Will I wake up normal? Is there a chance that this surgery could lead to unintended consequences? What if they can’t get the shunt in place and find that there is no plausible way for me to have the device inserted – does that mean this is my life forever? Wait, what about my song?
Within a matter of minutes of being taken into the OR, Dr. Piepmeier greeted me on the cold slab of metal and said the team of doctors was ready to get started and that he’d see me in a little while.
Now, before I go any further, I have a request. Think of a moment in your life where your hopes for something completely outweighed the realistic expectations of it happening. Once you have that moment, you can continue reading. See if yours measures up to mine…
Great, here we go again. 10…9…8… Sweet dreams…and knocked out I was yet again.
Once I was out of surgery, I was wheeled down the hall back to the ICU to sleep off the anesthesia. Now, you have to understand that nobody in my family ever conveyed the odds and percentages of the surgery to me so I did not know what to expect coming out of this. Regardless of the odds, I knew it could certainly help me. In the midst of being woken up by the doctors and nurses, I recall feeling “different” somehow; I was able to recognize that the thoughts in my head were clearer and I was better able to understand the conversations that were taking place around me. However, it was still too early in the recovery process for me to test myself but I had a fleeting thought that perhaps my progress would now move along much quicker. But then again, I was still in such a fog that I was not able to fully appreciate what had actually taken place and knew I was being delusional. I was in and out from the anesthesia so I took the time to sleep, heal and recover. Still though – there was this nagging feeling that maybe I was back to my old self.
When I had finally fully woken up and come to my senses, I again felt like I was in a dream. Things around me suddenly made sense and I was able to put 2 and 2 together to understand that I was now a bionic man with a valve system in his brain to help me function in society.
Come to find out, my dream was no dream – it was reality. I felt just as I had prior to the time when all of this began. I was alert. I was watching TV and playing on my phone. Yes, you read that right – I was using my phone to read the mass of emails and text messages that had piled up from family and friends the past two months. And then the moment that I had been waiting for had come – my family had arrived.
I heard my parents’ voices as they were talking with the doctors and nurses outside of my room before coming in to see me…I eagerly awaited their arrival. My dad entered the room first (here comes my moment):
I greeted him with an enthusiastic “good morning, Dad!” Then my mom came in and I said “good morning, Mom! How are ya?!”
The looks on their faces were priceless…faces that I’ll never forget. I found that the moment was beyond satisfying. What an absolute whirlwind. Not less than 12 hours ago, I couldn’t say my own name, let alone say “hi” to my parents. They continued to engage me in conversation and I was actually doing it! Though my response time was slow, I understood all the questions being asked and was able to respond. The sound of my own voice had never sounded so good. I had shown my family and myself what I knew in my head – I was still in there and simply needed some manipulation to break free.
And when the entourage of doctors rolled in, they bombarded me with the usual questions. This time I was able to tell them my level of pain in a comprehensible tone, replied that “yes, I do have a headache” and “three” in response to “how many fingers am I holding up?” Once they left, in came Dr. Piepmeier and Betsey. He looked at me in awe, but nonetheless asked me how I was feeling. I replied “great!” I remember him just looking at me, almost as if he thought he was dreaming but nope – this was no dream. When my sister and brother came to see me, I greeted them all as well. Overnight, I had gone from a shell of my old self to almost as good as new.
Walking around the hospital hallways with my mother that day, we walked past a diagram of the brain and I stopped there with her to show her what had been done to me during the surgery. As I was explaining where the valve was inserted and where it was draining to, a voice behind chimed in and said “very impressive Chris.” It was Dr. Piepmeier. That moment is also one I’ll never forget.
Two days later, my paperwork was being prepared and I was released – free to go home. When I got home, one of the first things I wanted to do was sit down at my piano and play. I was hesitant at first, but it was something that I had to do.
I sat there, placed my fingers on the keyboard and I started to play. Without even thinking about it, that beautiful sound was coming out. Like it was yesterday, I began playing my composition and it was if I never stopped playing. I played the first few bars of the song and into it I went – remarkably, I had played everything I had written previously, but this time it sounded really good. Over the next few days, my determination to finish my song was completed and all I needed was a title. And then it hit me. With all that had just taken place in my brain and the further brainstorming I was doing to find a title, I titled the piece, very simply “Brainstorm”.
Foreigner’s “Double Vision”…Barbara Streisand’s “Send in the Clowns”…Ice Cube’s “A Man’s Best Friend”…Manfred Mann’s “Blinded by the Light”…Louis Armstrong’s (or my preferred version sung by Stacey Kent and the song my mom and I danced to at my wedding) “What A Wonderful World”….Ben Folds’ “I Am The Luckiest”…Patrick Watson’s ”The Great Escape”…Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith” and “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”…Michael Jackson’s “ABC”…John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold” (Hey Pretty Lady Won’t You Give Me A Sign)…”Take Me Out To The Ballgame”…”Somewhere Over The Rainbow”…Pearl Jam’s “Come Back”…Jack Johnson’s “Sitting, Wishing, Waiting”…Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up”…Avicii’s “Hey Brother”
All of my posts’ titles have been these songs or lyrics borrowed from them. They express the chapters of my life and relay the emotions of my story. For me, music is everything – it is one of my passions. And miraculously, I had it back.
Without more, here it is. Brainstorm © 2011
8 thoughts on “Brainstorm – Part Two”
Beautiful Song !!! Peaceful, serene, and very calming. I remember the moment like it was 15 minutes ago.
I think your blog is great…I’m a 2x brain tumor survivor and had my last craniotomy on 2/10/12. We fight till a cure’s found.
Thank you for the message and the kind words. I hope that you are doing well now and am hopeful that together as survivors, we will someday find the cure. Stay strong and keep fighting!
beautiful, well-written and inspiring as always, Chris! -Lindsey xoxo
Thank you Lindsey!
Beautiful song! Was just diagnosed with a central neurocytoma two weeks ago. Surgery in two weeks. Your song is very inspiring : )
Thank you for reaching out and for listening, Leigh! I am sorry to hear of your diagnosis but I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers for a full and speedy recovery. I would be more than happy to answer whatever questions I can, to share more of my experiences or to just be a helpful ear to listen. Stay positive and keep in touch! -Chris