I Broke My Brain
All, i have recently learned that many of you have unintentionally been
left in the dark about the events of the past month. I'll do my best to
do so now, though they really are beyond the scope of one e-mail.
On November 30, i was admitted to Methodist Hospital ER with what is
believed to be the largest cyst ever found on a brain stem.
I went to the ER upon the encouragement of two of the most wonderful
people i have ever had the honor of meeting, Art and Betsy Tontiplaphol,
whom i have known since college. Over the course of 3 months (though i
only noticed symptoms one month before), i progressively lost much of my
fine coordination skills. My strength was still good (or as good as it
ever was), but i was becoming a spectacular klutz, rather than just a
regular on. Moreover, at the beginning of November, my mouth began
overproducing saliva to the point at the end where i had to swallow every
30 seconds lest i drown.
Art, Betsy, and i were getting together every Friday night to watch that
week's 'Amazing Race' and 'The Apprentice' and then we'd play some
Settlers of Catan. They made for a lovely low-key evenings before i'd
have to wake up the next morning to deathscort at PP. At first, Art &
Betsy started kidding me about my new lower coordination, but then they
became quite concerned and suggested that i get it checked out. I *was*
slightly concerned myself, but i told them it wasn't that bad and made an
appointment for 12/3 to get a physical with my primary care physician.
On Sunday 11/28, Betsy encouraged Art, a Cardiology Fellow in The Med
Center, to give me some basic neurological tests to see how bad it was.
It was pretty bad, but "Within the lower range of normal." Betsy
disagreed, but she's not a doctor yet, as she hasn't finished her
dissertation of 19th Century British poets. So, we agreed to wait for
Monday night, i attempted to play beach volleyball 4's. It was a
disaster. I could hardly stay on my feet, and after i saw two
volleyballs on my serve toss, i called it quits and went home. The team
captain e-mailed Art (who was on the team but not there that night)
expressing concern about what happened. Art called me the next day at
work at 2:30 and told me that i really should go to the Emergency Room.
At that point, i was finally ready to admit that he was right. I
finished my day at work, drove home, and packed a bag with clothes,
toiletries, and some books. Art picked me up and to me in.
The main reason i took so long to get my head examined is that i had
messed up priorities in life. On October 9, i was one of 248 entrants in
a No Limit Hold'em satellite poker tournament on EmpirePoker, the winner
of which would win a $17,000 package to the World Poker Tour's Five
Diamond World Poker Classic held at the Bellagio December 14-18.
Although i have only been playing poker since late July, through a
combination of luck and skill i won that tournament and the $15.3K entry
into the tournament (plus $1700 for expenses). You could say i was somewhat
pleased with this development. I bought my plane tickets, reserved a
discounted double room at the Bellagio for $109/night, Art bought tickets
himself so that he could sleep in the other bed for free. Basically, i
hadn't been that excited about something since i found out that PP protestor
Bill Burban was writing a book.
Art was excited as well. Heck, his whole family was excited and were
thinking of making plans to go out there and cheer me on...not that they
needed much encouragement to go to Vegas. I that i could at least live
with my symptoms until i got to Vegas. Plus, i reckoned that being a
complete spaz and drooling on chips would give me an advantage as i'd be
underestimated (throughout all this, most of my higher brain functions
remained in tact. As evidence, i played poker online the night before
surgery to earn some money to pay the bills...i won over $700...).
However, much as i wanted to go, i am arrogant enough to believe that my
life is worth more than $15.3K, so to the hospital i went.
The first night in the hospital, Art hustled off to try to find me the
best medical team possible. I made a list of people for Art to contact
about what had happened. I wanted to minimize the load on Art, who was
already doing so much on top of any worry he had for my health, so i
tried keeping the list small, but to people who had capability to
broadcast the news to all the other people i wanted to know. To that
end, i chose Steve Blumenthal as my single PP contact. After talking
with him later, i thought i made it clear that i wanted the news to
spread far and wide. Apparently, he misunderstood my wishes, made a
broadcast message to most, but not all, of PPHSET, and in that broadcast
said to not talk about the news. I don't know how our wires got crossed
on that, but i apologize.
Oops, after several weeks of getting too little information, now i'm
giving you too much. Anyway, the important thing is that surgery can be
considered nothing less that a raging success. It wasn't without it's
ups and downs, however. Post-surgery, if i opened my eyes, i had double
vision with the X-Y axis of each image slanted inward at about a 350
angle. The two images would then diverge to be about 3x as far apart as
at first. Then, they'd do a happy little dance. Coupled with the fact
that i couldn't close my eyes unless i was consciously doing so, that was
a touch unpleasant. At around 3 or 4 am on the night of the 11th, i was
found on Fannin street. I was wearing the hospital gown, slipper-socks,
and i may or may not have been wearing underwear. I had a either
sleepwalked or hallucinated that i was running towards what i believed
was freedom from our consumer society due to the massive doses of steroids
they were giving me. I had a central line in at the time, very near my
heart. Based on the hospital staff's reaction, my self-liberation wasn't
a good thing.
Not all was misery. I have much bowel related humor that i'll spare you.
I think my first line spoken coming out of surgery was pretty good
considering the circumstances:
Nurse: "What's your pain level [on a scale of 0-10]?"
me: "Uh...was George W. Bush really reelected President of the United
me: "Ugh. Well, *physically* my pain level is only a 2..."
The nurse took about 5 seconds to internalize what i just said and then
just lost it. Apparently, people don't generally make jokes like that
immediately after coming out of major brain surgery.
Wrapping this up, things are doing about as good as they could be right
now. Well, i guess having electricity in my house would be an
improvement, but it's still holding at a pleasant 54°, so i shouldn't
I again apologize for the drought and then flood of information, but
hopefully i'll be able to control the flow better in the future.
Thank you for your support.
ken (aka luvrhino for you internet-types)
p.s. Yes, you may disseminate my loquaciousness to anyone and for
whatever purpose you see fit.
p.p.s. The absurdly cute 6-year-old male demographic strongly believes that i