In just a few weeks Ryan will be without roughly ⅓ of his skull. I waited to tell you about this until after the Memorial Day holiday we celebrate in the United States, but have known about this happening for weeks. I worried about it for much, much longer.
It’s not the first time. He was in this delicate situation once before. Ryan lived this way for eight months. It all began the morning after the brutal attack. To keep him from dying, one-third of his left skull plate was removed to allow his brain room to swell. It was disconcerting to see my son in this state where his head was unnaturally sunken in. Worse than that was the realization that his brain was only a layer of skin and a membrane away… essentially, there was little protection.
Eventually this was closed — in the summer or 2010 — in a procedure known as a cranioplasty. To do this, a large incision was made in his scalp to allow it to flap open. Then a sheet of titanium mesh was place over the opening in his skull and screwed to the bone. It was all sutured closed and we thought that would be the last of it.
Turns out, we were wrong.
About a year ago I noticed a small indentation in his scalp near the left temple. It slowly began to sink further and further, until one day I could see the metal (titanium mesh) beginning to punch through his scalp. I called in the proper doctors and had CT scans to monitor it and we all hoped it would stabilize. Otherwise complicated surgeries were the only solution.
Instead it kept getting worse. The skin breakdown is slowly expanding and deepening with each passing month. The titanium mesh is clearly visible now. The area around it is sunken at least an inch — almost certainly more — as far as I can tell, anyhow. Surgery is unavoidable.
Did you know that this will be Ryan’s 4th and 5th surgeries this year… all tied in some way to the brain injury he suffered at the hands (and feet) of Jonathan May and Austin Vantrease?
In mid-June Ryan will begin the process. Although, effective today I am imposing “reverse quarantine” which means Ryan’s environment (i.e., our home) will be even more closely monitored and controlled of invasive germs until after this is entirely behind him… roughly 60 days.
The first surgery will open his scalp, unscrew and remove the titanium mesh, and close it back up. Ryan will then be absent any structural protection and his head will be sunken for one month. This is necessary to lower the chance of infection (or clear an infection if one develops) and to give time for his scalp to stretch for the follow-up surgery. I hate the thought of seeing my son like this again! Even worse, I hate that this puts him at such peril. One bump to that unprotected area and the outcome could be deadly. To minimize this danger, the only protection is for him to wear a helmet.
Once he gets a month out from that he will go in for the last surgery (hopefully his last). This one will again make an incision along (but just inside) the original scarred area. A new plate will be placed and secured… this one of a polymer material instead of titanium. Finally, the scalp will be stretched and sutured back into place.
I’m telling you, it hurts like unholy hell to see my son in that condition. I never got use to it back then and I won’t when it happens again.
It will tear me apart.
Ah, brain injury! It touches every part of the body. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a person. It’s so relentless.
So in your face.