Crystal Gail Welcome is a strong and intelligent woman who has battled through serious brain disease which almost pushed her to the brink of suicide. Since she received a Medtronic neuromodulation device to combat the illness Gail is finding strength in recovery and challenges herself to do more. The Collegian’s Sabrina Jamil sat down with Welcome to hear her story and progress.
Crystal Gail Welcome Just turned 35 years old. She is engaged to her partner of five years, Sarah Stephens. They have two dogs and a cat. She love all things written, except when written in hate. She love the outdoors, hiking, running and geocaching. She said if you haven’t played you should.
SJ: What do you want people to know about Medtronic neuro-modulator?
CGW: I have a Medtronic neuro-modulator which is an advanced neurological implant device used to enhance or suppress activity of the nervous system for the treatment of chronic pain.
In 2009, I was diagnosis with the rare brain disease pseudotumor cerebri (now known as Intracranial Hypertension). After 14 surgeries (eight of which have been brain surgeries) I went into remission, however, I still had chronic headaches. My neurosurgeon suggested that I participate in a trial to see if the neuro-modulator would work. It has
SJ: What are the challenges you face with the device you are using? ?
CGW: “I want other people to know that the advances in medical technology is vast and like life the possibilities are endless. My neuro-modulator has changed my life 180 degrees, I am a healthier me.
SJ: How has Medtronic neuro-modulator changed your life? Are there any benefits?
CGW: My greatest struggle with the device physically is sometimes the batteries in my chest (under either side of my clavicle) ache and it’s a little painful to raise my arms or pull open a door. It usually passes within a few minutes but during that period of time it’s a bit painful.
Another struggle I have is people not understanding my device and giving me unsolicited medical advice based on illogical thinking. I also struggle a lot with my parents. I earned my Masters degree just before being diagnosed with IH in 2008, I am in the first in my family to accomplish that. However, I have had so many surgeries back to back that I was unable to work for many years. And although now I am healthy, it’s difficult to explain the uncertainties of returning to work full-time.
In the past when I have attempted to return to the work force, I required surgery and was disappointed to lose out on a great opportunity. Before my neuro-modulator surgery I was having constant brain surgeries to fix various shunts (a different implant). I wanted to live a normal live, I wanted to be active and return to work. But the negative effects of the shunt were too great.
CGW: I spent many days in bed unable to do anything. During that period of time I was thankful to have my service dog, Karma. She was the only thing that I got out of bed for. I was in a dark depression because I was in pain and alone.
The pain was intolerable and I felt my only option was suicide. Thankfully, my attempt failed. In order to qualify as neuro-modulator recipient I had to work with and be cleared by a psychiatrist, which turned out to be beneficial for me. I told my psychiatrist and neurosurgeon that I wanted to become a runner. One month after receiving my neuro-modulator implant I ran my first 5K since high school, six months post-op I ran my very first half marathon. Having no control over my illness made me feel powerless, running however, allows me to be in control. I control how long I run for, how fast or slow I run. It’s great to be in control. One year after my neuro-modulator implant surgery I was selected to be a member of the 2015 Medtronic Global Heroes. An honor that only 25 people throughout the world can claim. I ran the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Miler on October 2015. Fun times, which you have to mention because it’s a freaking huge honor.
Being a Global Hero has helped me to understand the beauty of my struggles and let me know that there is life after diagnosis…and I can accomplish anything that I set my mind out to do.
In fact on April 4 I will set out on a journey to become the first neurological implant recipient to thru-hike (completing all at once) the 2,660 mile Pacific Crest Trail. I will spend five months solo hiking in the wilderness to prove to myself and the world that the possibilities in life are endless.
SJ: What advice would give someone who may need the Medtronic neuro-modulator or is fighting through pseudotumor cerebri?
CGW: My advice to anyone is you find what you are looking for, if you are looking to be healthy you will be healthy. If I can run after being told I would never be possible, I can hike 2,660 miles because anything is possible. My motto in life is, “I can, I must and I will”. I try to keep that in mind with everything that I do.
SJ: Where can students find you online?
CGW: Website: www.welcomewriter.com this is my writing site. As I’m sure you know there is a great power in words and I use written work to express myself and to share more of myself with others. blog: https://awesomewelcome.wordpress.com was first established as a hiking blog, but has evolved into some sort of insight into whatever I think is important to share in that moment blog. I am a writer for an official hiking blog, which I am finding I share whatever there too…but I am to connect all of those thoughts to hiking. You can find my hiking blog at http://appalachiantrials.com/author/crystal-gail-welcome/. I have a IH youtube vlog at Youtube.com/c/CrystalGailWelcome , in the beginning the videos were about the struggles of IH and in my opinion were depressing. Since the neuro-modulator and becoming more active my vlogs are more on the positive, you can do it side of things.” I am now a Georgia Certified Peer Specialist and I help other people who have experienced similar life experiences as me. It’s fun, I like helping people. Currently, I volunteer with NAMI (national alliance of mental illness) and for other people with IH I offer a on-line support chat once a week athptcsupport.com