Photo: Maria WW

My new birthday!

This is Mary’s patient story, where she was interviewed in November 2020 by Dimitris Kombogiorgas, neurosurgeon at Hygeia Hospital in Athens, Greece. Mary lives in Athens, Greece.

March 2019, Kypseli in Athens

I got up early in the morning to drink a glass of water and without realising it I fell. Everyone asked how… and I didn’t know how it happened! Did I stumble? Did I slip, get dizzy? The medical record shows its clear language: 1 break on the kneecap, 1.5 months with a plaster rail, absolute inability to self-care, constant questions why I have fallen so often.

Tuesday 11 February 2020, Hygeia Hospital in Athens: I just got back to the room after the surgery. My mind felt sharp and I only recovered from the anesthesia. My children smile above my head, "Is everything all right, Mom?" This is Day 1! The old life ended and the new one began. "Mom, don't worry about the hair that was shaved off before the surgery. - "I don't care about that, my daughter, because now I can go to the hairdresser myself." My ID says my date of birth is May 29. My smile says I was born again on February 11th which is my new birthday! I'm as old as I feel again! All love from me to you!

In recent years, a depression had taken over my mind and my emotions, chronic back pain bothered me and pills, many pills, to get a better mood, to calm me, to sleep, for osteoporosis, to the thyroid gland, etc. I had difficulty walking, frequent instability, felt depressed and it was all due to depression, or we thought (or more honestly everyone around me believed) it. After the rail was removed, this instability and difficulty walking worsened. We thought it was because of the fracture and/or immobility.

Until the planned visit to the psychiatrist, my daughter came and suggested that I do a CAT scan for dementia. But why dementia? I don’t forget things. At least no more than most people my age. And yet I did the head scan. At the end of December I met a neurologist and he asked me to go, sit, stand up and turn around. Oops! What if I’m demented? What happens if I have cancer or stroke? Why can’t I go? And why doesn’t the gum drop under the shoe? But there was no gum under the shoe. At the end of January, I saw a neurosurgeon. He asked me three questions and I said,

1) “When you walk, it’s like your foot is stuck on the floor?” – “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel.”

2) “Do you have mild incontinence?” -” Yes, but what does that have to do with anything? “

3) “If you walked unhindered, what would you rather do?” -“Swim in the sea.”

“Well, prepare sunscreen and swimwear, because this summer you will swim in the sea, he said.” I won’t forget his smile that I got then!

I was diagnosed with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. However, be curious why it was called Normal because it is a disease. (Red. comment. Pressure in the brain is normal.) I was very worried about the upcoming operation.

Ten days later, head scan again and a first hospital check-up. A form of puncture in the lower back was made. A study to confirm the diagnosis but also with how likely the result of the operation is. Objective, physically completely painless procedure! However, mentally painful! I was awake throughout the examination and the doctor kept coming to me and calming me down! On a computer, he constantly monitored measurements and print charts. “Everything is perfect” he tells me. Let’s move on to a successful operation,” says the doctor! Why is he smiling? I don’t want an operation, I’m very scared. But they don’t give me much room to insist. My doctor continues and smiles at me “and what happens to the dream of swimming in the sea by the summer?”

Tuesday 20/11/2020 my second hospitalization. They’re preparing me for the operation.

Thursday 13/2/2020 I leave the hospital walking, not in a wheelchair. I have a bandage on my head. I can’t feel the hose or the valve that’s implanted. Just wondering when my hair’s going to grow back. Let’s celebrate the day with some sweets!

A month later, new X-ray and visit to the neurosurgeon for re-examination. We then had a coffee and I realize I’m out drinking coffee with my son, it’s cold, but I don’t care.

July 2020, South Evia. The sea is a bit cold but it feels good!

August 2020. Having a cold beer with snacks at a tavern with friends!

October 2020. A month in the village in Arcadia. I can go light a candle in the church. I can go shopping for dinner to be cooked.

Today, November 2020. I was going to change the curtains, but the new closure of the city due to Covid-19 changed my plans to visit IKEA. However, it does not matter because, we have to be careful!

I’m going to the neurosurgeon for the last checkup of the year. The neurologist did a test the day before yesterday – a memory movement perception reflex test and I passed 30/30! My psychiatrist removed most of the medications: “You’re no longer depressed, you just need a few more interests in your everyday life.”

Now I’m going to decorate the house for Christmas and plan the menu for the Christmas table. This year I will do everything myself as I have done before!

My ID says my date of birth is May 29. My smile says I was born again on February 11th which is now my new birthday!

With great gratitude to Mr. Kombogiorgas, a neurosurgeon at Hygeia Hospital

Mary K and I am now as old as I feel!

More information

If you are looking for more information, guidance or support, please visit the Swedish Association normal pressure hydrocephalus for Patients and Relatives , its American counterpart Hydrocephalus Association, The Swedish Neuroregistry or your nearest health centre .