25 July 2013

Very Worried

On Monday my Aunt Ruby went in for surgery following an embolization the previous Friday. She'd been having some difficulty swallowing the past few months, and speech problems in the past few weeks. At first, it appeared to be the result of nodes forming on her vocal cords, but it was later revealed to be due to a tumor at the base of her skull. The type of tumor, paraganglioma, is generally known for being benign, rarely cancerous, but its location does complicate things. 

The surgery itself went surprisingly well, despite being a nearly all-day affair. She was largely unresponsive the next few days, though seemed to be doing a little better. In fact, today (Thursday), she was speaking in full sentences and could hold a little conversation. 

Unfortunately, during a walk, her entire right side went numb, the result of a stroke. During a CT scan following the surgery, a blood clot was discovered in her interior carotid artery, which was a major area of concern. However, it was found that the surrounding tissues were still receiving blood normally, and there was no real harm being done, though doctors wanted to keep an eye on it and try to see if they could use anti-coagulants to break it up. The stroke has now been attributed to a clot in the external carotid artery. 

I'm glossing over a lot of the subtleties in terms of medical conditions and appropriate jargon, so bear with me if I sound like I'm skipping pages or generalizing or over-simplifying. In fact, I think I may have the carotids reversed. I'm getting told this through my Dad, who is there with her. He was actually supposed to leave today, as her condition seemed to be improving, but now he's cancelled his flight. He's a physical therapist, but while he gets this stuff, it's all a great big mystery to me. Again, I'm probably leaving out some important details, so I apologize if I sound like I don't know what I'm on about. 

In a situation like this, one of the most pressing symptoms is a swelling of the brain tissue, which requires a section of the skull to be removed in order to relieve pressure. The other issue is immediate brain damage as a result of the stroke. Fortunately, a follow-up CT Scan showed minimal damage, mostly to the frontal lobe and the speech center. As for the swelling, the operation involved is delicate enough without it coming on the heels of another surgery. As such, the staff is waiting until around midnight tonight to see if her condition gets any better. If not, midnight is the soonest advisable time to take action. 

I'm putting all this out there, mostly to help me collect my thoughts so I can keep up when my Dad gives me updates, but also to let everyone know what's going on. I know I'm not much of a social butterfly as is, but if I seem a little preoccupied or distracted, this is why. I love my aunt very much and I can't imagine what she's going through. 

Good night, and good luck. 
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