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May 27, 2015

2015 - Final Catching up Post

Wow! Quite the journey so far, and it's still not complete!

This is a big post, especially when you consider it contains happenings from January to May 2015. My posts after this will be more frequent, typically recording events as they occur.

The new year started out with the usual pattern for me. January was rather uneventful. I had the usual headaches but no swooshing noises.

February once again had me heading to Hamilton for follow up appointments with the Bariatric Clinic (another 10 pounds gone) and a routine MRI. While at my bariatric appointment, we discussed further the addition of a daily injection to my routine. Victoza was the medication in question, currently a diabetic drug that is in process for approval in weight loss purposes.
VictozaLiraglutide, an injection treatment already approved for diabetes treatment, can help reduce body weight in people with obesity when used at a higher dose than is usually used in diabetes. Health Day Article
I was provided with a prescription for a 1 month supply with the instructions to inject 0.6mg daily until my next visit to the clinic. The first 48 hours following my first injection were not pleasant at all, I couldn't move without becoming sick. The nausea and vomiting gradually eased and I was able to consider food.  It's no wonder this medication helps with weight loss, if everyone becomes as sick as I did while taking it, their ability to eat becomes greatly reduced.  For the first week, the most I could tolerate was simple food, toasted English muffin, chicken noodle soup, and salted crackers.

Valentine's Day - Roses and dinner from Robert! We headed to one of our favourite places, The Golf Steakhouse in Kitchener, while Rachel spent a couple hours visiting her Grandma and Aunt. I had my usual prime rib dinner and found myself barely able to eat it. Of course, the meal includes an amazing salad bar and soup so I ended up taking the main portion of my meal home for the next day. First time I've ever walked out of that restaurant with a doggie bag!

March 5 was my next follow up with the bariatric clinic. We discussed my tolerance of Victoza and I was advised that I seemed to be doing better than many on the drug. My weight loss was continuing at an acceptable level and I was provided with a 3 month prescription with the instructions to continue the dosage of 1.2 for a month then to increase to 1.8mg.

March 9th was my follow up with Dr. Rodriguez.  My eyesight has remained stable.

I met with Dr. Khalidi on March 24.  As we discussed my current medical situation, it was decided that a sleep study would be a good course of action. My symptoms of headache, nausea, and vomiting were ongoing, I advised him of my use of Victoza and my ongoing weight loss.

I held off increasing my dose of Victoza until after my sleep study which was Friday April 10th. It wasn't too bad considering I typically have a lot of difficulty in falling asleep. I was of course advised to not consume any caffeine after 6pm.  I arrived at the hospital where the study was to be done for 8pm. By about 8:30 I was wired up and left to relax.  I had my e-reader with me, so spent the evening reading and waiting for bed time. I had a control pad that was placed on the bed beside me when I was ready to sleep. I settled in for the night about 11:30 or so as they had to get the study started. Falling asleep was my usual pattern, I had trouble, so I continued to read until I eventually drifted off. At one point during the night, I was awakened when the nurse came in to turn on the room fan, apparently I was breaking out into night sweats. I haven't received my results yet, expect they will be available at my next appointment with Dr. Khalidi.

All wired up for sleep study
Typically, I was making medication changes on Sunday, this time, we decided I would increase my dose on Saturday so hopefully the side effects would have tapered off in time for me to walk Rachel to and from school on Monday. Well, that didn't happen, increasing the dosage once more seemed to exceed my limits. The side effect of vomiting and nausea went far beyond the day or 2 I had anticipated.

I could do nothing more than lay down, even that resulted in getting sick if I happened to roll over or move too quickly. Rob ended up having to leave work, drop Rachel off with me at home and head back to work. I couldn't summon the strength to walk across the street to her school.  Other side effects continued to occur as well, especially heart burn and indigestion. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't do much of anything.

I did achieve one goal though! April 11th I weighed myself and discovered that I had reached my first major weight loss milestone.  100 pounds gone from my worst weight to my current weight.

Comparison of highest weight to current
April 29th, my headaches were bad, but I knew it wasn't increased pressure, I didn't have any swooshing noises in my head and rather than the outward pressure from being too full, my head felt as it if were squeezed in a vice, the only relief I got from the headache was to resort to my heat packs and stay laying down. Sitting upright for too long just made things worse and increased the nausea and vomiting exponentially. I tried stopping ibuprofen knowing it can increase stomach issues, but that made the pain even more intolerable. Antacids did nothing to control the burning and I was having difficult keeping even water down which had the potential for dehydration adding onto the current problems.

Given my experiences in 2008 when everything started up, I had come to distrust finding satisfactory results from a trip to the emergency department. Robert was getting concerned because I was in worse shape than normal, so he made a call to Dr. Klurfan. When he received no answer and discovered her voice mail was full, we decided waiting was out of the question. It was time to visit the ER. The first decision we faced was if we should go to the local hospital, or make the drive to Hamilton.

Hamilton ended up being the choice we made.  My records from the past 3 years would be readily available through Hamilton Health Sciences and provide a history for the doctors, a resource the local hospital wouldn't have, virtually putting me back at square one. I wasn't too long waiting to get into the emergency room, they were busy and low on bed space but they were able to find an overflow spot for me.  It wasn't long before I saw the ER doctor and she got me started on an IV for pain with Ondansetron added for the nausea. A neurology consult was brought in and after reviewing my history the decision was made to admit me in order to determine if my shunts were failing or if there was something else going on.

I spent the night in the ER then was moved to the Clinical Neurosurgical Unit. On the 30th, doctors decided that we could be looking at a shunt revision being required and I was made NPO in anticipation of surgery. I had elevated white blood counts, reflective of possible infection and a specialist from Infectious Diseases was brought in for consultation.
NPO: Nil per os (alternatively nihil/non/nulla per os) (npo or NPO) is a medical instruction meaning to withhold oral food and fluids from a patient for various reasons. It is a Latin phrase whose usual English expansion is nothing by mouth (most literally, "nothing through the mouth"). Variants include nil by mouth (NBM).
An infectious disease (ID) specialist is a doctor of internal medicine (or, in some cases, pediatrics) who is qualified as an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. After seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training, ID specialists complete two to three years of additional training in infectious diseases.
ID specialists have expertise in infections of the sinuses, heart, brain, lungs, urinary tract, bowel, bones and pelvic organs. Their extensive training focuses on all kinds of infections, including those caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Dilaudid (hydromorphone) is an opioid pain medication. An opioid is sometimes called a narcotic. Dilaudid is used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Abdominal ultrasound and shunt x-ray series were ordered to verify no physical or technical issues were resulting from the drainage catheter in my stomach. I continued to receive Dilaudid and was placed on an alternating schedule of Ondansetron and Gravol to control the nausea and vomiting.

For the first 3 days I was NPO for most of the day as there was still a possibility of a shunt revision being done. Ironically, the NPO orders were reversed after dinner had been served on the ward. By this time I was finding the thought of food a little more appealing thanks to the anti-nausea medication.

May 2nd I saw one of the neurology residents and was advised that an LP would be done later that day. I didn't actually get the LP done until the next morning. The doctor came in around 3 am to say she was having a busy night and would be in to see me in the morning to do the spinal tap.

The tap on May 3rd didn't go well for me. It was performed at the bedside by the resident.  She had difficulty getting the catheter into the proper space and it took 3 attempts including having another resident come in to assist.

Shortly after 10am I sent a message to Rob, letting him know that my LP came back with a very low pressure reading (13, which agreed with the symptoms that prompted me to visit the ER in the first place) and the doctors had decided to tie off the left side shunt and send me home.

That afternoon I was moved into the procedure room to have my shunt tied. I did have some concern about the success of the procedure based on my experience with having the right side tied off only to be reversed a week later. Previously, the tie off procedure was quick and relatively painless, I expected the same this time. I quickly found out I was wrong!

After freezing, an incision was made at my collar bone on the left side and the resident proceeded to search for the tubing in order to place a couple sutures around it. This took longer than he anticipated and I could feel the freezing wearing off and could feel tearing sensations as he probed for the tube. Freezing was re-applied 4 times before the resident decided that he would close off the incision and start again. I recall him going through 4 changes of gowns and gloves, something I don't believe to be typical during a procedure, but I guess he felt it was necessary, or perhaps just needed to cool down before proceeding.  Additional pain and the resulting nausea required more medication added to my IV. By this point, I had reached my limitations, I was not tolerating the procedure well and found myself shaking and in tears, an unusual reaction for me given what I had learned to put up with over the past 7 years.

May 3rd
Incision at collarbone for shunt procedure
A second site was prepared and a small incision made on my neck below my ear. The tubing was located relatively quickly this time, but I experienced a lot of pain that seemed to be nerve related. When the tubing was shifted to allow for the tie to be placed I felt burning sensations along the top of my ear and felt as though my hair was being pulled out by the roots. After a few minutes of this, the ties were placed and the resident closed the incision with steri-strips.

 We celebrated Rob's birthday with my return home. My sister, Mandee stayed with us for a few days to help out with Rachel and look after meals while I was recovering.

I received a call booking a CT scan and follow up with the Ambulatory Neuroscience clinic for June 18th.

Mother's Day - Rachel presented me with a project she had made at school. It really hits home just how my daughter perceives my illness, and that Rachel has never known me to be 100% well.  I have been lucky, she really does her best to help out around the house and helps care for me when I'm having a bad day.

Rear of Rachel's Mother's Day gift
Thanks Krystal for the added coffee inspired decoration ;-)

My headache eased a bit shortly after having the shunt tied but I soon found myself experiencing occasional swooshing noises. I continued to experience nausea and vomiting and the resulting weaknesses right up until May 15th. The previous day I made the decision to stop taking Victoza to see if it was adding to my symptoms.

On the 15th I had my sutures removed from my incision. On the 16th we had a gathering of family in a combination celebration of Rob's Birthday, Mother's Day, and my upcoming birthday.  It was also a day for my mother and Krystal to relax and enjoy the quite time following a busy tax season. I have to confess that perhaps once again Rob was right, and the Victoza was contributing to the nausea. Within 2 days of stopping the injection, my nausea had eased drastically and I was able to enjoy a prime rib dinner.

May 15
Sutures out

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