Category Archives: anatomy

Head Trauma

About once a year or so I get an EEG. This isn’t because it is necessarily required, but my neurologists (plural now) can’t figure out what’s wrong with my brain. It’s as if they need to keep checking that my brain is screwed up. My friends have a few guesses as to why, but the doctors can’t scientifically prove any of those.

I have so many studies on record: EEGs, ambulatory day EEGs, video monitored hospital stays, MRI, MRA, MRV, and coordination tests. (They want me to walk in a straight line despite my huge thighs not making that possible.) So what’s another test? I actually get pretty excited about the EEG itself. My main anxieties arise from dealing with insurance and setting appointments. This time I had to deal with a few misunderstandings, a rescheduling, and a 30 minute stay in the waiting room because of a snafu.

The waiting room was an interesting experience. I was the only one there until these two Old White Guys (OWGs) arrived with a newspaper. One said, snidely, something about ‘that Hussein in the White House.’ Then they pointed at parts of the newspaper that made them feel OWG rage, cursing up a storm. There were several statements about the incompetence of congress, with a stop off at “why do they have 5,000 laws they can’t get through. Just make 5 or 6 and vote on them.” (This writer interprets that to mean that he wanted everything shrunk down to a one-size-fits-all type of lawmaking. You know. Like back in his day.)

There was a brief break when OWG 1 noted Shakira had a new baby and how cute it was. I think OWG 2 was thrown off by the knowledge of someone named “Shakira” being in the news. (FYI, this image is all that’s available of that baby as of right now.) They left the room after this bizarre interruption and I pondered what they were really mad at. Maybe the Hussein comment wasn’t coming from the Fox News Cult. Maybe they were moderates joking around and yelling at representatives from both sides.

OWG 1 returned. The news was on. The discussion: Hillary Clinton’s career. No discussion of current events. Only a brief mention of her problems with the terrorism misinformation. It was just her. OWG 1 stared. Lingered. Finally said, “damn bitch” and walked off.

Uh. So this was supposed to be a post about my new head wrap: Instead of normal ambulatories where they glue the electrodes on, this hospital used a type of paste. I thought that was great because the glue makes it look like you have horrid dandruff for two weeks. But how do you keep these pasted things on? A friggin’ gauze headwrap.

versus two years ago:

what the glue does to your hair (from two years ago):

(Pretty rockin’. I should try that with my pomade.)

Two days. Two days. Twwooo daaayyysss…..



I remembered last minute yesterday that I had to schedule an MRV. An MRV is like an MRI, but for the brain veins. Thankfully it only took a few minutes (as opposed to previous hellish experiences). I managed to get one today, which was excellent since my “authorization letter” expires Saturday and the rest of my week is sort of booked.

The reason I really needed this test (on top of everything they’ve been checking for) is that the neurologists have no f**king clue as to what is causing the epilepsy. I’ve had this since I was 15 and it has done nothing but get progressively worse and require more and more meds (as covered by several posts). The MRI & MRA helped none. The 3-day stay at the hospital only confirmed that I have mini seizures, which also confuse the doctors. My neurologist finally said the MRI kinda sorta showed some swelling that could be caused by veins.

I am always excited to look at images of my internal bits. That might sound narcissistic or just plain weird, but I know I’m not alone. I got a CD of what had been scanned and immediately viewed it when I got home. I’ve captured some images so you can see what the cold, loud machine came up with:

So you may notice something that pops out right away. I am not a brain expert, but that doesn’t look quite right. I then did a shit-ton of research. No, I did not go to WebMD or Wikipedia as a first stop. I started Googling images of brain veins and asked about blood flow for certain veins – the problem seems to be in the sinus (or transversal?) veins. I know veins aren’t symmetrical and I wasn’t expecting that, but damn if it doesn’t look like I have no matching vein on the right side and a bit of a bloated left side. Finally I came up with several hints and an eventual diagnosis: Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis.

Okay. Uh. What does that mean? I finally hit the wiki and saw this: CVST is a rare form of stroke caused by blood clot. I haven’t had a stroke. I’m not aware that I’m prone to blood clots. Both Wikipedia and several Neurological Journal/data sites confirmed that a sign of Thrombosis is seizures (and bad headaches which I sometimes get, but blame on the computer). So does that mean I’m going to have a stroke? Not necessarily, but the concern is there. Am I going to die?!? Maybe not.

This is what a normal brain’s veins are supposed to look like:

This is what a CVST brain looks like:

(Source is the Radiology Assistant which depicts a couple of examples of the ones that look like mine and have the same diagnosis of Thrombosis.)

I am known as a semi-hypochondriac. I will take things to extremes only when I have a major query (like, I don’t assume I have pneumonia as soon as I get a cold).

My neuro buddies: tell me if I’m over-reacting. I talked to my dad and said I was a little depressed since there is a, albeit low, death rate. I got the “if it was that bad, we’d be hearing about it on the news. Don’t tell your mom, she’ll freak out. And don’t worry until the doctor tells you to worry” speech. I’m not *dreadfully* worried, just concerned that it is a serious thing, as everything related to my epilepsy is. And maybe there will be a hopeful outcome, but I’m kind of perturbed by both the research and my father’s shitty reaction. Updates when available (which may not be for a few more weeks).

(Still hesitating on the next Disney post because it is villain related and that decision requires much contemplation.)

Over the Stretch

I couldn’t post yesterday because having no medication for a day and 4 hours of sleep makes me a zombie girl. I watched a lot of T.V. instead trying to stave off boredom. The procedure is working, though. I can see my brain waves on a little screen and whenever there’s an absence seizure and I catch it I see little blips as it’s happening. After 13 years of being diagnosed I finally have an active view of what’s going on.

They still wanted to provoke things and keep me on for another day. Well that’s fortuitous because no sooner had my doctor left from checking in on me this morning than I woke up from a Gran Mal. So I’ll be even groggier for the next day, but it means I can go back on my meds while they continue to monitor me. I just need to find more crap to do. At least I was passed out for half a day.

The other bonus of being this out of it is it may prevent me from giving in to my urges and starting a tumblr account. Every temptation is behind that, yet I just can’t come up with an awesome and witty name. One that not everyone on the Internet has already come up with and doesn’t think it’s pretentiously stupid. Fine lines on all those criteria.

Not terribly fascinating update, but I did promise updates from the hospital and the point was to try to provoke a seizure, which has been accomplished. If I hadn’t had that seizure this post would have been a lot more uh… verbose? witty? just interesting?

I can’t wait until I can go to the bathroom without a chaperon again.

No God Could Create These Abominations

Thankfully they’re fictional! I realized yesterday that I was getting hair that resembled Peppermint Patty’s. Unsure of this, I Googled images of her (avoid including “Marcie” in your search, FYI, if safe search is off). Within the first few images that cropped up was a likeness of her internal structure. There is an artist who takes cartoons and comics and does “character studies” of them. He has a fairly good grasp on skeletal anatomy (as far as I can note) and his study choices are… uh… effective:

If you think these are totally awesome/bizarre/must-haves you can check his site Michael Paulus or just the character study series or browse his Etsy store.

So this week it looks like I’m doing an art week. My search lead me on a strange, dark path and I have some ideas that will hopefully get me in a more creative mood than the quick pics that I did last week.

Yessir Yessir, Nine Vials Full

Warning: If you are disturbed by mental imagery of blood, needles, stories about nausea, angry lesbians, waiting rooms, or you just hate my personal medical stories you may want to skip this post. The final hurdle of the neurological exams was blood work.

When I first received coverage, my insurance informed me that I had to get a doctor’s recommendation to see a neurologist. The general doctor (who was obscenely adorable) requested more blood work than I thought necessary, but I haven’t had a basic check-up in several years and had no recent records. I didn’t do the requested exams right away. I hate blood work. Also, my first priority was what I had come to him for. Off to the brain doctor was I.

The neurologist had requested all the previous tests I’ve described: two EEGs and an MRI. Then he wanted some blood levels tested for my medication. I made an appointment for Quest Diagnostics to get this all done plus the previous doctor’s requests and figured this could all be done with the same blood. Maybe a vial or two. No biggie. (I be dumb.)

Did I mention I had made an appointment? I did. I went onto Quest’s website, as was recommended, and set it up, but the office was packed with walk-ins. I stepped up to the desk and signed in. There was no receptionist so all I could do was sign in. I couldn’t ask about time or paperwork. I had to wait and then harass a nurse. It was frustrating.

So I waited and waited in the room with a strange smell full of strange people. They were being called up in order of arrival. There was no regard to my appointment time. I hate getting blood work done. I hate waiting rooms. I hate strangers. Plus one guy obviously had brought in some sort of “specimen sample” case.

Finally I was brought in and found I had the angriest lesbian** nurse I have ever met. She looked at my orders and was, to put it mildly, consternated. Their computer systems were down so she had to look up several items by hand and wasn’t positive where they all were so it took awhile. At one point I had to go to the bathroom and she said, “Hurry up!” If you say that to someone and you are angry about it, it makes your subject nervous and tends to have the opposite affect. She also asked me if I had been fasting. This was around 1pm. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to fast so I didn’t eat that morning, but told her I had dinner. She said that was fine. This is an important detail for what comes next.

So I’m all seated and ready to go. How many vials did she just pull out? Five, six, nine??? For all the tests requested between the two doctors I saw more vials than I had ever seen requested for one go. I was full of utter dread. Some of them were smaller than others, but that doesn’t make much of a difference. On goes the tourniquet. (I don’t mind the needle so much. It’s the tourniquet that brings on the misery.) Needle in… and go. And go. And go… feelin’ woozy. She actually asked me if I was alright and I told her sort of. She kept encouraging me by telling me how many left. She was like, ‘just a couple more!’ ‘Only two more!’ ‘Okay, this one’s just a little one!’

When it was finished it took a second for it to hit. I was down. Thankfully I didn’t completely black out and I was still in the chair, but I was so sick and so dizzy that I couldn’t move. As the nurse was attempting to move the patients in and out quickly, frustration seemed to return to her. She was kind enough to bring me water and a wet cloth, but she wanted me out quickly. She showed mild concern and when I improved she asked if I had gotten my “sea legs” back and asked if I was good to go.

It took about two or three minutes, but when I finally got it back together, I stumbled out. I managed to walk outside where Meg was waiting patiently. She had a look of utter shock and horror. My face was white as a ghost. I ate Wendy’s on the way home and then slept for about three hours. I still didn’t get my strength back to full until this morning.

So that’s my terrifying bloody experience. This is why I don’t give blood.

(Via an ehow Health article. The blood tests defined in it are probably what I was getting.)

**Fairly positive: short hair, dressed in a masculine way, deep voice, listening to an all-sports radio channel.

Mr. Brain

Today my health and patience was tested once again. I went in for an MRI and an MRA. Can’t move, can’t eat beforehand, sans coffee once again, and I had an added bonus of pure pain. It was a comedy of errors, but hopefully it will benefit me in the end.

As those who go through MRIs know, you have to lie there for an extended time without moving. I did the stupid thing and put my arms on my stomach. After 15 minutes, your hands start to fall asleep. After 20 minutes, they are really aching to be moved and you have to focus on anything else because they CANNOT MOVE. Since I had two tests I was in there for what seemed like a half hour more after that and just gave up all hope of using my hands for the rest of the day. Finally there was a break in the clicking noise and I jumped at the chance to move them. Great. Now they are cold and tingly. It’s also cold in the whole room and I’m in a T-shirt.

Time for the contrast part. Warning: this gets a little vivid. I tend to have thin veins. Since I wasn’t allowed to have food or drink 4 hours prior, they were extra thin and practically invisible to the nurse. When she tried to give me the shot she was so unsure she left to have the doctor try. Mind you the overall supervisor of my tests was in there monitoring the situation and came back with the doctor, minus the nurse. The doctor had me go through another quick MRI test before administering the dye. When he then tried getting the dye in my right arm, he messed up and a sharp pain went through my arm. They applied a warm compress, but I still was not allowed to move. They brought in another doctor. He got the job done in my left wrist. Three guys standing over me, apologizing for my thin veins. Thanks guys! And 15 more minutes in the tube with sharp pain in one arm.

Anyway. As all was said and done they gave me CDs to take home so I could check out the fruits of our labor. Now I will share with you a handful of my favorites:

Click on each thumbnail for bigger images. The last one is of the MRA. I’m not exactly sure how to interpret it. Since I have some neuro-fans following me, I thought these would be fun. The reason for the title: The CDs I got had “MR Brain” written on them instead of either MRI or MRA.

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