Orlando, Florida early November 1993 and fighting a common cold, or so everyone thought. Battled symptoms for what appeared to be a common head cold, however, as it grew closer to Thanksgiving and symptoms were getting worse such as diarrhea muscle aches and fatigue, doctors are now assuming a severe case of the flu. It’s now approaching Christmas 1993 and I am in major pain with the most uncomfortable pressure in my head that travels all the way down through the neck and into the lower back, and now can’t even eat or drink without vomiting whatever I consume back up. New Year’s Day 1994 getting ready to head out to the Citrus Bowl game with my Dad because my brother sent us each tickets to see the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Tennessee Volunteers for a Christmas present, and I open the door and take a step when everything goes completely black.
I finally wake up to darkness, however, can see people moving around and I can hear them talking. The first words out of my mouth is where am I, and where’s the car because we have a football game to experience, and I was bound and determined not to miss this game. I was told that I was in the ORMC (Orlando Regional Medical Center) emergency room and the game had been over for hours. Now that’s a hell of a way to find out the score to the ball game; at least the Nittany Lions defeated the Volunteers 31 – 13. While I was worried about the game,the doctors were concerned about why I kept saying it was dark, when the lights were burning bright. The doctors started to focus on the painful pressure in my head and ordered immediate x-rays, an MRI, and a CT scan. The result of these tests were still unknown as to why, but what was happening is major fluid build up from my spinal column causing the pressure and pain. Doctors started by trying to relieve the pressure by spinal taps, and they eventually diagnosed pseudo-tumor cerebri for the medical issue causing all of my symptoms. The pressure in my head the entire time was doing significant damage to my optic nerves, and by the end of January, the spinal taps were no longer working as the fluid cushioning my brain is no longer draining properly. From February 1994 to June 1994, I went through seven surgeries three optic nerve sheath decompressions, one on the left eye, and two on the right. When those three failed the doctors opted to try a lower lumbar shunt which also failed fairly quickly. The last three surgeries were on my head with the first two failing and the third working to this day 26 years later. As a result I have a ventriculoperitoneal (VP shunt) which ultimately saved my life, however, left me totally blind.
This only scratches the surface, and you might ask why I am writing this now? I guess the answer is that I really don’t know an answer to that question, other than I have quite a number of friends over the years, especially people I went to school with that don’t know the story, so I was compelled to tell it now. I probably could write a book about all of the surgeries and my emotions throughout that six or seven months in 1994 but why bother as I have been living a rewarding life because of all of my family and friends.
I am going to close this by saying, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry. I don’t want any sympathy nor even empathy. I just want you to be a friend!
I love you Papa John you are an amazing man with the biggest heart and do so well since your medical event. You are so smart and this was very well written we love and miss you..take care , Lisa and Pete