A Release Of Pain: They Shaved My Head

Lots of people have been wanting an update, and I’m sorry i’m just getting to it now. I’ve been in and out of it, as to be expected. Here’s a breakdown of what happened on surgery day to present day.

I didn’t expect to sleep the night before the surgery. I had a million possibilities running through my head, and I couldn’t shut my brain off. I kept wondering what would happen if the surgery didn’t work, or if I felt it even though they “put me to sleep” or how I was going to function with two full weeks off with nothing to really be allowed to do. But then Brian curled up behind me like the big spoon he is, kissed my shoulder and calmly whispered: “relax. You aren’t going to die tomorrow. I won’t let that happen.”

The next thing I knew, I was asleep.

I woke up the next morning with my alarm. 5:45am. I shut it off, knowing Brian’s was set for 6am and curled back up in his arms. I didn’t close my eyes, and I think Brian knew I was awake, but he let me lay there quietly, going over what was going to happen that day in my head. I had a horrible migraine on Monday, and was thankful that I woke up on Tuesday without one. When his alarm went off, we pulled away. He took a shower, and since I took one the night before, I got up and got dressed. Old Navy fitness capris, a denim button front shirt I borrowed from my mom, and my hair pulled up into a pony tail. I had already taken all of my piercings out and replaced the necessary ones with plastic fittings the night before.

Glasses on my face, I waited for Brian. He got a cup full of Cocoa Puffs ready, grabbed his cell phone charger and stuffed it in his pocket, then grabbed his keys. I grabbed my Living Will card, my eyeglass case, and my cell phone and followed him. The drive to St. Luke’s Riverside was short, and quiet. I sang along with the music as we drove downtown. I looked at the station as we drove by it and thought “It’s almost 7am. That’s Kyle’s show. He’s probably singing a random song as he gets ready to go into the booth.”

“Hey,” Brian said. I hummed at him, my hand clutching his as I tried to take deep breaths and calm down. “I love you.” I smiled. I’m lucky to have a guy who knows me well enough to know when I need to hear something that will calm me down when I need it most.

Picture 001

We pulled into the hospital, and found a parking spot labeled “for surgical patients” and climbed out of the car. I made my way to the surgical check in, gave them my living will for them to copy, answered the necessary questions (my name, my birthday, not diabetic) and they put a bracelet on my right wrist. It was loose, but felt heavy and tight all at the same time. Then we waited. A little while later, they took me back and made me give them a urine sample (Nope, not pregnant) and then got me dressed in a gown and into bed. We had no cell service back there and we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the television, so Brian started to play Angry Birds Star Wars.

Picture 002Smile, it’s only head surgery…

A little while after watching him play, a nurse came in to take my vitals. I answered the necessary questions (my name, my birthday, not diabetic) and she said another nurse would be coming in to follow up on my paperwork. When she did, I answered the necessary questions (my name, my birthday, not diabetic… see a trend here?) and went over my paperwork with her. I got a second bracelet thanks to my allergy to Sulfa based meds, and an IV started in my hand which hurt a lot. While answering questions, Melanie, Joe and Ilyssa showed up.

Picture 003

Melanie interviewing me, as Joe tapes it

Did I mention that they were taping the surgery and procedures for a special on my station? They are. It’s so unusual to hear about migraines that are neurological in females that when I said I was having the surgery, they wanted in. Of course, I said yes.

After the nurse was done, I was interviewed by Melanie. Being nervous I chattered on a lot. I hope I answered her questions the way she wanted them. My parents showed up during this time, and my mom started to cry. I hate that. I can’t let her cry alone, so I got teary. Brian came over and grabbed my hand, and let me squeeze it. Nerves were getting worse. When they prepared to move me to the pre-op area, they told me only one person could be with me at the time. Mom later told me she wished it was her, but Brian came with me. I kissed my parents and told them that I would be fine then I was whisked off to the holding area.


They plan to shave part of my head, and I get a hair net?

We spent a long time waiting for surgery. They set me up in the kids room, which made me laugh. I answered the necessary questions (my name, my birthday, not diabetic)  for at least another 10 people as I was waiting for the time to go into surgery. I had to get up and pee, which wasn’t fun being that I was in a hospital gown and there was a camera crew nearby. Brian kept looking at the toy box.

“Go ahead and see what’s in there,” I said to him, amused.

“It can wait,” he said. I shook my head.

“What’s in there?” I asked. He turned and looked. Princess toys, trains, cars, and blocks.

“What, no super heroes? That’s not cool,” I said jokingly as he sat back down in the rocking chair. We were already past the surgery time. I knew Melanie was most likely interviewing the doctor before the surgery, but it made me more nervous. Brian had fun playing with my heart rate. My pulse was fast due to being scared, and he’d calm me down to where it was in the 70s again… only to have it shoot back up when he said something suggestive to me.

He helped keep me calm.

Each doctor came and asked me the usual questions and then asked me if I had any. I did, and I found out that I was going to be laying on my stomach for the procedure but they would put me that way after I was out, that I was going to get intubated and that my giant tonsils wouldn’t matter, and that no matter what I thought and how many episodes of Nip/Tuck I have seen – I won’t feel anything. That made me feel a little bit better. Brian and I joked around with them in order to keep things light, but we were both nervous.

Then the time came when I was going to be taken away from Brian and cut open. The anesthesiologist came by and put a drug in my IV nice and slowly, and within moments I was starting to fly. Brian kissed me a few times and said he loved me. I replied that I loved him too. A short trip later I was looking at the ceiling of the operating room through blurry eyes. Someone was asking me questions, and I remember answering them as the nurses put those compression sleeves on my legs. They were thigh high and felt fantastic. I thought about how I could get a pair for when I started running again. I remember looking over at the lights and thinking how giant they were, and how the swirly the metal looked. Then there was another drug put into my IV, a breathing mask put over my face… to deep breaths, and I was out.

The next thing I remember was that I had to pee, badly. I was resting comfortably on an uncomfortable bed and laying in a slightly uncomfortable way and oh my God, did I have to pee. I started to wiggle my toes, a habit I have recently picked up for some strange reason. When I opened my eyes, everything was swirly and spinning so I closed them again. I tried to swallow and it was like sandpaper. I tried to move my neck and oh my God, that hurt.

“Jamie? Honey, can you hear me?” I heard someone say. I tried to shift my legs and felt the thigh high compression sleeves were still there. They tightened and released, and oh…that felt nice. “Jamie, what’s wrong?”

“Pain,” I whispered hoarsely.

“Where does it hurt, Jamie?” the nurse said. I realized that she kept using my name, and I liked that. It helped me realize that she was talking to me. In what felt like slow motion, I moved my hand to point to my neck, where the majority of the pain was.

“Neck,” I responded. She said okay, and I briefly saw her walk away and come back. She put something in the IV and said it would work shortly. I said something about having to pee and about my throat, and she said that they would rather I go on my own when they  moved me back down to the  room I was first in when I got there…but if I couldn’t wait, they could get me a bed pan.

Trust me, no matter how badly I had to pee, I could wait. Not peeing in a bed pan.

I tried to move my head and it hurt. I couldn’t feel specifically where the incision was, and I felt that most of my head was numb, but where my migraines usually start was super painful. I wasn’t happy about that. I reached up and touched my bottom lip and realized that it was super swollen, like I had been in a fight. In fact, I actually asked if I was in a fight and lost. The nurses laughed at me. They said it was from the tube. I remember seeing a clock say 13:53. It was almost 2pm. I went into surgery a little after 10am.

I don’t know how much time had passed between moving me from the recovery area back to the surgical discharge area, but I remember opening my eyes and seeing one of the nurses from before walk in and take my blood pressure. She told me that I had family very eager to see me. I told her I really had to pee and was there any chance I could go to the bathroom before they came back to see me. She laughed, and said of course. I had one nurse on each side of me, holding my arms and making sure I didn’t fall, letting me take the smallest baby steps I could manage to the bathroom. It had to have been 15 minutes before I got there. They had me hold onto the handicap bar as they put down a seat cover, showed me where the light was for me to get help when I was finished, and then walked out.

It’s a good thing I’m not modest. And FYI – that was – like – the best pee ever.

As the nurses where helping me back into my curtained area, one of the other nurses said that family was wanting to get back there and see me. The nurses said that i wanted to pee first. That’s when it hit me.

“Is the camera crew still here?” I asked.

“I don’t think so, but we can find out,” one of them said.

“No, that’s okay. I just want to make sure I’m covered before they come see me if they are,” I answered. They weren’t still around. And like I said, I’m not modest…but no one needs to see my naked butt on the news.

My family was let back into the room and my mom started to cry again. She kissed me on my forehead. I asked her why she was crying, and she just shook her head. Brian came forward and kissed me too. My running partner and best friend Kat was there as well. Both Brian and Kat said the surgeon was really optimistic about the surgery.

“He said that your left side was really knotted up and that he had to cut deeper than anticipated,” Brian said. “He said on that alone, you should feel some instant relief.” I started to cry. I fucking said it wasn’t hormonal, that it was a pinched nerve for YEARS. Almost two decades. It took surgery for someone to realize that I knew what I was talking about.


Kat told me to smile better… I don’t remember smiling.

It took a little while for me to get cleaned up and ready to leave. When we did, I peed first, and then was taken to Brian’s car via wheelchair. My mom sat in the front seat, and I sat in the back, clutching an ice pack to the back of my head. That felt like the longest drive home ever. They both helped me get up the stairs and into some comfy PJs before I fell into the recliner.

Picture 004

I still sleep with my baby blanket from time to time….

I remember my mom leaving and coming back. I remember Brian going to get a hair cut and coming back. I remember hearing my mom leave yet again after Brian got home, and then Brian talking to his parents who were on their way down from South Carolina, and saying “yay peaches” but not much else.

Picture 005

Day of surgery, changing the bandage before I went to sleep

The rest of the week was a lot of blurred moments of consciousness, breathing exercises to prevent pneumonia, pain pills, ginger ale and being forced to eat when I didn’t want to. I stayed in the recliner and fought off pain and dizzy spells for three days. On Thursday, my sister came by and brought me circus peanuts and painted my toes purple. On Friday, we ventured out for lunch and Sweet Frog frozen yogurt before my parents went out of town. Friday night we went to Carraba’s for dinner.

Picture 010

Thursday night, after my shower. 

Saturday, we rested in the morning, and my Amber came into town to see me. We chatted for a while before she had to go, and then we headed out to Jax Beach. We spent 4 hours at Joe’s Crab Shack – me with my pain killers and them with their alcohol. They dropped me off at home before going to check on Hocus and grabbing food for dinner. I slept a lot. Brian went back and brought Hocus over to our condo. I love my Hocus. Sunday – we slept in and rested. Brian and I had lunch with Amber, and then after catching up on some TV, we went out to Sneakers for Dave to see the Giants game.

Picture 015

Sunday morning.

Each day, I have been trying to do a little bit more: turning my head a bit more, walking a bit more, waiting longer to take the pain meds. I’m not allowed to get my heart rate up, have my head below my heart, or do any strenuous activities. I can’t drive on the pain killers, and have found myself only taking them in the evening after a day of moving my head again. I have most of the feeling back, but it feels like bruised muscle that needs to heal more before being used again. No running, but walking is okay so long as my heart rate isn’t elevated too much.

I plan on spending the rest of this week at home, resting and catching up on things I haven’t been able to do that won’t require a lot of effort. I have friends who want to come visit me and now is the time to do it. I have Hocus here so I can have her company and go for walks, but I also need to take it easy and let my body heal itself as well.  I do have some pain in my head from time to time that is reminiscent of migraines, but for the most part – I’ve had ZERO migraine pain. That’s 6 days and counting.

My follow up appointment is next Monday, and that’s when we find out if I am clear to run again, return to work and be a “normal human girl” to kind of quote Pinocchio. I can’t wait to see what this means for the future.

Thank you to everyone who sent their well wishes and love. It means more to me than you could possibly know. 🙂 I’ll post another update later this week! 🙂

Picture 006Flowers from WJXT – I feel loved. 🙂 


5 thoughts on “A Release Of Pain: They Shaved My Head

    • jljohnson says:

      Thank you for your prayers. This journey has been long and painful, and now that I’m feeling relief, its like I’m a new person.

      I appreciate your prayers more than you know. 🙂

  1. Jim Segina says:

    Hi Jamie,

    Glad to see you did well with the surgery. I didn’t find out until I got this update that you were even having to undergo that!
    I being a TBI survivor was lucky enough, I guess, not even to know they did surgery! HA
    As for the peeing part, at least I had a catheter! HA
    Best of luck on your recovery…Jim Segina

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