Saturday, December 20, 2008

She who disappears, resurfaces

You would have thought "gee, there is so much going on in the world, and Fancy would have such a strong opinion that she couldn't resist writing about them in her blog!" And you would have been right, except for the thing about being overwhelmed by life in the last 6 months!

The lowdown looks something like this:

-Fancy is a grad student in a program that works you like a slave. While other Master's students have the luxury of taking 1 or 2 classes a semester, plus TA'ing and what not...we in the MPP program are subject to 4 classes per semester. As if that's not enough, this semester I had microeconomics AND econometrics. Anyone remember that Fancy is faulty at math? It's been horrendous.

-Fancy has been a guardian to a 14 year old girl. Miss M. has continued on with us, going to school and living the life of a teenager...lots of 'Twilight.'

-Fancy suffered a big health set back in November that kept her on strict bed rest for 2 weeks. This one's a long story, and if you've heard it, feel free to scroll past...

On November 4th, I was at school. We had just gotten our Econ midterm back (62% on mine...only a smidge off the class average), and there was a break until Politics in the afternoon. At loose ends, I decided to grab lunch. As the elevator door opened, I took ONE STEP towards it, and then collapsed to the floor spectacularly. In a sudden, blindingly painful moment, I felt as if someone had just shoved a foot-long knife down my skull and into my brain. I was only vaguely aware of the raucous I had caused, as wave after wave of this shooting pain gripped my head. I have never experienced anything like that. Fearing something serious was going on, an ambulance was called, and I was taken to a downtown hospital, where Rod found me huddled in a crying ball on a chair.

I wasn't waiting long before the doctor took me in, expressing concern. I had bloodwork done, and was sent for a CT because they were concerned that I was experiencing something serious (aneurysm, hemotoma, etc.) and potentially life-threatening. The CT cleared me of that, but still concerned, the doctor's next move was to do a lumbar puncture (a spinal tap) to make sure I wasn't bleeding out in my head. I was suitably freaked out during all of this, with visions of brain surgery, etc. The great news is that they gave me enough morphine to knock me out. The bad news is that I am one of the 3% of people who have post-puncture complications.

A spinal puncture isn't like a regular needle puncture. When you have a needle or bloodwork, the blood clots, sealing the puncture. But gee, spinal/brain fluid doesn't clot! So, the result is that the fluid is leaking out of the puncture in the vertebrae, which results in a Post-Lumbar Puncture Headache (PLPH). This is caused by the fact that your brain isn't protected by enough fluid, and it's causing the membrane to stretch whenever there's movement...essentially, your brain is sorta bouncing around in your skull without enough cushion to protect it, and the brain...crazystoopid all sensitive with nerves and junk. The overall effect is that you will have the WORST pain of your entire life (because your brain is your most sensitive part) if you have the misfortune of being among the unlucky with complications.

There are only two ways to treat this headache: go in and do a blood patch, where they do another puncture, this time injecting your own blood so it will clot and seal the wound. But you could end up with a headache still. OR, you can be on strict bed rest, laying totally flat until the puncture wound finally seals itself.

My fear of needles, combined with my inability to make it 15 blocks to the hospital without wanting/needing to kill myself made me opt for the bed rest. As you can imagine, my recovery was slow and painful, and it prevented me from going to school for 2 weeks. When I did return, I was in dire straits over having fallen so far behind. Bed rest flat on your back makes studying impossible. I couldn't lay on my side to read, the textbooks were too heavy to life over my head, and forget using the laptop, because you can see the screen if you prop it on your raised knees the right way, but not the keyboard. All in all, it's a clusterfuck.

My profs were all superb, being very understanding and flexible about the assignments and classes I was missing, and in the end, I got some deferrals, and some assignments were dismissed entirely, with the marks transferred to other assignments instead. It's fortunate that I'm in a cohort program, and we're a small faculty, so not only did the profs know about my problem, but several of them were there in the aftermath of the collapse, and they understood this was no simple headache you take two advils for and move on.

There was no saving Econ, and in the end I managed only a B- in the class, but that's not bad considering my mathematical impairment. The prof was extraordinarily patient with me, being that I was already falling behind, and he handled the whole situation well, given that I collapsed after getting his midterm back, and his colleagues had already been ribbing him pretty hard about our class having so much trouble with Econ. He's sort of old skool, and pushes students, saying things like "Look, this is high school math," or "Think harder!" It sort of became a running joke in the department that my initial collapse was caused by "thinking harder" about Econ, and the ribbing got worse for a while.

So there you have it. I have been AWOL from the Blogosphere because this semester has been a clusterfuck of events. I'll try to make it back more regularly, and there will be changes that may assist me in reaching that goal: Miss M. is returning home to Yellowknife; Microeconomics is over, and by all accounts, Macroeconomics will be slightly friendlier; and I plan on never having a spinal tap again in my life (Me: "No thanks doc, I'll just die.").

PS - Happy Holidays! You'll hear the forthcoming saga about that soon!


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