Throw Back Thursday: It’s All In Your Head……

20 years ago this past summer I walked down the aisle. Not at my wedding, at my sister’s. And the most remarkable thing is that I looked like myself from a month earlier.

Why was that remarkable? Well, I had just had brain surgery 3 weeks prior. And I was one of my sister’s maid’s of honor.

This was the first wedding I went to where I was actually in the wedding party. And I knew I needed to look great. I even practiced walking down the aisle in our front yard.

But there was a problem.

See, a month or two before I had been suddenly hearing a clicking noise when I turned my head. Specifically, the left side of my head where my shunt was placed when I was a newborn. (A shunt is a tube that runs from my head to my stomach to drain excess fluid off my brain.)

Also on that same side, I was curiously able to run my finger up and down my shunt at my neck and I could feel a gap. A literal canyon where my shunt dropped off and then picked back up an inch down from where it stopped.

Even though I was able to feel and hear these changes, when I’d tell my parents that something was wrong, they didn’t believe me. Which made sense because when I was in school, I was a bit hypochondriac-y, and I didn’t have the classic symptoms of shunt malfunction such as headaches, double vision and morning sickness.

No joke, when your shunt isn’t draining properly, and you suddenly get up from a lying down position, it can for some reason make you throw up.

Yeah, fun times.

So I know all about the symptoms of a shunt malfunction because when I was in kindergarten, I had a full replacement after a malfunction. Here is what I looked like on the day I was discharged.

Shunt Revision Kindergarten

Now as you can see, a quarter of my head had to be shaved for this revision. Fast forward 11 years later and as I’m hearing that clicking noise on my shunt side every time I turned my head, knowing that I had to be in a wedding in 3 weeks, I kinda started to panic. I began to imagine myself walking down the aisle with a bald spot covering a quarter of my head.

Of course looking back on this, I could figure out now how to rock that look, but high school Laura was a bit more self-conscious. Most days. Other days I fearlessly rocked weird fashion that I look back on now and cringe. Case in point: I once wore a large jacket with sunflowers on it to school. Now that doesn’t sound so bad, but the jacket was made out of upholstery cloth and had large brass buttons down the front.

I resembled a couch from the thighs up (of course it was oversized. Duh! 😀 ).

But darn it, I did it was confidence.

So I was worried about how my head would look for my sister’s wedding. And that fear was intensified when I was sitting in the doctor’s office looking at the x-ray of my head a few days later.

Yep. I was right. There was a clear gap between both sections of my shunt where the break occurred. I remember laughing because it was so obvious and ridiculous. Here’s the craziest thing; my shunt had been in there SO long that when the break occurred, it was encased in ANOTHER tube of tissue that had formed around it. So it was still draining properly, but eventually, it would stop working altogether. We were told I’d need surgery in the next few days.

In the meantime, we began wondering what to do with the shaved head I was definitely going to be sporting at my sister’s wedding. We began to look into different types of hats and scarves that were fancy enough for a wedding. People started donating hats and I actually got one that would have probably worked well for a wedding.

My surgery went well and I was able to go home a few days later. The best and most unexpected part? I was able to keep ALL but about a quarter-inch of my hair on the bottom (I had a short pixie cut back then).

Three weeks later I walked down the aisle in a long lavender dress, a bouquet of fresh garden flowers rubber banded in my hand and around my arm crutch handle.

So I guess the moral of the story is two-fold: 

  1. When your kid says there is a clicking sound in their head and they say their shunt is broken, believe them so that their head and hair has time to recover before a major fancy pants event.
  2. Even if you have brain surgery right before your sister’s wedding and you look different then you thought you would on the big day, don’t stress. Weddings are about family, togetherness and of course food. 

    *Besides, that dress you’re wearing will be out of style in 20 years anyway. 😉

    *I have to say that is normally the case. However, I lucked out when my other sister chose a timeless tea length strappy dress that my mom imitated when she made it for me in purple. 

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