Ok, on with the story. If you’ve read parts 1-7 you know I’ve been through quite the ordeal. It’s over now. I can move on. Start living my life and not worry about what’s wrong with me. This was in the fall of 1995 and I’m doing pretty good. Working a full time job and gigging again.
Although,……..about once a week I started getting these unbearable headaches. I never had headaches like these before. I just felt awful. My head would have this dull ache and sometimes sharp pains. I couldn’t stand noise or bright lights or anything. At times I would feel really nauseous, sometimes even throwing up. The only thing that would get rid of it was sleep. If I slept for any amount of time when I woke up it would be gone. I got in the habit when I had these headaches of taking Tylenol PM then falling asleep for 4-6 hours and when I woke up the headache would be gone. This was about every 7-10 days I think. I didn’t go to see anyone about these headaches because I thought they were just a side effect of having your brain operated on. Once in a while I thought maybe they left a scalpel in there or something but I always dismissed those thoughts as stupid.
In August of 1996 (almost a year later) I got one of my headaches. I knew it was coming and called in sick to work that day. It was a bad one. I immediately took some Tylenol PM and fell asleep. I woke up a few hours later and ran to the bathroom to throw up. My head was killing me! This was a really bad headache. I laid in my bed and a couple minutes later had to run to the bathroom again to throw up. This order of events continued for the next hour and soon it was all just dry heaves and my head felt like it was going to explode. I mean it was the worst headache you could imagine TIMES 2!
Finally, I got my roommate and told him I had to go to Mass General Emergency room and that something was seriously wrong with me. He drove me there as I moaned and threw up the whole way into a large black garbage bag. I remember sitting in that all to familiar emergency room hugging my big black garbage bag as I waited to throw up again. My head hurt so bad that I think if had had a gun I would have ended it right there. I was moaning and rocking back and forth.
After what seemed like an incredibly long wait, they finally saw me. I told them my symptoms and they decided to do a lumbar puncture. I had no idea what that was but cried out “Just do it!” I also kept asking and pleading for some form of pain medication. Anything……..morphine would work, codeine, percoset, vicodin…….JUST GIVE ME SOMETHING!!!!! They politely said “No” and that they had to assess what was wrong first. So………they performed a lumbar puncture. Now, for those of you who don’t know, a lumbar puncture is where they stick a pretty long needle into your lower spine and draw out spinal fluid to examine. As they described the procedure to me I was scared but at the same time in so much pain that I wanted them to just get it over with. I had to curl up into a little ball on a table and they inserted the rather large needle into my spinal cord. It was not a pleasant experience for me.
They came back a little while later and said that I had bacterial meningitis. My first words as I remember were “NOW, CAN I HAVE SOME FREAKIN’ DRUGS?” (Sorry for my language) They soon came with some nice drugs that took the pain away. I was so so happy after that. My pain was gone and I felt like I was floating………….
Anyways, they gave me whatever I needed to fight bacterial meningitis and I got better. I remember them telling me that I was very lucky that I had come in and probably would have died if I didn’t. I remember a weird prayer where I thanked God that I had come in in time but at the same time I was wondering why God would give me bacterial meningitis after all I had been through. Anyways, I finally resolved that I would never know the answer to that. It was a close call and I was glad to be alive. (not to mention not have that headache)
Now, the number one question on every Doctors mind was how I had gotten this. They were questioning me like I had committed some crime. I guess this type of bacterial meningitis just doesn’t pop up out of nowhere in adults. They were asking me about every detail of my life and they all looked a little bewildered to be honest. Near the end of my stay in MGH an intern came in and was chatting with me about some general stuff. Just making small talk. He asked what I did for a living. I said I played the saxophone professionally. He jumped up and said “THAT’S IT!” and ran out of the room. I just sat there thinking “OK, that was weird” A little while later a whole team of people come in with that intern smiling this big cheesy grin. It was my Doctor with all these residents on his coat tails. The Doctor said that they thought that my sax playing had opened up my Eustachian tube (they had sealed this on my left side when I had the brain tumor surgery) so that bacteria could enter up into my brain and give me meningitis. They couldn’t see the opening on the MRI’s and catscans but they thought that when I played, the added pressure was probably opening up what they had sealed in the first surgery. Solution: they had to go back in and seal it up again. I wasn’t too happy about that………another brain operation!
They called my surgeon in and I remember he came in my room to talk to me. Now pay attention here because this is pretty darn funny! (at the time it wasn’t) He comes in my room to talk about the whole procedure and in the process mentions that in the future I can never play the saxophone again. He just keeps talking but then stops when he notices the pale complexion of my face and my watery eyes perhaps. He stops for a moment and I ask “What did you mean by that?” He said “It is far too dangerous. If you play your sax, the pressure could open this up again and you could die. It’s better not to play and live a long happy life.” There was a moment of silence. I was speechless. Finally I said “You don’t understand, this has been my life since 7th grade. This has been all I’ve done and pursued. I love it!”
Now, if this was in a movie you can imagine that this would be a big scene. I mean this is the tear jerker. There’s a moment of silence that is just frozen in time as you wait for what the doctor will say. What tender and thoughtful words will he utter to console this beaten down victim of life? What words of wisdom and support will he offer? Here are the words I have etched in my memory to this day:
“I can totally understand how you feel. I play bass in a hospital band and really love it also. If I had to give up bass playing, it would devastate me also.” I don’t remember what he said next. I remember he got up and walked out of the room and I was in this cloud of thought. The words that kept resounding in that cloud were these “DUDE, YOU’RE A NEUROSURGEON!” I mean come on, the guy had Neurosurgery to fall back on if something happened and he couldn’t play bass in his fun doctor band or whatever it was. The point is, that he chose to go into surgery and play bass as a hobby. I didn’t do that. I chose saxophone over everything else. I didn’t really care too much about anything else I just wanted to play my sax. Now, he was saying I couldn’t do that! I was devastated! I’m too emotional to go on……………..I’ll see you in part 9.