So I wonder how many times I have said, throughout my lifetime, “man my head hurts”? It is kind of a staple of my vocabulary and anyone who knows me, or at least knows me well, has heard me say this probably countless times. I actually started getting migraines when I was 10 years old, and regularly would get the visual disturbances and the whole bit. It actually got to be so regualr that often times I just had to get accustom to working through them. Years and years of this carried on, and throughout that time I tried a variety of treatments from narcotics to anti-seizure medications. Nothing seemed to make that much of a difference. Eventually I was able to get things a little more under control after I started wearing my glasses, changing my eating a little, getting in more physical activity. All of this added up and although I still got them, it seemed like I got them less frequently.
All of this combined meant that when I started the paramedic program, while working more than full time hours for the Heber-Overgaard Fire Department as a reserve, full time as the IT director for the Heber-Overgaard School District, and still doing my writing jobs on the side I figured any headache or other physical issues could easily be associated with stress. For nearly a year I didn’t see my family. I was able to cut down on how many hours I was putting into the school which was good, but the paramedic program required nearly double full-time class hours each semester, but 500 clinical hours. Just a crazy amount of work and sacrifice.
Throughout this experience I started to have these spells were I would get really dizzy. It was kind of odd, and unnerving. It wouldn’t last though and so I just carried on. As time passed I had my first episode where I actually passed out. This was terrifying because I was in my office at the school on the weekend. I would come in and do IT work were I could fit it, and once I was done I would study as much as I could. I was during one of those study sessions that just randomly out of the blue I passed out. I was horrified and when I came too it took me a moment to understand who I was, where I was and what was happening. I had no idea that things would forever be different now. It would just take me a while before I could fully grasp that.
Then my mom got sick. I had no idea during all of this that my mom was having liver issues. It was so difficult because It felt like for the past 10 years or so, at the very least, so much of my families time had been devoted to work. I did a tremendous amount of work for the newspaper trying to build it into something great, and trying to use that to help raise the community. However, in the end it just took time away from me and my family. The same thing happened with the fire service. I have devoted so much to making it better, creating a good place for me in it, and just over all trying to do my best that it has also robbed me and my family from having important experiences together. When it came time to give time elsewhere, like going and seeing other family, to me it was like ok, before I can do that I need to be giving more at home first. The trouble with this is that 10 to 20 years can go by and now all of the sudden you have had no time with the ones you love. I swear, I think I have spent more of my life feeling like I will always have time to make it there eventually then I have actually doing anything. And the unfortunate reality is that often times you never do make it there. I lived at the rim of the Grand Canyon for over two years when I was a kid, and to this day I have still never been to the bottom. My kids have never even been to the Grand Canyon for that matter. You’ll always get around to it right?
Wrong, my mom passed away in January. Just devastated. Ill tell that story a different day. Anyway, passing out started to get even more frequent, and given my self diagnosis why wouldn’t it, if it was stress related how could I possibly be under more stress then I was at that moment. Given the circumstances and what I thought at the time, I would be surprised if I wasn’t passing out or having some kind of side effect.
So for my 40th birthday I decided we were going to do things differently. Every year my birthday is a sad event. Some if not all of my kids will make me a card, and there will be fighting and bickering and sorrys, and in the end it will be another day and we move on. This year is a big one, one I am trying to make piece with…again, a different story I will tell later. And so I decided rather than make it into a negative, I would just embrace it and this year I was going to buy THEM presents. And so I did, I got Gabriel a mission journal, Noah a cool multi-tool set, the girls diaries and the little ones some little book sets. It was a surprise on their part, and although this should have been a good thing there was still something about the whole thing that really bothered me. I could feel by blood pressure rising and my aggravation climbing. We decided to all watch a movie together at the end of the day and so we did. Very relaxing to the point that we were dosing off when while just sitting there I suddenly got super dizzy to the point where I thought i might pass-out. I jumped up and tried to get to the floor but was out before I even made it there.
This was the first time that my wife actually got to see what I was describing to her. She said I was still breathing but was not moving at all and for a moment thought about calling 911. When I came too I had no idea what was going on, who I was, who she was, what she was or any concept of reality. This lasted for about a minute and was just about as terrifying as you can get. Eventually I calmed down and was just super sick. One of the times this had happened before caused me to throw up for nearly 24 hours. Thank fully on this occasion there was no vomiting, I just didn’t feel like I was recovering like I should. The next morning came and same thing. It just didn’t feel right. There was obviously something nerologic going on. I decided to go down to the station and suck it up and talk to my captain about what was going on and get a set of vitals. ECG was clear, BP good, even BGL was within normal range. Now I am relay thinking stress, possible unique form of migraine, maybe nuro, but Ill go to the walk-in clinic, get a referral, get an appointment set up with a nerologist and possibly get a prescription for some migraine medicine I haven’t tried and we will call it good. Not so much.
I talk to the guys at the walk in clinic and they agree with me, but stress there is a bigger picture issue going on here and that I should get a scan done. I take their advice and go to the ER where they do a full work up and once it is complete Scott, a fantastic PA that works there, comes into the room with a very grim but controlled expression and a companion. Its never good when they bring someone for support. Anyway, He comes in and says “Hey buddy, we got to talk”. He goes on to explain that they found a mass in my brain that is not supposed to be there. They dont know if its going to be an issue for the future, but we need to get this removed. He explains that the dark portion o the scan is what looks to be a cyst of some sort, cancer maybe, not sure. There is darkness arching around the top of the black portions, and that is the pressure that the swelling is creating and that is causing some of my visual disturbances. They said they are working on getting me a helicopter out of there, and he would keep me posted as to what was happening.
At this point my wife had already gone home. She had the little ones and since I knew it was going to take a while I figured she should run the kids back home and by the time I was done either she could come and get me or Gabriel would be done at school. Now I had this terrible news and needed to call her. I was instantly reminded of when I had to call and tell my father about my mom’s passing. Just one of those things you hope as a child you never have to do, but here I was calling my wife to tell her our worst fears just came true. The terrible part was, we had no idea that they were about to get so much worse.