Donna Atchison

Donna Atchison.jpgI was elected President of the Baytown Junior Forum 2011/2012 - the highest point of my life. I actively volunteered in the community at the women’s shelter, pink heals, local library, goodfellows, special rodeo and played volleyball with special needs kids. Life rocked! I had attained all goals I wanted.

November 12, 2011, I collapsed. Looking back, I had been having seizures but had no idea what was happening. On November 10, I was confused and forgot how to do a tax form I had been doing for years in my work as an Accountant. That I found odd. I called the doctor, he examined me and asked me to return the following Tuesday. I had headaches but attributed it to stress. The confusion was new and a little scary, and my doctor seemed concerned, too. I did not make it to that appointment. The following Tuesday I was in for the first of two brain surgeries.

Some parts of this experience are clear, some are vague. I hope by sharing my story, others will be more aware of brain tumor symptoms. Back to November 12, 2011… I planned to watch my husband race. A sport I enjoyed watching. I had another one of my headaches and nothing helped. I was going to call it a night and stay home, but my father-in-law was going so I tagged along. We had a stacker trailer with living quarters. I fell asleep. Yes with race car engines all around me. It came time for my husband to race. My father-in-law came for me to go watch. I remember him asking me questions about Junior Forum. I was unable to answer. That seemed very strange; I was very familiar with Junior Forum. I was President this year for crying out loud! More confusion. My right side felt like it fell asleep. We sat in the bleachers. I collapsed. They called my husband over. I did not recognize him. They asked my name. I did not know. I did not know my age. I was getting annoyed with all the EMT questions. I was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. They did a cat scan and told my husband it did not look good. The image showed a golf ball sized lesion. I remember my father-in-law by my side. I did not know who he was but felt a strong comfort in him. I was then taken by ambulance to Methodist/Medical Center. I only remember a few things. The nurse apologized; she had to shave my head for the first surgery (to see how vascular my tumor was). Two days later I had a frontal temporal total resection. Type II aggressive Meningioma. Rare so not a lot of information when I Googled months later.

My family was with me. Post craniotomy things were immediately different. I remember someone at my feet saying there may be a problem. I think he was scratching the bottom of my foot, but I could not feel it. I was weak on the right side of my body. I could not stand any noise. I had no sense of taste. I could not open the left side of my mouth. My short term memory and speech were affected.

My doctor, the wonderful Dr. Zhang, informed me I had a ‘TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY’. The golf ball tumor in my skull had caused swelling of my brain. It sounded like I was in for some recovery time. I had a walker. I could not bathe myself. I could not make it to the shower. I could not lift my arms. My mom and sister are both nurses and were my warriors. I was bathed, fed, and encouraged to work my way to normal. I got a gold star for walking without a walker, dressing myself, and finally, bathing myself.

Life is different now. My Junior Forum sisters were a great support. One stepped in and led our ladies. I tell myself how it felt so good when I could give, so I graciously accepted the dinners and the caregivers. I can only do a little volunteering now.

I am on wait and watch. I have graduated to annual MRI’s. I have a new lesion in my pituitary, but I am not worried. God got me through an extraordinary experience. There must be some work left here for me to do.