Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Boston Brain-Surgery-in'

I've been to Boston once before, with mostly the same people, but for a very different reason. One of the major differences of the overall trip was that I was able to drink (legally), something that became increasingly integral as both the trip approached, happened, and went.

My brother moved to Boston I want to say about a year ago because that is the only time-frame, as a mother, I'm capable of discerning. Last December, he came down with the flu, complete with a fever and headache, but ibuprofen wasn't helping them go away. His live-in girlfriend made the executive decision to haul him to the doctor to get checked out, a decision I've always used as a threat to get people in my house to eat their dinners. As the Physician's Assistant was checking him out, she was instantly sparked by noticing that one of his pupils was more dilated than the other. Into a CT Scan he went and soon a brain tumor taking up residence in his brain was discovered. For how long, they didn't know. From whence it came, they can only guess.

He told me this story a few days later, after further tests revealed it benign, and I asked, "Did you just shit your pants?!"
Ashley: "I did!"
Aaron: "I just thought it was a joke! I looked at the doctor, I looked at her (Ashley), then back at the doctor and waited for someone to crack and say, 'Just kidding!' But then the doctor said, 'Ok, here are your options...'" That's when I was like, 'Oh fuck...'"

The first opinion was to wait a couple of years, with a few doses of steroids, see what happens, then schedule surgery depending on what happened the previous 730 days. Then a friend of Aaron's knew a neurosurgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital who is from Syria and considered an expert in this particular field of tumor-ology and was able to get him an appointment. This second opinion was to get the tumor out right away. Why wait? What will it do? Why find out? And so surgery was scheduled about a week before his 35th birthday.

My parents - understandably - wanted us to be together so I left Jacob in charge of the house for four days while I blended in with the scenery as The Sister.

The trip started off in a blur, having to be picked up at 4:30am for a 6:30am flight. Of course, delays ensued because no matter how many people pump so much money into the airline industry, they still can't get their fucking planes to work properly. I did, however, get a free beer because the bank wouldn't authorize my in-flight card-swipe for fear it was stolen and the airline conveniently doesn't accept cash (in case you were wondering, Delta). We arrived in Boston at about 4pm (scheduled arrival was 2:30pm), just in time for a night-before-brain-surgery get-together.

Dad, Mom, Ashley, Noelle, Aaron (the friend who got Aaron the second-opinion appointment), Aaron, and myself at Cambridge Common.

Even though we had way too much Summer Punch - beer, some kind of liquor, lemonade-type-stuff, you can tell I drank a few - we were up at 4:30am the next morning to be with my brother as he checked in at 5:30am. All of us - minus him - with giant, way too bitter, way too hot east coast coffee.

Aaron's entourage - mom, dad, Ashley, and I - stayed with him during as much of the pre-op as we could. When it came time for his pre-surgery ultimate sanitation, we made camp in the Family Services room, a fancy name for where families go to...wait. We hung around long enough to know Aaron's surgery had started, then went back to the hotel to catch a few zzz's before the scheduled end to his surgery nine hours later.

I managed to fall asleep sometime during the 12th hour of the Today Show and was woken at about 2:30pm with news that the surgery was over (about four hours ahead of schedule), the tumor was exactly what they thought it was, and that we could see him in a couple of hours.

Post-op doing remarkably well. He was awake shortly after surgery and was an information-hound. He wanted to know how it went, what happened, what they said about one such thing. He was a questions-whore. We learned he was so hyper due to anti-seizure medication he was given but meds or not, I thought it was pretty amazing his first thought was to know everything that happened to him.

For the next couple of days, with Aaron camped out in the ICU and only two people per visit allowed, I caught up on rest and allowed myself some sight-seeing.

 Our hotel was right around the corner - and appropriately named The Constitution Inn - so the USS Constitution Museum with a guided tour of the ship was first on my list.

 Complete with original wood (wish we could all say that, eh, ladies?)

 The first deck, walls lined with (still used) guns.

 The extremely stable (sarcasm) stairs leading from deck to deck.

Goin' down....

 Where the same meal 3-times a day, 7-days a week, 365 days of however many years you were at sea were made.

 The sleeping quarters.

 The guns lining the top deck.

 According to my Godfather - with whom I toured the ship - each man would put a piece of wood in each of the square holes and turn in order to raise the anchor.

 My Godfather, Mark, and I.

 The view of Boston from the USS Constitution. 

 I always wondered how they got the boat on shore to maintenance it.

 A miniature replica of the ship to display what it looks like with all of the sails out. The actual ship didn't have the sails out because it wasn't being taken out this year.
The story behind her nickname.

Upstairs from the USS Constitution Museum was the museum of life of a sailor. This is an employee and visitor demonstrating how the crew gathered the sails. I tried it. I'd be dead before we left the dock.

Later that day, Mom, Dad, Mark, Uncle Ken, and I took a water taxi to Faneuil Hall where Mom and I did touristy shopping while we waited to board what I had wanted to do the last time we were in Boston but was denied - The Boston Duck Tour.

Lunch - and more importantly, White Sangria - before getting more of our site-seeing on.

Boarding the duck!

Uncle Ken, Mark, and Dad all aboard The Boston Duck Tour!

Our duck - an actual WWII vehicle - entering the water.

Our tour, led by none other than Ali Oop.

Just sittin' up there like he owns the place.

A piece of the Berlin Wall.

 Paul Revere Park, were we got to drive by a bunch of dogs playing with each other. Is this an episode of Full House?

 The first State House.

 Living in Montana the last few years definitely left the giant buildings feeling daunting.

 At the corner of Congress and State.

The new State House.

There is a never-ending list of things to see in Boston but I was pleased with what we were able to experience. It helped to know that my brother was recovering well and everyone was pleased with his progress. 

I last saw him the night before I flew home and he looked extraordinarily normal; eating grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup like he ate raw pop tarts and cereal when we were kids, only with a very weird haircut (instead of shaving his whole head, they shaved only about two inches back from his hairline). But I guess the rat-tail he just had to have when he was 13 was pretty weird as well.

Aaron was released to go home the afternoon I experienced yet more flight delays trying to get back to Montana (thanks again, Delta Dicks). He was home for only a short time before he experienced swelling, bruising, and intense pain that didn't go away with medication or laying down. Back to the ER he went and a hemorrhage taking up residence in his brain was found. He was immediately prepped for surgery, the second excavation into his brain in a matter of days.

Luckily, that went well, and he was kept in the hospital for much longer to make sure it wouldn't happen again.

He finally went home and is recovering nicely. And bonus: now he gets to scare small children.