May 25, 2022
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By Jessica Pautz

Leaving Catawba for the summer of 2018, I was excited, liberated and ready live up the break that was very…well…needed. Unfortunately, God had other plans for me. Within the second night of my summer vacation, I woke up terrified in the wee hours of the morning. Mind you, I’m a late riser, so I already knew something was wrong. I felt numb throughout the left side of my body and had a slight headache that I didn’t think much about. I got up from my bed and stumbled downstairs to my dad. Immediately, he knew something was wrong because he was shocked to see me up so early. After about a good hour of arguing about going to the hospital, I caved and let my parents take me.  


As a 20 year old, one would believe I know what’s wrong with my body and that I would never fake such a thing. Well, the doctors at the first hospital thought otherwise. Instead of kicking me out immediately, they decided to do a CT scan. After those results came back, I’ve never seen nurses and doctors change their attitudes so quickly. They discovered that I had a five-centimeter mass, pushing my brain forward on the right side of my skull, encompassing my main sagittal sinus vein. I was so doped up on nausea medicine that I didn’t have time to comprehend what the doctors were even saying. All I remember was asking my mom if I was going to die and her replying “no, baby” while holding back her sobs.


After that diagnosis, I moved from one hospital to the next. The first doctor told me I would have to shave half my head and that I would be operated on immediately. While, the next doctor told me I would only have to shave a sliver of my hair and that we would operate a week later. For the remaining days, I stayed in the hospital consuming lots of pudding, seeing visitors and hearing from people that I haven’t seen since middle school. It’s amazing to see how many people care about you, even if you hadn’t talked to them in years.


Throughout this whole process, I realized how much of an impact it had on my family. My parents were extremely worried and wished it was them instead of me. My sister held her own until the day of my operation and so did I. I only had two mental breakdowns through all of this and that was when my surgeon was explaining every little detail of my surgery and the night before. I remember hugging my sister goodbye the night before my operation and whispering “I don’t want to do this” and broke down in her arms. Then she did the same the next day, as she saw me roll off into the operating room.


As I slowly faded out into another world, I remember waking up and thinking a bowling ball hit my head. My sister took charge and started to feed me pudding, but I knew I needed something with more substance. So, after about an hour of my mother raising hell to the Panera Bread people in the CMC hospital, I finally got a non-burnt grilled cheese that I devoured in very small bites.


The next morning my surgeon came in and told me he wanted me up, walking and on my phone. He didn’t want me to stay in the hospital for more than another day. I was absolutely terrified. I just had brain surgery and you want me up and walking and going out into the real world? How about no. I need at least a week. Well, unfortunately but gratefully, I didn’t have a choice. I had my surgery on a Monday and was discharged by that Wednesday.


Being under house arrest was a challenge. However, during my month of not being able to do much of anything, I realized a lot of things. You can’t take life for granted. Do whatever makes you happy even if it involves taking risks. If you like someone more than a friend, tell them. If you are scared to do something, take the risk anyways. Even if you don’t believe in any higher power, just know that God does have a plan for you. There’s a reason why you are here on this earth, so make it known. One day you could wake up and find out you have a brain tumor and your life could immediately flash before your eyes.


Have no regrets. Live your life to the fullest. Do what makes YOU happy.


Thank you for listening to my story.


Jessica Pautz