As those first hours in the hospital wore on the reality began to sink in a bit more deeply that I actually had a serious problem with my brain. In the next days I would undergo an EEG, a Cerebral Angiogram, and an MRI. The Cerebral Angiogram was actually pretty fascinating. The technicians inserted a wire into my femural artery in the groin area and ran it all the way into my brain. With a neurosurgeon present they then anesthetized part of my brain to determine what functions were near the AVM.
This peach-sized mass is located in the left frontal lobe of my brain where normally much of the fine motor skills originate, including speech.
What they were hoping was that since this mass, in all likelihood, had been there since even before my birth, that my brain would have re-wired itself and switched the speech to the right side of the brain. With me fully awake through the entire procedure I had to do things like count down from 100 by ones. This little exercise showed that my speech center was still located largely on the left frontal lobe, very near the AVM. Some of the speech had switched to the other side but not much.
The neurosurgeon explained to me that this is precisely the reason that I have been a confused left-handed person all my life. I kick left footed, bat right handed (poorly), throw with my left arm, golf right handed, can only use right handed scissors, write left handed…very poorly and not like normal left-handed people with the wrist curled into a dorky contortion. Not much solace in knowing this, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Hours later the neurourgeon came into the hospital room and gave me the bad news. He told me that I was a walking time bomb and that this was a very serious matter. He also said that he would not even consider operating or performing any kind of procedure in Des Moines. Supposedly only about 250,000 people in the entire country know they have an AVM. To add insult to injury he informed me that this was the largest one he had ever seen. I am a competitive person by nature, but even I don’t like to always be first place.
As we began to research more we found out what a blessing it was to have found out about this AVM through a seizure rather than a cerebral hemorrhage or a stroke which is how the majority of folks find out they have this oddity within.