Good to go

Dec. 23 – The long-awaited day: my follow-up visit with the neurosurgeons.

I was nervous and disoriented as Tom drove us down to Atlanta. I had no idea what to expect from the doctors… and at the same time, being on a freeway again felt like being in a Mad Max movie. Surrounded by hostility and danger.

The lobby of Neurosurgery at Emory Clinic is done in peaceful colors with a big aquarium. That actually helped a little.

Then, lots of paperwork. Lots of chat with the nurse. My blood pressure was fine.

At last, one of the neurosurgery residents came in for the long interview. She listened very closely as I described my problems with the sutures, the anxiety, the lower back pain. She carefully snipped out some stray sutures (from the drain) that weren’t dissolvable, and assured me that the other ones were healing fine.

Then we went down the long list of “permissions” that I was seeking and she kept nodding ‘Yes’: I can now drive, wash my hair normally, lift heavier weights at the gym, get back to work – as long as I ease in gradually.

It’s like testing new ice, one foot at a time.

Dr. Barrow, who did the trickiest bits of my surgery, came in toward the end of this lengthy interview. He confirmed everything that the resident had told me, and said more emphatically, “Push yourself. Do something a little more each day.”

I was glad to hear it; everyone else in my life had been telling me to just relax and take it easy. And, a little part of me thought, “This guy knows a laggard when he sees one.”

The only thing that’s still off the list is air travel. They want the bones in my skull to mend more completely before I subject it to that change in pressure – so I can’t do that before February.

And that’s it.

They are done with me. They don’t need to see me again.

They would like to do another arteriogram of my brain – but not for seven years! I thought Barrow was joking when he said that. Right, I’ll just pull out my 2022 calendar and make a note of that.

As far as the aneurysm goes, I am completely fine.

It’s fixed, and there are no other aneurysms in sight, and I have no particular risk for getting another one. For my smaller, ongoing problems during the recovery process – well, that’s what primary care physicians are for.

I asked for milestones in recovery, and all I could get from them was that it would go on for months.

“You’re doing wonderfully,” they said.

I stood to shake the hand of the person who saved my life, and tell him thank you. My voice shook with emotion.

Dr. Barrow said that patients like me were the big reward for doing his job.

In the old days, neurosurgery wasn’t a sexy specialization for a doctor. Most of the brain patients died, decades ago when Dr. Barrow was in school.

On the way home, I didn’t feel anxious anymore.

Today’s penny is a shiny 2015. For the future.

Featured image credit: illustration from Emory promotional site.