Tuesday, September 17, 2013

There's a Hole in My Head, But The Rain ISN'T Coming In... Yet.

A number of regular readers of my blog are aware that I was hospitalized from Tuesday afternoon the 10th through Sunday afternoon the 15th for an operation to repair a subdural hematoma.  Let me get the rest of you up to date.

This trouble stemmed from an accident I had on campus on Tuesday the 3rd.  I recently moved into a new office in a quirky old building that used to be a carriage house.  The corridors are narrow, there are several flights of stairs to be negotiated in order to get to the faculty offices and computer labs in the building, and, most significantly of all, there are low, vaulted ceilings in certain places.  I walked smack dab into one of these ceilings while returning to my office from the copier room.  I didn't lose consciousness but, as it turned out, the impact resulted in my brain literally being shifted several centimeters inside my cranium and blood and cerebrospinal fluid leaking into the space between the skull and the membranes protecting the brain.

I was still able to teach and drive the rest of the week, but Nicky and I began to notice some strange symptoms over the weekend.  I began to have persistent headaches and seemed to be having trouble keeping my balance.  When Nicky and I went out walking around our neighborhood, I tired more quickly and started dragging my left foot a bit behind my right.  It almost felt as if the top and bottom halves of my body were moving at different speeds.  I still wasn't overly alarmed.  I attributed the headaches and general air of lassitude to the stress of starting a new academic year and having to get up early every morning. Once I got into the swing of the new schedule, I thought, all would be well.

On Tuesday afternoon the 10th, I had just started my Basic Statistics class and was going over a quiz with the students, perched on the edge of the desk in a half-sitting, half-standing position.  I suddenly lost my balance and fell to the floor.  Several students had to help me up, while another student went to get help from security.  I had already been examined by a security guard on the 3rd, so the security personnel were aware of what had recently happened.  They insisted that EMTs come and take me to the ER of nearby Sinai Hospital for evaluation.  There, a CT scan confirmed the existence of the hematoma and a large quantity of fluid in my head.  I was operated on the next morning and a suction drain was inserted into a small hole in my head to pull out the fluid and help my brain ooze (is that the right term?) back to its normal position.  In the process, my hairline was shot to hell.

I felt OK after surgery, but I was still under the influence of pain medication.  Once that wore off, the ordeal began in earnest.  I was unable to keep food or drink down and began to experience a constant migraine-level headache.  My blood pressure also spiked, leading us to believe that my kidney function had somehow been affected.  In truth, my kidneys behaved well throughout.  All of the pain and difficulty was caused by the negative pressure exerted by the head drain, leading to what's called a low CSF pressure headache.  Even doses of morphine helped only a little.  I endured for 36 hours before the neurosurgeon's assistant came on Friday afternoon and removed the drain, fixing the cranial battlefield up with staples and stitches after the fact.

Once the sucker (sorry) was gone from my dome, everything headed north with a vengeance.  I could eat and drink again and my headache quickly subsided to the more typical "I haven't slept well or had caffeine in X days" version.  Nicky was with me virtually the whole time, and my mother and three siblings were also on hand at various times to lend support and advocacy to my cause.  Nicky did a wonderful job of keeping as many people as possible informed of my condition, both at Stevenson and elsewhere.

I'm now at home with instructions to stay out of work and avoid driving for two weeks while my head recovers from the surgery.  I'm hoping to get back to teaching by October 1 if all goes well in my follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon on the 24th.  I should be able to resume "normal blogging activities" in another day or so.  Thanks to all who were able to send good wishes during my hospital stay.


GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Gads--that's no joke. All the best wishes from me.

Pete Fernbaugh said...

Glad to hear you're on the mend, Chris. It's amazing how a seemingly "little" accident could have such major repercussions.

Here's to a successful recovery!


P.S. I wonder if Scotty had similar after-effects following this bit of tomfoolery from STAR TREK V:


Anonymous said...

Hello, Chris:

I guess your experience shows how wrong all those stories and movies are, where the hero gets clouted on the noggin, goes down, then gets to his feet in thirty seconds and has no aftereffects at all, right?

Those pictures of your head after surgery would have fascinated my late father; he watched anything and everything on TV about operations, surgery, and so on. Each time he had a clinical, matter-of-fact air about the whole thing. However, I'm different. On viewing the pictures you posted my reaction was: "I didn't want to see that!"

Seriously, I'm sorry you had this trouble, but glad to hear that you are on the mend. And when staying home and doing nothing until the doctors let you go back to normal living, why not express yourself with that phrase created by Walt Kelly: Rowerbazzle!

Get well soon!

Richard Smyers

Chris Barat said...


God, don't remind me of Scotty's bumbling mishap! It crossed my mind at least once while I was in the hospital!!


Chris Barat said...


I did think a few times about whether or not to post those images. I ultimately decided that they weren't ALL that grotesque, but others' mileage, like yours, may vary...


Jim said...

Hi Chris--was just catching up on your blog a little bit and saw this post. Hadn't heard about your ordeal--hope you are now feeling 100% better. Thanks for all the interesting material you post on your blog.---JIM