Friday, 31 August 2007

The Scar

Apart from the usual rhythm of the ward, the only notable thing today was the changing of the dressings on my head. Why? because it is the first time I got to see my new scar!

Not really competition for Frankenstein's Monster, but still pretty substantial, and the monster didn't have a titanium plate to cover any of his holes (not that you can see it).
(Note: Picture is from about 3 weeks later and as such a little less bloody)

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Recovering from surgery - Day 1

Woke up still in intensive care but felt surprisingly OK.
Doing a quick check list of everything I discover that apart from a mild sore throat (no doubt from the tubes that had been previously stuck down my throat) a slightly sore head (obviously) and that bloody catheter I really didn't feel too bad, and I was HUNGRY!

The nursing staff allowed me to sit next to the bed for breakfast. If I had known how much hassle it was going to be to manoeuvre all of the cables and tubes I might not have chosen to do so. But once installed, I tucked into a good continental breakfast.

The morning rounds (with obligatory hordes of students) appeared during my breakfast and it was obviously time for the chief's little joke. "Ah, can anybody tell me what indication of total recovery from surgery we can see in Mr. Gardiner?" and after a few seconds silence "... he is eating breakfast. Lets move along then"

After breakfast I was told I could return to the ward (maybe it wasn't a joke) and the process of disconnection started. On my insistence the catheter was first to go, and once all the pipes, cables and leftover connectors from yesterday's operation had been removed a porter was called to wheel me back to the ward. Only the solitary saline drip remained.

I have a theory about saline drips that they serve no medical purpose whatsoever, except to help you tell apart fellow patients and medical staff.

On the ward the routine of Take Meds, Blood Pressure. Eat, Snooze, Read a bit, ... fell back into its rather comforting rhythm only interspersed with the joyous moments of visitations of friends and family from outside.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007


Up bright and early for a 7am start in theatre.
High on Pre-meds I can't help sniggering as I am wheeled into Theatre 13!
I go under precisely on time.
After 5 hours in theatre, my first reaction on waking is to throw up.
I believe the technical term is Post Operative Nausea.
Very impressed by the speed of the nurse with the bowl.

I'm moved into Intensive Care (normal procedure)
I FEEL AWFUL and look like something out of a 50s Sci-fi B Movie with pipes everywhere
I plead to have the catheter removed to no avail (if you've never had one, you cannot guess how uncomfortable it is wanting to continually urinate, but knowing that you are doing it already)

Vague memories of a visit from Carol
And a visit the surgeon who told me the operation was successful, and they had confirmed that the tumour is pure brain material (i.e. Primary). Hoorah (I guess)
I was told that I wouldn't get the final results from the Biopsie until next Wednesday (5th September)

Hard to imagine how I slept, but I did, like a log.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Preparing for Surgery

Back in hospital ready for Biopsy on 29th August. After settling in, I'm dragged off for another MRI Scan to see how things are going (not that I get to find out at this point).

The Surgeon comes for a visit and I'm told by that he will be using real time MRI to help locate the tumour's position during the biopsy, due to its awkward position. He seem's quite excited.

I'm also told for the first time that the tumour is inoperable due to its depth in the brain and its proximity to the Basal Ganglia which is essential for motor management.

The surgeon turns up with a brain under his arm (yesterday's failure?) so that he can show me the rather awkward path through the brain he will have to navigate to get the samples of the tumour. You couldn't get much more inaccessible.

A Wedding and Many Little Seizures

Meet the Gardiner-Smiths: Joss (my youngest), Carol (the wife), Mario (the new Gardiner-Smith by marriage), Kayleigh (the new bride), Me (why have I shrunk?) and Amber (my eldest)

On 18th August my youngest daughter got married, and happily I was able to fully participate in this event. We had a great day. For a while I thought I wouldn't make it.

Suffering lots of focal seizures, up to as many as 4 per day. Fiddling with my medication dosage finally put them at bay just a day before my return to hospital for the biopsy (Timonil 1/0/2, Urbanynl (0.5,0,0.5).

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Malignant or Benign?

Time to hit the Web to learn as much as I can about my condition and what sorts of treatments I might expect to be offered. I found an excellent site that publishes a great guide for the newly diagnosed, and it was in here I learned about all the types of tumours, the grading system used for tumours, and information on most of the treatments available forthe different tumours.

The guide is very frank and open and although I appreciated that, it did bring on some weepy moments for Carol (my wife) and I as we learned about these nasty things.

One major shock to me was how the use of the terms Malignant (bad) or Benign (not so bad) are misleading when it comes to brain tumours. Because the brain is in an enclosed space (the Skull)even benign tumours will grow to fill the brain space and cause neurological problems and even death.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Primary or Secondary?

11th & 12th August: A couple of Focal Seizures over the weekend sent me into a panic as I thought the whole thing was about to start again. These were things I would learn to live with for a while.

13th & 14th August: Back in hospital where the serious search for other tumours started. This would indicate whether the brain tumour was Primary or was the result of Metastasis from another tumour in the body (Secondary) which might also need treatment.

After CT Scans for Thorax and Abdomen and Ultrasound scans for the Thyroid and testicles it seems I am clean of other tumours indicating that my little friend is a primary tumour of the Brain. I guess one has to be thankful for small mercies.

My Neurosurgeon (it seems strange to have one of those) tells me that I will need a biopsy in order to find out whether or not my tumour is malignant or benign and to confirm whether or not the tumour is primary. Based on this they should be able to suggest appropriate treatment.

So its under the knife for a bit of Brain Surgery....For the first time since the original seizure I'm feeling a bit scared. The operation is set for 29th August.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Enter the Big C

Was moved to a normal ward (feeling fine), and after devouring breakfast I was sent off for an EEG, to check for epilepsy which showed no abnormal activity, and had all the usual blood and urine tests done none of which showed anything abnornal.

I was then shipped off for an MRI Scan of the head, where the culprit for my seizure was identified. "A circular 7mm lesion in the left had parietal region of the brain lying sub-cortical, inital diagnosis: Primary Brain or Metastase Tumour"

The Big C!

This cannot happen now, my daughter gets married next weekend, the house is being renovated, my second grandchild is due soon and work is just getting very busy.

I was also told I was not allowed to drive until a nuerologist cleared me for driving, usually at least Six Months following such a seizure!
I was let home for the weekend to think about all of this (driven by the wife of course)

Thursday, 9 August 2007

An almost normal day

August 9th was a very normal Thursday, I had been working in my home office (I work for a large software company) and I'd just had dinner with the family and I was performing the usual ritual of washing up on my own.

At about 7:30pm I got a sudden fierce attack of pins and needles along with an horrendous burning sensation in my right leg which quickly spread across my whole right side. I rushed upstairs to find my wife as I knew something was seriously wrong. I sat on the corner of our bed and tried to explain how I felt, but my speech was failing me. I then fell unconcious.

I came around feeling very confused, to find two paramedics trying to communicate with me and preparing to take me to hospital. By 9pm I was in the emergency unit of Kantonsspital Aarau (Switzerland) being told that I had suffered a Grand Mal Epileptic Seizure.
An initial CT scan showed no signs of Haemorrhage. I was given some tablets Timonil (Carbamazepine) & Urbanyl (Clobazam) to prevent further seizures and told to rest.