Yesterday I spent my one-year "anniversary" at the hospital for appointments. The summary is:
* As I suspected, the headaches and pressure in my head is caused from my inability to equalize (pop) my ear, as a result of my eustation tube being sealed. Dr. Shelton said normally he would just put in a tube, but with my history of spinal fluid problems, he doesn't dare. So, for now, the pressure problems are here to stay. If I haven't had any CSF leaks in the next 2 years, he will put in a tube to alleviate the pressure in my brain.
* My hearing is improving, my speech recognition is now at about 85% of normal levels (when the headphones are in my ears) and my overall hearing in my right ear is up to 71% of normal, which is also a vast improvement.
* My paralysis is improving (which is noticeable even in pictures) but I still don't have use of my eye, right nostril, forehead or the extremities of my mouth. The extremities don't always come back to 100% of where they were, so my mouth or forehead may not look the same. (A little drool isn't that bad, right??)
* Because of the location of my nerve damage, at the brainstem, my recovery time is longer than with others in a similar situation. Instead of the normal 12-month recovery time, Dr. Shelton estimates I may still have a few more months of good progress before the healing slows. It is a matter of travel time from the damaged site to the nerves in the face, they recover about a milimeter a day, so a few inches difference in the location is a big deal.
* The good news then, is I still have time to get better. Normally, one year is the time frame within which 90% of recovery takes place, and little healing can be expected afterwards.
* Dr. Shelton wants me to go to physical therapy to try and improve my facial movements while there is still healing time. I will call them today and get my first appointment set up. We are very fortunate because facial therapy clinics only exist in 5 cities in the nation. Once again, not a coincidence!
* He recommended I go back to my eye doctor and consider having additional surgical procedures to get some use of my eye back. My eye is the cause of most of my daily issues, including photophobia, vision impairment, loss of depth perception, and not being able to drive very much.
After the appointment, Tolan and I walked through the wing of the hospital where I lived for 5 weeks last year. It was very emotional for me. I looked at all the people there and I commented how sick they all looked. Tolan replied, "That is how you looked, Jodi. You really looked terrible." It is so overwhelming to think of myself like that, especially when I see how far I have come.
I also saw one of the nurses who cared for me. I didn't think he would recognize me, but he did. He even remembered my name. He said, "You look a lot different, a ton better than the last time I saw you!" Yes, so much has changed this year.
The tears came, but they were manageable. I was emotional and sad, but also so very grateful. My wonderful husband was by my side the whole day, yet again. The trials may continue, but I know the blessings and miracles will come, too!