Aroma Of Burnt Licorice
12 February 1999
There were many months of unusual subtle symptoms that were diagnosed as Grand Mal Seizures, by my new wife's family doctor. The symptoms I had were; "dizziness" accompanied with the strangest "aroma and taste of burnt licorice". But not always at the same time. YET, unlike most of these other stories, I had NO headaches until "after" I returned from an unscheduled eleven day coma.
It was 11 December, 1992; My wife(Maria), our two small children, (Corey-soon to be three in January '93 and Lindsay — soon to have her first B-day in that year —'92), and myself were at a tree lot. We were picking out a Christmas tree to surprise her parents with.
I remember we were back at the tree-lot for the second time that day to buy "our" tree. They smelled so good, but... suddenly I was dizzy and could smell nothing but Licorice. I said to Maria... "Something isn't right". "Do you want to go to the hospital?"... she replied. "Naw... I'll be OK in a minute" I answered as I stood there breathing deeply thinking it was a lack of oxygen. It went away.
We found our tree and took it home. Maria took the kids to the store while I was busy trimming and setting it up. The LAST conscious thing I remember of that day is... I was all done and relaxing on the front steps, having a smoke and talking on the phone. The NEXT conscious thing I remember is a blur. but I was definitely in a Hospital.
I was told I had been in a coma for eleven days and I had brain surgery for two right cerebral aneurysm clippings and that I still had one more aneurysm on the left hemisphere. The doctors did not figure I was gonna live anyway, so they didn't fix the third one. I still have it today. But it has not changed in size or shape, since. I go in for cerebral angiograms/arteriogram biannually.
Recovery had been very slow and very difficult. Especially when after I got back on my feet from the first surgery, I went in for a follow up angiogram to look at the left side. They discovered I had grown a "new" aneurysm between the two previously repaired on the right side.
To me this was/is Gods subtle humor getting my attention. Because my second surgery was scheduled for "Friday the 13th at high noon" on September 13, 1996. I figured I was safe 'cuz why would I survive the first surgery to die in the second surgery before I finished my purpose in life.
By the way... Somewhere between the two surgeries I had a cervical decompression surgery. That is the removal of a herniated disk at the top of the spine. I'm now 1/4" shorter.
Geez!!!At first I didn't know where to start... now I can't stop. ;)
Update: 6 Dec 2002
As mentioned in my first narrative I had my second surgery on Friday September 13, 1996 at "high noon" LOL Well, once again, I had to start all over; retraining - rebuilding all the muscles on my left side. Learning everything. How to walk, talk, eat, bathe and even turning over in bed was a major event as well as transferring from bed to a wheelchair with assistance was a chore. I won't bore those of you, that have done this, with more details. You know the grueling routines of therapy. Finally I was able to ambulate with an SPC for very short distances.
If you have kept track, this was my second surgery to clip the third aneurysm. I still had one more to go on the left side. We talked about and even tried embolization but that was unsuccessful. So NOW THE BIG DECISSION had to be made of "WHEN"? This was scariest of all because no way was my left side ready to support the loss of my right side. Guess what day? LMAO YEP! Friday 13th of April, 2001. But thank God! I had NO new deficits to overcome. I pretty much woke up in recovery "right as rain".
I am now in the process of scheduling another cerebral angiogram. I guess I'm suppose to have them every 2 years. Yes there is a God...and he is on my side LOL
I want to thank all of you for your kind support through all of this.
Update: 28 Jan 2004
Hey family... I just realized that this past December 11, 2003 marked the 11 year anniversary of my new life. Though it is hard at times to see all of the joys and blessings we survivers have been given when we are living through the daily grind and quite frankly very humbling experiences of recovery. It sort of puts an eye-opening meaning to the old phrase, "One day at a time".
First the bad news
Another aneurysm was located on the right hemoshere of my brain, near the others. However the test wasn't too clear so we scheduled another angiogram for 6 months later.
2003 was very eventful. Up until 2003, when asked, I never knew how to answer the question all my doctor have asked: "Any seizures?" I stood there with a blank look on my face because I never knew I was having them. I didnt know how to identify them. Not only that, but once I did respond with, "YES! in 1992 I was in an eleven day coma" ... "That is not a seizure, that is loss of consciousness", my doctor replied. So he ordered an EEG. This EEG revealed I was quite seizure active in fact during the test I had what they called "Spikes and Discharges". The next thing I know is I was classified as mild epileptic. Who knew??? The hardest part of this is that I was raised with the misguided conceptions that epilepsy was very very bad and that any second I am going to fall onto the floor and flop around like a fish out of water for awhile while people try to nail my tongue to the floor so I don't swallow it. (how could I possibly go into public, ever again?).
Now the good news
Second angio revealed the AVM had not changed in size or shape. But! the doctor felt that its location and size were too risky at this point so we will angio 1 year from the last xray. hopefully it will change just enough we can embolize it or have a better prognosis.
Good news part-2
October 2003 I had a follow up EEG. This time I was absolutely seizure free. (Thank You God.) I am also off all anticonvulsants (medications) until further notice. As far as we know this will remain unless I require more surgery at a future time. I'll let you know.
Now the best news!
Last October I started working again. :) I work for a local real estate franchise as their webmaster. I have not been employable sense this all started. Especially in my previous career as a Plumber. I have only been online sense 1998. So... learning internet, email and web design was all POST TBI.
Discussion, comments, or questions: Johnny "Vertical" Schroeder
© Copyright 1999 Johnny