“We’re transferring you!”

Not the words I was expecting.

I was taken to my local A&E after passing out in my home. I had been suffering with a chronic headache for what seemed like weeks, but Ive always suffered with headaches since i could remember so i thought it would eventually pass.  The doctors had found out that I had an infection so was treating me with some local antibiotics whilst they did some further tests such as blood tests and CT scans.  The doctor told me that he also wanted to do a Lumber puncture which is a procedure that involves a needle being inserted into your spine so that they can take a sample of CSF (cerebralspinal fluid).

After the test was done I had a panic attack and fell asleep.

When I woke up my wife was there and I remember telling her that I was felling bit better and that I might even be able to come home soon, I was wrong.

That was when I was told that I was to be transferred from the hospital to another hospital that had a specialist neuro unit.  This news terrified me and I thought the worst.

When I arrived at the other hospital I had some further tests that included two MRI scans that lasted nearly 2 hours in total before being told that I had hydrocephalus and would need surgery.

The day after being told I remember sitting on the bed and staring at the floor just thinking.  Thinking of how my life was going to affected by this news.  Thinking of the family that were waiting for the news.  My wife and two children that I loved and missed.  I hadn’t seen the kids in weeks.

I was then taken for my operation.  A VP Shunt was inserted just above and behind my right ear.

When I returned to the ward I felt awful.  I was in the worst pain imaginable and was sick several times.  The pain was worse when I was upright either sitting or walking so was given along with the usual pain relief like morphine, some anti-sickness tablets.  I was showing no signs of improvement so was told that I would need a Lumber puncture to check my CSF pressure.

The Lumber Puncture did not go well.  The doctor that was attempting the procedure could not locate the area of my spine where the needle needed to be and the pain this lead too was excruciating.  After a few attempts she decided to stop the procedure.  Where i was in so much pain I didn’t want another attempt to be made but the doctor said that I had no choice so I was given a sedative to help me relax as a different doctor got prepared for the second attempt.  The second attempt was just as if not more painful than the first especially the moment where he hit a nerve and what could only be described as a strange and painful sensation shot down my back and into my left leg and ended in the tip of my toes.  It felt like my leg had been blown off.  Soon after the doctor found the point he needed and was able to take a sample of my CSF.

With the results of both my CSF reading and some X-rays of the Shunt the doctors said that the surgery was a success and as soon as I passed the pysio test I would be allowed to return home to complete my recovery.

I just about managed to do the pysio requirements needed for me to return home because I was desperate to get home to my family.  The journey home was hard as I was unable to sit upright for more than 15 minutes or so without experiencing pain, but we eventually made it.

I got home and went straight to bed, (I had less pain when lying down) whilst my wife got the kids.  As soon as I saw them I burst into tears.  I knew I would have a long journey ahead of me to recover but with my friends and family now close by I was going to be more comfortable.  Below is a photo taken just before my staples were to be removed.

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Hydro What???

What is Hydrocephalus I hear you ask well the term hydrocephalus is from the Greek words “hydro” meaning water and “cephalus” meaning head. As the name implies, it is a condition in which the primary characteristic is excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain. Although hydrocephalus was once known as “water on the brain,” the “water” is actually cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) — a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

The excessive accumulation of CSF results in an abnormal widening of spaces in the brain called ventricles. This widening creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain.

The ventricular system is made up of four ventricles connected by narrow passages. Normally, CSF flows through the ventricles, exits into cisterns (closed spaces that serve as reservoirs) at the base of the brain, bathes the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord, and then reabsorbs into the bloodstream.

CSF has three important life-sustaining functions which are to keep the brain tissue buoyant, acting as a cushion or “shock absorber”, to act as the vehicle for delivering nutrients to the brain and removing waste; and to flow between the cranium and spine and compensate for changes in intracranial blood volume (the amount of blood within the brain).

What is the current treatment?

Hydrocephalus is most often treated by surgically inserting a shunt system. This system diverts the flow of CSF to another area of the body where it can be absorbed.

A shunt is a flexible but sturdy plastic tube, a catheter, and a valve. One end of the catheter is placed within a ventricle inside the brain or in the CSF outside the spinal cord. The other end of the catheter is commonly placed within the abdominal cavity, but may also be placed at other sites in the body such as the heart or areas around the lung. A valve located along the catheter maintains one-way flow and regulates the rate of CSF flow.

Shunts are not perfect and can malfunction. Complications may include mechanical failure, infections, obstructions, and the need to lengthen or replace the catheter. Generally, shunt systems require monitoring and regular medical follow up. When complications occur, subsequent surgery to replace the failed part or the entire shunt system may be needed.

Some complications can lead to other problems such as overdraining or underdraining. Overdraining is when the shunt allows CSF to drain from the ventricles more quickly than it is produced. Overdraining can cause the ventricles to collapse, tearing blood vessels and causing headache, hemorrhage , or slit-like ventricles (slit ventricle syndrome). Underdraining occurs when CSF is not removed quickly enough and the symptoms of hydrocephalus recur. In addition to the common symptoms of hydrocephalus, infections from a shunt may also produce symptoms such as a low-grade fever, soreness of the neck or shoulder muscles, and redness or tenderness along the shunt tract. When there is reason to suspect that a shunt system is not functioning properly (for example, if the symptoms of hydrocephalus return), medical attention should be sought immediately.

Monday 15th August – A Trip To A&E

So this morning I woke up with a severe migraine and head pain for the forth day.  Migraines for me usually last 2 to 3 days tops so my wife phoned the hospital and after a conversation with one of the healthcare professionals the decision was made for me to be taken to a and e.

The doc decided for me to have a CT scan which did not show anything so he loaded me up with a drug cocktail comprising of paracetamol, a double dose of ibuprofen, a couple of amitriptyline,diazepam, prochlorperazine and a pantoprazole to stop me from getting a an ulcer.  The pain eased but didn’t go but i was sent on my way with some extra meds and told to rest and then go back to my GP for more meds in a week or so.  With any luck these meds will take the edge off.