Here & there: Has a ‘carnivorous’ hemangioma incited a grand mal seizure in our country?

Composite stock image | Cavernous hemangioma photo by Patho82 via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

FEATURE — My favorite (and only) brother almost died last year. He was 37.

The cause: a cavernous hemangioma. It’s as scary as it sounds. So scary, in fact, that I first heard it as “carnivorous,” and it stuck in my brain that way.

Technically speaking, a cavernous hemangioma is a clustered malformation of dilated blood vessels that forms a benign tumor. In my brother’s case, the tumor was quietly stowing away in the frontal lobe of his brain.

Which is fine until it wasn’t – fine until it sprung a leak, and the pressure in his brain sent his body into a grand mal seizure so intense he stopped breathing for several minutes. A seizure so ferocious the paramedics had to stabilize his arm with the broken handle of my mother’s broom before they could start an IV.

Had he not been a last-minute guest at my parent’s house and my mother a light sleeper, the seizure would have killed him.

As it was, the leaky stowaway still landed him in the ICU for three days, body and mind battered from the inside out. And it demanded subsequent brain surgery, once his brain had recovered enough from the original trauma, to remove it.

Let me repeat that last part: brain surgery. My dad likes to joke that the only small surgery is the one that happens to someone else. But of all the surgical procedures done on all of the parts of the body, brain surgery is never in this category.

The cavernous hemangioma was in such a spot in my brother’s brain that it even required a special type of brain surgery – one performed while the patient is in an MRI machine. This is to ensure complete precision, or in plainer terms, prevent massive brain damage.

Eighteen months later, a puckered 10-inch scar on the crown of his head in the shape of horseshoe, and my brother is just now feeling like he’s recovered. His head is clear. His stamina is back. And the ghost of the near-death experience lingers now from a greater distance.

There are a hundred platitudes about 37 being too young to die. They’re all true – for my brother, and for everyone else.

I’m still a little hysterical about the whole event; replaying the “what ifs” and worrying about the “what nexts.” I can hardly listen to “The Weight,” the song my brother plucked out on his acoustic guitar as he sat around the cheery breakfast table in my parent’s house the Sunday before his impending surgery, without melting into mucus and tears.

My brother is more philosophical about it. He likens the experience to a needle threading — with him being the thread that had to make the near impossible pass.

Through that process he says he was able to let go of things he didn’t realize were bogging him down — mindsets, attitudes and experiences — and misinforming his future. He could only carry forward the most essential things…or die.

That imagery clings to me. I wonder if it it’s universally true.

Especially over the last several months as our national story has been consumed with divisive Supreme Court nomination hearings, sexual misconduct allegations, immigration battles, tariff wars, nuclear proliferation, aggressive geopolitics, mid-term elections and hurricanes.

We are all incensed. We are all hunkered down in our positions. And we are all right.

Poet Nayyirah Waheed wrote “If we must both be right. We will lose each other.”

I wonder if this, now, is our national grand mal seizure. Our cavernous hemangioma. Our needle threading. And I wonder what we will look like when we come out of it.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • chris keele October 14, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Well Kat Dayton i think we are all ” threading the needle ” one way or the other, sorry to hear of the loss of your brother at his young age, that makes it all the more difficult I am sure, we have all lost those close to us and continue on to try and do the best we can just like we were before the loss, if we can focus on taking care of the important things in our lives, and not let the media and those who would try and distract us from our ability to concentrate, and accomplish their narrative, we will prevail sooner or later. Maybe we are in better shape than we think, there are a lot of amazing people in this Country from all sides.

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