[past] flagstaff

how did i not post anything in July? i'm horrible at this blogging stuff! i'll try harder, promise. :] now where was i...

my parents drove from Tucson to Flagstaff the night of President's Day. they arrived in my dark hospital room sometime in the middle of the night. i was so glad they were there, not only so they could comfort me but also so Troy could go home and get some rest.

in all, i was at Flagstaff Medical Center about three days. i don't remember many details about it. my parents and Troy don't remember everything, either, but maybe that's a blessing. during stressful times like these, i think Heavenly Father might sometimes limit our recollection in order to help us move forward without too many negative memories. on to some of the things i do remember…

a different neuro doc named Dr. Nicol was assigned to my case. (i was not a huge fan.) his assessment was that i probably had a cavernous vascular malformation (CVM): a group of blood vessels in the brain that are malformed, causing abnormal blood flow that can lead to hemorrhaging. he said that i could have been born with it or had it for a long time, and that in many cases, people who have a CVM never have any ill effects. he also said it could be a brain tumor that had exploded. whatever it was, he saw calcium deposits in the MRI images, meaning the cause of my brain issue had been around for a while.

i think i registered what Dr. Nicol was telling me, but i was more focused on what was going on outside my brain. i was still super worried that my left side was going to give out, too. the doctor tried to explain to me why this wouldn't happen:

"see, Ashley, the bleed is on the left side of your brain and that's why your right side is affected. there's nothing wrong with the right side of your brain, so the left half of your body will be fine."

"can the blood bleed into the other side?"

"no, i don't think so. the worst of the bleeding should be over by now. the first 24 hours after a hemorrhage are the most dangerous. you should be ok now."

i think Dr. Nicol was trying to be comforting, but that just made me worry more. i should be ok? just should?

Dr. Nicol concluded that surgery would not be immediately necessary. before operating, he wanted to wait for the blood in my brain to dissipate so that he could see more clearly what the cause of the bleed was. he suggested i be sent to rehab for a month or so until that happened.

well, my parents were not thrilled with this plan. they didn't agree with waiting. i didn't fully realize it at the time, but my parents spent hours trying to get me into another hospital so i could be treated by a better neurosurgeon. i am so grateful for them.

first, they tried to get me into Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix since we knew that was one of the best neuro hospitals. no luck -- all beds were full. they then called any and all doctors we know through church to see if they could help. they talked to my cousin who is in his med school residency. my sister, Keele, suggested they talk to her neighbor, the head breast cancer doctor at University Medical Center in Tucson. she agreed to put a good word in with one of the neurosurgeons at UMC. thanks to her help, my case was accepted by Dr. Martin Weinand, one of the doctors who helped save Congresswoman Giffords only a few weeks prior.

while my parents were making calls and working with Flagstaff Medical Center and UMC to get me discharged and transferred, i was having a pretty continuous string of panic attacks. i have struggled with panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) since i was five years old. normally, i panic over things that have about a 5% chance of actual happening, and the panic attacks pass after a couple hours at most. these panic attacks were a different brand: there was a large chance my fears would actually come to pass and the panic attacks spanned most of the day. the nurses often gave me Xanax to help me relax and calm my quick breathing and racing heart. (hmm…maybe i don't remember much of Flagstaff because i was drugged most of the time...)

during one of my episodes, a nurse gave me a piece of advice that i have tried to follow ever since. he told me that the situation was out of my hands, and that worrying wasn't going to make things any better. (my mom often repeated these words to me. she would refer to him as the "Jesus nurse" because of his long hair. :])

on Thursday, preparations were being made to transfer me down to Tucson. i had been moved out of the ICU, but i was still seriously worked up. a nurse pushed Benadryl through my IV in an attempt to calm me down. it did the opposite. what followed was the worst panic attack i think i've ever had. i felt out of my mind. the Benadryl made me so woozy and even made me feel like i couldn't move -- not the best idea for somebody who was worried about that happening to begin with!

i finally fell asleep after that panic attack and awoke in the early evening when my parents and nurses were discussing my transfer to UMC. i would go by ambulance and would leave soon. i did not want to travel alone, but when the paramedics came to pick me up, they said nobody could travel with me. worst panic attack ever, round two, anyone?

i tried really hard to get out of the ride to Tucson: can we go tomorrow instead? no, i don't want to take Xanax. i don't want what happened with the Benadryl to happen again! can somebody PLEASE travel with me? please?

everybody's patience with me was wearing thin. finally, all efforts to convince me to go quietly were abandoned and i was placed on a gurney and rolled into the ambulance. i took a Xanax, said goodbye to Troy and my parents and just prayed and prayed. my parents assured me they would follow the ambulance the whole way down.

the medic caring for me in the back talked to me to calm me down. i brought up baseball and asked him about his family. he took my vitals every 15 minutes and sometimes made less-than-reassuring comments about them. after about 20-30 minutes, the Xanax did its thing. i fell asleep till we got to Tucson. when i woke up, i looked out the back window to see if my parents were still following. sure enough, there was my dad's truck. i saw the I-10 exit sign for Grant Road and knew we were close. it was almost over, and for a brief moment i thought: i made it through. if i can get through this, maybe i can get through whatever is coming next.