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Brandon P, Mission Viejo CA, Arachnoid Cyst Patient Testimonial
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Brandon P, Mission Viejo CA, Arachnoid Cyst Patient Testimonial

 Arachnoid Cyst: Success Stories

Branden P., Mission Viejo, CA
Earlier in the year, I saw Dr. Shahinian for my first follow-up visit since my surgery. When he stepped into the room, he opened his arms up to give me a hug but I moved out of the way to avoid it. All the doctors that had been overseeing my care after my surgery had told my father I had suffered a stroke during my surgery. And, before Dr. Shahinian told us that wasn't the case, we didn't know any better.

After my surgery but well before my follow-up visit with Dr. Shahinian, when my father had told the doctors overseeing my care that Dr. Shahinian said I would make a full recovery, they all shook their heads in disagreement. At the time, I still hadn't gotten my memory back. I couldn't remember anything. One of the doctors out in Mission Viejo told my father then that "expecting a full recovery might be a bit... overly optimistic." Several other doctors responded with similar statements, one of them saying to my father, "Your son, Branden... he'll have a quality of life."Well, those doctors were wrong, and Dr. Shahinian was right. I did make a full recovery.

And I'm very grateful for everything he has done. For the last 8 years before my surgery, I had been unable to have dreams. And for the last several years before my surgery, I could take several sleeping pills, lay in bed for 12 hours, and only get 3 hours of sleep. I never ever felt rested or energized. In addition to the crippling sleep deprivation, I had other problems. I'd get unpredictable, uncontrollable, and intense muscle fasciculations on my body anywhere at random. I'd get ringing in my ears that would never go away, strange short visual disturbances in eyes, and other symptoms that are too difficult to describe. I had several ER visits and many visits with many different doctors, including many with a neurologist, who, after a while, told me what I had was psychosomatic and that I should consult with a mental health professional and that maybe I was suffering from stress and/or hypochondria.

After a while, it started to become too much to handle. None of my doctors believed there was anything wrong with me, but yet, my symptoms persisted and continued to get worse. And I'm lying in bed each night, sleepless and awake from the insomnia and muscle fasciculations, trying to figure out what to do.

One night in 2010, the relentless insomnia and muscle spasms and ear ringing and pain and everything else was just too much for me. I had to get out of my apartment and clear my mind. So I went for a drive. I took surface streets all the way until I hit the beach, and then I just headed north on Pacific Coast Highway. Except for getting gas, I drove non-stop on PCH for over 500 miles. By then, the night was over, it was morning, and I was in San Francisco. I got out of my car and started walking along the Golden Gate Bridge. It was no coincidence that I drove there. I had a reason for driving there; the same reason quite a few people (more people there than anywhere else in the world) have come to that bridge for but it isn't heavily talked about. I was there to jump off it and take my own life. I walked all the way across the entire span of the bridge and then half way back before stopping in the middle against the railing and thinking for a while, trying to work things out in my mind.

My thoughts were this: I don't want jump. I just want to feel better. I couldn't figure out how or believe what I had was just something mental or psychosomatic, even though that was the conclusion of 10 doctors now. My last thoughts were, did I try everything? I had already seen general practitioners, neurologists, neuro-ophthalmoloists, psychiatrists, the emergency room, etc., to no avail. I thought, could there be anything else I haven't tried yet that has a possibility of fixing all this? That was when I thought of an email I received in 2008 from a girl named Brittany George. I came across her by Googling 'pineal gland cyst' when I noticed that cyst listed on one of my MRI reports. Even though that MRI report said that cyst was benign, I dug through over 20 pages of Google results trying to find if that could be related to any of the symptoms I had. I finally came across a message posted by her on some message board saying she had open skull surgery for that cyst at NYU with Dr. Patrick Kelly. I sent her a message through that website letting her know I have the same cyst she had, and mine was even larger, and if she could provide me with some more information. She emailed me back, and even called me, and made it clear to let me know that her cyst wasn't benign. Although she didn't have all the symptoms I did, there were enough things in common to make me think I might be on to something in regards to figuring out what's wrong with me. It was just reassuring to know that surgery for these cysts can be done. And that was what I reflected on when I was on the bridge. So I thought to myself, I haven't tried everything yet. There's one more thing I have yet to try. So I decided not to jump that day. I said to myself then, I'll spend the next year looking into this cyst and see if that's what's causing all my problems and see if I can get it fixed. And then, one year later, if I'm still having all these problems, I'll feel fully justified in jumping. That was the wager I made with myself. I took a few pictures of me while I was there and headed back home.

Later in the year, I did consult with Skull Base Institute. I did get a recommendation for surgery, and Dr. Shahinian performed my surgery. The first memories I was able to hold on to after surgery were at Mission Hospital, and only a few short ones at that. I just remember seeing a whiteboard in front of my hospital bed in my room, and written on the top of it in red capital letters was the word stroke. Another memory I had was hearing a colleague from work, and the last one sounded like my primary doctor telling me everything is going to be alright. My next memories were at this house in Los Angeles where I was transferred to from Mission Hospital. I don't remember how I got there, and at first, I still thought I was dreaming. The first memory I held on to after my surgery where I finally realized this wasn't a dream was me telling a counselor at the clinic there, "I realize this isn't a dream." Her response that snapped me out of it was when she said, "You told me that yesterday."

For the next couple weeks, my memory got better and better. And when the world around me became more stable, and less dreamlike, I realize I actually did have surgery. I realized those memories of being at Mission Hospital being treated as a stroke victim weren't a dream and that I really was at some sort of special house. My thoughts at the time were that I just can't ever win with this and that I just traded one problem for another and that I'll be stuck with this stroke for the rest of my life. Since everything just seemed so hopeless at that time, I got my phone to go and Google the easiest methods of suicide. I was determined as hell to just get it all over with. But with my phone in my hand, I came across that photo I took with it in San Francisco and I remembered that promise I made to myself to try everything I can and come back after one year if I wanted to put an end to it all. That picture, and hearing my primary doctor telling me that "everything is going to be alright" made me decide to put a hold on doing anything, at least until that one year mark I promised myself which was still a few months out.

That was the smartest promise I ever made myself. Because I would find out afterwards, after my follow-up visit with Dr. Shahinian, that I would make a full and complete recovery and that I didn't have a stroke at all, and that the tech performing the MRI misinterpreted the reading because he wasn't informed in detail about the surgery I had and what was done.

So here I am. I feel great. I'm fully recovered. I have the life I thought I would never have again. And all the problems I had before, some going as far back as 10 years ago, are finally gone.

So, one year later after being on that bridge in San Francisco, I decided to jump anyways, albeit in a different place and a different manner.

This is me skydiving on the one year anniversary of my surgery.

So, please let Dr. Shahinian know that I am very thankful and very grateful for everything he has done. And if he ever runs across anyone else who has what I had and would like him or her to talk to someone who has had the surgery, feel free to give them my phone number. I'll go out and talk to anyone who has what I had or even just offer to get the word out about my surgery so other people who have what I had can come across it and know there is a man out there who can fix it.


Branden P.
Mission Viejo, CA

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