Well it all started with a headache that wouldn't quit in March. This headache started at the base of my skull and wrapped around like a scarf. Nothing I took or did would get rid of it or even help. The first day was the worst kind of headache. You know: the kind you just sleep off. I was convinced I was coming down with the flu.
The second day, the headache was worse and accompanied by nausea. I wasn't alarmed yet, though, because day one was spent nursing a sick child with a stomach virus. She'd had a headache and vomiting. I just figured it was my turn. At the end of this day, I felt even worse. The headache was so bad, I couldn't tolerate light, sound or movement. I also couldn't sleep. Finally, I tried to induce vomiting to get that virus out once and for all. That just made everything worse. Eventually, I slept about 2 hours.
Day three: I stayed in the bed while David got the girls off to school. As I lay there listening to the regular morning routine, tears streamed down my face without the sound that would have surely split my head in two. I wanted to tell him how bad it was, but I wanted more the silence promised by his and the chatty childrens' departure. By about 9:30 am, I called David at work to ask him to take me to urgent care.
Once the urgent care doctor determined that I did not have a history of migraines (which he'd called my headache), he ordered a CT scan. The results concerned him. He sent me back to my primary care doctor and said I should have her order an MRI. Meanwhile, not feeling comfortable with the M.D. volley, I called a friend who works at Johns Hopkins Neurology. She told me that it sounded like a Chiari Malformation, but that the MRI would confirm the diagnosis. She also made sure I got a same week Appointment with a Neurologist.
It was raining the morning I was scheduled to get my MRI Flow Study. On the way to drop the kids off at school, I crashed my car. Then, with additional neck and back pain, I went about my appointed rounds which now included insurance phone calls, renting a car and getting an MRI.
The next day, I took my MRI results to the Neurologist. He made the diagnosis of a Chiari Malformation, with a 15mm herniation, then referred me to a Neurosurgeon. I met with Dr. Jon Weingart about two weeks later. He explained that, while my condition was not life threatening, my symptoms were likely to worsen over time. He said I would have to decide what quality of life I wanted and plan surgery for a time that fit my schedule.
Well, to me, that meant I should go investigate every alternative I could to avoid or postpone the surgery. I had some pain management success that was all too temporary. I did a few things that I now know will exacerbate my symptoms. Meanwhile, my symptoms consistently worsened by the week. Eventually, my pain overtook my fear, and I scheduled the surgery for June 13, 2011.