Thursday, 15 December 2011

December 15, 2004 Seven years later, still a perfect checkup!

Christmas is a very emotional time of year for me. I am reminded each year of my surgery I had seven years ago. I am thankful every day that I am here to tell you about it.
  July 17, 2003
  I remember it like it was yesterday. It was my 14th birthday and I was getting ready to go out with my family. My sister Abby offered to do my hair and thought that waving it would look really cute. Gotta love those barrel irons. Abby and I were having just a regular girl talk when all of a sudden my whole body went numb, I couldn't hear anything and my vision was blurred. The next two minutes I didn't remember what happened but when I came out of it my dad and Abby were standing there asking me what was going on. I didn't know what they were talking about. They rushed me to emergency to get me assessed. I think the nurses were just as confused as my parents. My family had never seen this happen to me or seen it happen to anyone, but they knew something wasn't right. We were sent home and we were told that my vitals were normal and if something happens again, to get a referral to a specialist. 
Not a day later and I had another one of these so called "dejavu" feelings where my body would go numb, my vision was blurred and my hearing was gone. I was referred to a pediatrician and there was a series a testing that needed to be done. EEG's, MRI's, and Cat scans. What amazing technology. EEG's were my favorite because when they glued the cords to your head, it felt like a scalp massage. :) After the results came back, they diagnosed me with "Partial Motor Seizures." The numbing feeling I would experience before I would go out of it was called an “Aura.” Its basically the sensation you get before a seizure starts. I sat there in dismay thinking my life was over when he told me I had seizures! I was supposed to get my learners. The pediatrician put me on some epilepsy medication to put a stop to the seizures. They were happening two sometimes three times a day. Every time I would have one, I would knock right out cold for about 3 hours. The seizures drained every ounce of energy out of me. I started taking the medication and not only did it make me tired, it altered my personality and made me extremely impulsive. The first four symptoms of my medication were drowsiness, irritability, memory loss and impulsiveness. Check Check Check Check! lol. My poor parents had to put up with me and I'm sure my siblings wanted to follow through with the song we know as Brother for Sale, except Whitney for Sale. 
  Either my mom or my dad would take me to the pediatrician in Lethbridge every couple of weeks. The doctor would try and alter the amount of medication I was taking but nothing seemed to do the trick. The seizures persisted, I was ornery all the time because I wanted to sleep and worst of all, my grades plummeted. 
I thought they were never going to figure out how to fix my condition. Because the seizures wouldn't quit, I was barely making it to the 3rd period of grade 9 without having one. The second I would have one, I would have to tell the teacher, wander mindlessly to the office and call my mom to come pick me up. It sure would've been convenient for texting to be popular then. I could have had "Mom can you come get me, I've had another seizure" on quick text and it would have made life a lot easier. My poor mom made several trips a week to the junior high to come get me so that I could go home and rest. If my mom wasn't able to come get me, my grandparents would come pick me up. 
  The seizures would start at inconvenient times, like our grade 9 Cardston Raymond basketball game. One second I was rebounding and the next second I don’t even remember being taken off the court. Another time I was walking with Haley to school, I had one several blocks away from the house, the next I knew it I was home again. When I realized we were still home, I lost my mind because we were late for school and hadn’t left yet. Haley then told me I had had a seizure on our way to school and while I was having it she walked me home so that I could rest.
  After about 8 months of my condition going nowhere, we got a referral we had been waiting for in Calgary to see a specialist. They thought they knew what was wrong, but told me that my condition I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. I would never be able to drive, I would never graduate from high school and I would never be able to hold down a job. I started to cry. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It had been almost 10 months of being on medication that was causing more harm than good. I was determined that that wasn't going to be my life. I had big plans for my future and one of them for sure, was driving haha. The specialist in Calgary did give me the option of trying brain surgery but he would have to shave me bald and that the surgery may not solve the problem. Being bald was not part of my big plans either. It was easy for the doctor to say who pretty much didn't have any hair. My parents were prepared to do anything to find out what was wrong with me. We just needed to find the right Doctor. A few months later my mom had received a call from my cousin Justin who was in medical school in New York. He made some phone calls for us to go and see a Neurologist in Edmonton at the Alberta Children's Hospital. I am forever indebted to him for his efforts. Because of the referral Justin got us, we were able to meet with the right people. We met with Dr. Aronyk and Dr. Sinclair. Dr. Aronyk is over Pediatric Neurosurgery at the University of Alberta and was recently named Doctor of the Century. Dr. Sinclair who was over my case, entered the observation 
room where I had been waiting. He was very kind and sat down with us and went over the past 10 months with us. He said that the news was good because they knew what was wrong. The bad news, surgery was the only option. They had found a tumor on my right temporal lobe. It needed to be removed if everything was going to go back to normal. He also reassured me I wouldn’t be bald. I was ready to give up everything I owned to this man. That was the best news I had heard in months! My parents had a huge amount of relief knowing what was wrong but I think they were a little scared their middle child was going under the knife. The date was set for my surgery
December 15, 2004. 17 months after my first seizure.
  The day was getting closer where I needed to pack my bags and head for Edmonton. I had no idea what to expect, when I was going to come back, or even if I was going to come back home. I remember laying in bed two nights before thinking I may not be home for Christmas. I had 4 sheets of paper and wrote a personalized letter to each one of my siblings. Being 15 years old and writing possibly “goodbye forever” letters was hard. I told each of them that I loved them and that I hoped everything would be ok. The next morning was the day to go and someone from our ward showed up with what I thought was Christmas 11 days early. They were full of games I could play while at the hospital, snacks, cd’s I could listen to (ipods still were too expensive) and bath & body stuff. I had the nicest neighbors in the world. I still have all of the cards that were given that day. When we left for Edmonton, my parents also told me that President Sommerfelt had asked the stake to have a fast for me. I definitely felt everyone’s prayers on the way to Edmonton that day.
  My dad gave me a blessing that morning, and before I knew it, I was on a hospital bed and the anesthesiologist was telling me to count backwards from 20. My mom was holding my hand and 12 hours later I woke up in recovery with about 30 other people sleeping around me. Creepy. My head felt like a balloon and if someone were to take a pin to it, it would pop. I sat up and a nurse came running to my side. He said, “Whitney how are you feeling?” My response was, “Why does my head hurt?” He replied, “Whitney you just had brain surgery, try and get some sleep.” The next time I woke up, my parents were there.
  Doctors told me I would be in the hospital for at least a month, I was out 6 days later and home in time for Christmas. One of the best Christmas presents anyone could as for.
  When I thought everything was good again, another week went by and I had another seizure. I thought my life was falling apart again. The surgeons were notified and we made another trip to Edmonton for another MRI to find that a small piece had been missed. I would have to go for round two of brain surgery. They set another surgery date for June 28, 2005. I went for round two at least knowing what to expect. Even though the doctors let me go home, I could barely walk, my head throbbed all the time, and my tongue was raw from the breathing tube and it didn’t allow me to eat what I wanted. To top it off, I couldn’t remember hardly anyone’s name the week I went back to school. Going for a double dose of this definitely was NOT in my future plans.
  The day came for the 2nd surgery and before we went in, the neurologists said they would do their best to make sure I would have a better recovery this time. Again I remember being in the hospital with the anesthesiologist, this time my dad holding my hand. I counted back from 20 and I didn’t even make it to 15. Twelve hours later, I woke up in my hospital bed with my parents at my side. I felt like nothing had even happened. Without even thinking about it, I jumped out of bed and washed my face and went to the bathroom. I came out and both of my parents were crying. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. My head hardly hurt, my tongue didn’t hurt at all and I was walking. My doctor was in a few hours later and told me I was a walking miracle, he had never seen anything like it.
  The day I got home, I disobeyed my doctor and went outside and played with the neighbor kids. They told me no physical exercise whatsoever for 6 weeks except walking. That wasn’t going to fly with me because it was summer. My parents gave me “the talk” about making sure I take care of myself.
  Grade eleven and half of grade twelve my doctors kept me on my seizure medication and then slowly weaned me off of it. Easter Sunday of grade twelve was the last pill I took. A month later it felt like I woke up from a deep sleep. I felt like I could have my life back again. Unfortunately I lost close to 4 years of my life. I remember what I have in my journal and what people have told me. I have a few slight flashbacks now and then during surgery time. Other than the fact my head hurts when I brush my hair and I still have reoccurring auras now and then, I’m healthy as a lark. Doctors told me that the auras may not ever go away, but it should not affect my everyday life. 
  What did I learn from this experience? Live everyday as if it were your last. You never know what may happen tomorrow. Just because someone tells you that you can't do something, it doesn't always mean that they're right. If you want something bad enough, anything is possible with faith and priesthood power.  Back to what the specialist from Calgary told me, I DID graduate, I DID  hold down a job when I got home, and I DID get my drivers license. I have been almost 7 years seizure free. Four years and five days later after my surgery I married the most amazing man in the world. My health has been a huge testimony builder and I know that the experiences I've been through are the reason I am the person I am today. I love my mom and dad so much. I am so grateful for them putting up with me during the hard times, and for going to the end of the world to get me the help I needed. My husband and I are having our 3 year wedding anniversary on Monday. I'm grateful that I am here with Brett and that I will get to spend time and eternity with him. I love my family very much and am grateful to my neighbors, church leaders and friends who got me through the bumps in the road. I cannot thank you enough.


  1. Wow Whitney! You are a miracle! I didn't know this about you. Thanks for sharing! and may you continue to live in health! Merry Christmas!

  2. Whitney, what a touching story. I had totally forgotten about this. I only remember my mom telling me to pray for you when I was in college. You are such a fighter! Have a Merry Christmas beautiful and a Happy Anniversary.

  3. Whitney - To be honest I got a little bit emotional reading this. I didn't know many of the medical details. I do remember when my family also joined in the fast, although we weren't part of your stake. I remember our fort we had between our houses... and how Stage pooped in it. And our wicked fun friday homeschooling in the fourth grade. I just remember tasting stuff for taste bud science, memorizing a Robert Frost poem, and how your mom would make us keep up our "building blocks" posture. Merry Christmas!

  4. Whitney! Thanks for sharing! I also didn't know most of these details, and I had no idea you went through all of that. 2 surgies?! I am so happy for you that you are seizure free. I remember being with you once in gym class, when you got one and feeling so terribly bad for you. I'm so glad the doctors figured it out and got the entire tumor! Merry Christmas!

  5. Whitney, I had no idea!! No wonder you are such a strong person. I am so grateful to know you and can relate in my own little way with my are a true inspiration to me and I am so grateful that you shared your story...someday I might share have inspired me:) Shelly Hughes

  6. Whitney, you are an inspiration to many, myself included. I admire your determination, your positive attitude, and your many many talents. Thank you for sharing your story, you are an amazing person! :)

    Hugs, Cindy