Cheating Death

I was a fit and healthy 25 year old man, with no history of serious medical problems. I work out almost religiously, eat right and generally look after myself really well. I did used to smoke, which i regret. I quit around a year ago and i will never go back to it.

One weekend i was relaxing at home, looking after the place by myself while my housemates were out of town. i got a slight headache and just ignored it and waited for it to go away as i normally would. progressivley the headache became worse and worse, and began to localise behind my right eye. I assumed it was a migraine, due to the severity of the pain (although i had no history of migraines) so i took some OTC painkillers and attempted to sleep it off. This worked for around 1-2 days but then the pain came back worse than before. Thinking that something may be wrong, i went to stay at my parents place on the other side of town, just in case it got worse and i needed help....

Trying to sleep became a challenge as the pain progressed and constantly woke me (if i could get to sleep that is), and i began to experience a strange kind of time confusion, i would think i was sleeping or sitting, etc, for several hours only to find out it had been only around 15 minutes or so. continuing on the pain killers i kept fighting the pain and waiting for it to pass.

On the fourth or fifth sleepless night i began to vomit what little food i could stomach (i had been feeling naseous) as well as vomiting back up each painkiller i tried to take. my mother came out and saw i was in a pretty poor state, and asked if i wanted to go to the hospital. I promptly decided i should. I got to the emergency department at around 1am, my neck was bone stiff and my head felt like it was going to explode. i was taken quickly to my initial examination as my situation seemed quite serious. 5 minutes after i arrived at the hospital, during a routine blood pressure test, i keeled of my chair and collapsed on to the floor. now i was starting to get worried.

The emergency team rapidly took me to the ENT ward, and i was dosed with morphine to help with the pain, and placed on oxygen.
Because i presented with a severe headache and a stiff neck, the doctors thought i might have meningitis. The test for this involved a lumbar puncture, a rather unpleasant experience where i lay on my side while a needle was pushed into my spinal column to extract spinal fluid for testing. It was'ntthe worst thing i had ever been through, but i would'nt like to do it again any time soon.

The test showed that my body was trying to fight an infection, but they did'nt know what was causing it yet. I was placed on a broad spectrum intravenous antibiotic to begin to (hopefully) kill off whatever was making me sick. I had my first quick ' sleep' in days thanks to the morphine, and was woken by a nurse telling me i was being taken for a CT scan of my brain, and also an xray of my lungs. both procedures went smoothly, after my CT scan i asked the technichian 'does it all look ok?' , he said it looks fine to him but it's up to the doctor to diagnose.

I was feeling pretty groggy from the morphine and next thing i know i'm being wheeled into and isolation room in the intensive care department. 'Wow, what the hell is wrong with me?' i thought. My attending doctor took a sample from deep inside my nose to try and find the source of the infection. while i was waiting for a result he waited just outside my room. I saw the technician from my CT scan approach him with a pile of papers in his hand. They both looked up at me then away quickly. I heard the technician say the words 'brain abcess' ( i didnt even know what it was then but it sounded bad) then he said 'RBH (royal brisbane hospital 400km away) wants him there NOW. I csnt remember what i felt at that point, i was just numb. Then my doctor came in and gave me the news. I had an abcess in my Occipital Lobe. a swelling ball of pus and infection, that could burst at any point and kill me. Or it could continue to swell and cause brain damage, affecting possibly my speech, vision or motor function. I felt physically ill, and i tried not to cry but i could't help it. I heard my mother breaking down as she was told the news just outside the room. My brother and his girlfreind arrived at this point just as the news was being revealed. It was good to have the support of everybody there. I asked my brother if i could borrow his phone so i could talk to my (estranged) wife before i left in case anything happened, but they would let me because it was too stressfull. I had to ask my dad to call her on my behalf. The hospital arranged for an airlift from my town's hospital down to the RBH for immediate emergency surgery.

I had to be taken for an MRI scan quickly before i departed, to give my surgeons a better idea of what they were dealing with during my surgery. It seemed to take hours. then i was taken by ambulance to the airport where my helipcopter was waiting. I love flying in helicopters (or anything really :) so it breifly took my mind off what was happening. around 5 minutes into the flight the morphine finally knocked me out and took my pain away. i woke a few times and saw a huge fleet of boats underneath us on the ocean and a massive electrical storm behind us.i still dont know if it was real or the effects of the morphine combined with the brain abcess. ii fell back into my slumber and woke up again on the helipad at RBH and the last thing i remember was being rushed inside the hospital then just BLACKNESS.

The surgeons removed a small part of the left side of my skull, and drained, flushed, and excised the abcess. it looked like it had all gone smoothly. 4 days later an MRI scan showed that the infection had spread to other parts of my brain.It would be a very high risk procedure to removd and the doctors debated whether to give me a second surgery or use a large dose of antibiotics to hopefully kill off the infection. eventually they decided on the surgery. the existing hole in my skull was extended to remove almost the entire left side of my skull, and the doctors once again flushed my brain of the ravaging infection and gave a large dose of antibiotics. I'm not sure of the exact details, but after that operation i took a turn for the worse, my parents were told to think about arranging a funeral etc. i was literally hanging in thr balance between life and death.

I can't remember most of my 2 weeks in ICU, and the parts i do remember seemed like a dream. i was having wild hallucinations and even had to be restrained to the bed at one point when i believed (and actually 'saw') that i was in bed at my own house and that the doctors and nurses had broken in. I sort of remember screaming at them to 'get the F*** out of my house, and also i was calling my dog. i have vauge reccolections of visits from family members. My hallucinations and dreams continued, but they are not ones i wish to share in such a public way. People who saw me told me i was in alot of pain, and thought i had died. also i recently saw some pictures of my stay in Intensive care, and it was'nt pretty. i had tubes doen my throat, in my nose, in my arms. my head was wrapped up but my skull had'nt been replaced after the surgery, the bone was too infected.

Finally awakening in the Neuro ward ( i had been moved out of ICU) i was still fairly tired, but i was beginning to become aware that i was beginning to recover. As i touched the side the throbbing left side of my head, i was suprised to feel nothing but soft cushy skin and brain fluid in the place of my hard skull. i kind of kept playing with it, which quickly annoyed my nurses and i got in trouble hahaha.
As i was coming to i realised that the entire left side of my body was completley paralysed. my arms and legs felt like they were encased in cement and they felt numb in response to the doctors tests. i broke down for a while at that point, thinking i would be spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair. i wouldnt handle that, and i told my brother i wanted to kill myself.

Over the next few weeks my movement SLOWLY improved and eventually i could move my fingers, then my arms, but my left leg was reluctant to comply. i began working with a physiotherapist who helped me eventually have some movement in my legs and feet. One day i really had to go to the toilet, so i forced myself out of bed, and made myself 'walk' ( shuffle more like' ) to the bathroom. i was so proud of myself at that moment ( it felt strange to be excited that i walked to the bathroom haha) and that was the point i knew that everything was going to get better.

From that point on my situation improved markedly. My mobility improved, though i still needed a wheelchair to travel any sort of cistance outside of my room. I had somd pain fromg eh broken bones in my skull, but this was easily taken care of with painkillers. i slept alot, and enjoyed my family visiting. Having a laugh with my brother and freinds about the stupid rubbish that i had told them when i was full of morphine in ICU. At one point i had claimed 'the germans are training birds to steal urine from catheter bags in hospitals, to turn into some sort of a workout supplement so that they would have an advantage at the london 2012 olympics'.... wow... apparrently i was also convinced that my surgery was performed by steak knife weilding aliens, i don't remember this, which i probably a good thing, haha.

So around 7 weeks after i was admitted i was finally given the OK to be flown back home. in said my goodbyes to the doctors and nurses who had taken such great care of me, and made my way by ambulance to the brisbane airport where i was flown back home by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. after a breif stay in my home town's hospital it felt great to finally set foot back in my home. After spending 6 weeks on portable IV antibiotics, daily in home checkups, and twice weekly blood tests i am now well on the road to recovery. i have regained full mobility and movement and can even run now. I am still on oral antibiotics for around another 4 weeks yet, then i will be heading back to the RBH to have the missing part of my skull replaced with a piece of titanium, awesome! i can't wait :)

This whole experience and my brush with death has really changed my whole way of thinking and who i am as a person. I have applied to study at university, have a greater urge to make a positive impact on my life and the lives of those around me, and i am making sure i stay active and be the best person i can be.It really was an awful experience both for myself as well as my loved ones, but it has taught me who i really am and what i can acheive if i put my mind to it. as terrible as it was, having a brain abcess and nearly dying could be the best thing that ever happened to me.

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7 Responses Jun 21, 2012

I hope u have recovered 100%. Wonderful to hear u r story. I am literally laying on a couch next to my sister in ICU. Almost two weeks hospitalized, 2 surgeries and some signs of coherence...a long way to go. Ur story is encouraging. God bless u!!

This is exactly same story as me god was it awfully bad time just before Xmas too

Happy to note that u survived the brain abscess but my son could not. My younger son who was 24 years did his graduation from Mumbai Univ. and went to UK for a P.G. degree in film studies. After returning from UK in Septl. 2012 he worked for a cinema company in Delhi for 6 months. After that he left the job saying that he wants to do start his own business alongwith his friends and proceeded to Manali in Himachal Pradesh (North India) in April 2013. He was such a brilliant and creative person with no health problems at all.

On 25th Sept. 2013 I got a call from one of his friends that he is very sick and informed me that he was having fever for last 10 days (actually I spoke to him on 23rd Sept. but he didn't mention anything about his fever) and on 25th they found him unconscious in his room and they have taken to a nearest hospital. I flew down to Delhi from Kerala same day evening alongwith my niece and reached Manali (which is 15 hours journey by road from Delhi) next day afternoon and found him in the ICU in coma stage. Doctors advised us to take his immediately to the nearest hospital as they suspected menangitis/Brain TB/Tumor etc. because there was no facility for a CT/MRI scan. Since there is no facility in the hill station to air lift him, we had to take him in an ambulance and took him to a hospital in Chandigarh (which is 8 hours journey from Manali). We reached the hospital in the night at 1.00 a.m. and after a CT scan the technician said there is a big tumor in his brain, however when the Neurologist came, he informed that it's not a tumor may be brain abscess as they can see a leison in the centre of the brain and to know exactly what it is, they need to take an MRI but my son's BP was very low and sodium level very high and he was not in a position to be taken for MRI scan. His brain was filled with fluid which they have taken out by VP shunting .Meantime my husband and elder son who were in Kuwait flew down same night to Chandigarh and other relatives from Kerala also reached by next day. Doctors said anything can happen as he is in a coma stage. After 3 days in the ICU his BP became normal so they took an MRI and it's confirmed brain abscesss and they informed we can shift him to some other superspeciality hospital with better facility so from Chandigarh we shifted him to Gurgaon (near Delhi) which is again 7 hours journey by road.

On 1st Oct. night 1.30 a.m. we reached Gurgaon (Medanta Hospital, which is a super speciality hospital for nerology). He was still unconcious. After many tests doctors informed that his brain is compressed because of the pressure in the brain and the abscess is quite old hence became hard and not easy to take out by operation as the same is in the middle of the brain. After one week he started moving his body and started responding whenever we used to visit him in the ICU (they allowed one person in the morning and one person in the evening for 5 minutes) and call him out he started trying to open his eyes or take a deep breath when I talk to him. Nurses in the ICU said he is conscious inside that's why he is taking the deep breath and he recognise you. It was so pathetic to see my son with a tube from the head (for the VP shuting), tube in the nose, tubes in the mouth and on the neck. After 10-15 days he started showing more improve but still unconscious. Doctors informed that till the puss is not dried up completely he may be unconscious and that may take 1 month, 2 months, 3 months or may be a year can't say. Only with long medication he will become alright. They informed even if he became conscious, there will be permanent damage to his brain, may be his body will be paralysed, or his speech will be affected and he will need long time medication. Since my relatives all couldn't stay for indefinitely in Delhi all of them went back to our native and only my husband & me stayed back. Then some days his temperature will be low sometimes temperature will go up. After some time they removed ventilation & oxygen support and only in the night ventilator support was there. That showed his improvement. After 20 days in Medanta hospital we consulted the doctor whether we can shift him to Kerala where we have support system since all our relatives are there. Doctor gave consent then started a search for a good hospital in Kerala and somebody suggested a hospital which according to them is very good for such treatment.

So on 22nd Oct. we booked an air ambulance accompanied by one doctor & nurse from Medanta hospital we reached Cochin hospital. On the thir day after reaching Cochi hospital when I went to see him in the ICU and called him out he opened his eyes for the first time in one month for a few seconds and by next day he was again out of ventilator and oxygen support and he was breathing on his own. Doctor said they need to take out some spinal fluid from his body to send it for testing to know the exact cause of the abscess so that they can treat for that particular infection and they wanted our consent. We gave the consent. Next day doctor informed that now his condition is improved. Meantime the test result came but from that they couldn't find out anything and they said they sent the sample for TB culture (though TB was ruled out from the very beginning and the test report in this hospital also showed negative) . On 25th Oct. they made him sit on a chair and when I went to see him in the morning he was sitting in a chair with a support from the nurse and my child was sitting on the chair and shaking his legs (I read in the net later on that shaking of body like is not a good sign but that time I thought he has improved and on the way to recovery hence I felt very happy). On 26th they said his condition is improved now so they are shifting him from ICU to HDU (Highly Dependency Unit) and allowed me to sit with him. Immediately after shifting to the HDU he started breathing heavily and the nurses gave some injection but still his body started shaking as if like fits. The duty doctor informed that it seems he is going to get fits but I informed during this one month he never got fits. I spent the whole night looking at my son breathing ubnormally but the nurses didn't give much importance to it I feel. They said he is ok. By next day morning doctor informed us that they are shifting him back to the ICU and he said they suspect he got vein blocks and the clotting may occur in his lungs also which is called pulmonary embolism and pulmonologist is doing the necessary treatment for that . But when I went to visit him in the ICU the nurse informed from the x-ray report there is no vein blockage. On 28th morning the doctor informed us that his condition is very bad his BP is down for that they have started giving medicine and afternoon they asked us to arrange for blood, which they informed that since his blood platellet count is down, fresh blood is being administered. In the afternoon the doctor informed us that he had a severe cardiac arrest and his heart beat almost stopped but they could resurrect him and now he is under sedation and if get the cardiac arrest again it will be fatal. On 29th early morning at 3.15 again he got a cardiac arrest and my son, fighting for life for 34 days lost the battle and left us forever

I still can't believe that he is no more with us. I don't know if there was any lapse from the hospital in which he breathed his last. After he has gone, I searched the net all over and understand from some sites that it's dangerous to take out the cerebral spinal fluid for testing from a patient who is in such condition due to brain abscess. Also making him sit on the chair when he was unconscious was not a good idea and he was shaking his legs since he had no balancing on his organs.

22 days when he was at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon doctors confirmed that only his brain is affected and all his other vital organs are perfectly alright that is one good sign. I keep wondering, how then he got the pulmonary embolism when was showing improvement signs. The day he opened his eyes he lifted both his hands and caught hold of mine. When I used to ***** him on his leg or body he used to respond which showed that none of his body part was paralysed. That same day evening the nurses informed my husband (who went to see him in the ICU as was the normal practice) he opened his eyes were many times in between. My relatives try to console me saying that some people who are serious, just before their death they will show some improvement in their condition. Was it so? I DON'T KNOW. Only thing I know is that my dear son, full of life, left us without fulfilling his many dreams ! May be in his next birth he will have long life. I hope so. Rest of my life I will live with his sweet memories. Though it's more than 2 months since he left I just couldn't come out of this tragedy in my life which will be there till my death. Now we have one son and I have to live for him !!

So very sorry to hear this.

Enjoy life cuz it is short! urvived a brain abscess back in 2002. It has been ten years and three months since very similar experiences. I have to thank the wife who was at my side at the time for noticing the facial seizure... I dont miss the times that put us through. Well I can tell you that very few people will 'understand' the new normals this puts a person through. But eventually I could do everything that I could before

<p>My Husband has recently had a brain abscess in June 2012, he underwent 2 surgeries very much like you did , he is still recieving Iv therapy twice a day along with oral antibiotics but he has now got another abscess and is having another operation on Dec 4th ,Im glad to be able to read your story as Brain abscess isnt very common ,</p>

My brother had a similar experience on the onset and it now has been almost 3 weeks since the abscess was drained in the back part of his brain. However, he's not waking up. He was more alert right after surgery but now has gone back into a more unresponsive state. They say that the abcess/infection is still there so this may be why he's still not waking up fully. Your story gives me hope that he can fight through this and find his way back to us. He was in ICU for 3 weeks and has now been moved to a rehabilitation hospital where I pray they can help him.<br />
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I hope you continue to heal and appreciate that you shared your story.

I hope your Brother soon starts to recover , its a very scary time for everyone , my thoughts are with you . we live in England and the doctors at Hope Hospital are fantastic .

someone important to me is now in that situation. i almost loose my faith in GOD. i really bad..i just really hoped God will hear our prayers! make him heal LORD GOD! im begging!