am sobbing. My mother calls and becomes concerned that I am falling apart. I pull myself together and go to the hospital. Tony is progressing nicely, no complications. Although he asks me why the nurses are wearing green party hats (too much morphine)!!. I let the nurses know I think he is hallucinating.
First day out of ICU, I find Tony sitting on the edge fo the bed and very upset. He tells me someone was in asking him questions and he is feeling very inadequate. I am angry my husband is reduced to tears and asking if he had a stroke. I ask Tony's primary nurse who was in to visit my husband. I find out a speech therapist had seen Tony and done a evaluation. I ask for the speech therapist to be paged. I step out in the hallway to speak to the speech therapist who relates that my husband has impaired cognitive ability. He was not able to explain proverbs. I am getting angry, but remain controlled. I question why a speech assessment would be performed on a patient one day post ICU and currently on Morphine for severe head pain for the past six days. I also question why she would not have correct information that my husband suffered a aneursym not a stroke. She knows I am perturbed. Shortly after are exchange, a medical social worker shows up, I know I have been reported as being hostile. I relate to the social worker that I would like to be notified by anyone who performs a evaluation on my husband. I know this will not happen, but feel better saying it.
I feel we are on the road to recovery, I'm sure we will have more pitfalls. I am grateful that our family was given a second chance. Tony will be coming home tomorrow, having spent ten days in the hospital. The neurosurgeons tell me 50% of patients do not survive the initial attack, of the 50% that survive, 50% have long term disabilities but Tony is in the small percentage that is expected to fully recover with time and patience. Oh by the way...he has vowed to quit smoking...
Will keep everyone updated. Thanks for reading our story.
Discussion, comments, or questions: Nancy Rotella
© Copyright 2005 Nancy Rotella