May 27th, 2010: Sesi Ackland

It is quite an anniversary for me, one year ago today I was at the Neurologic and Orthopedic Hospital of Chicago for a long day of pre-op testing. I was preparing for a Posterior-fossa Decompression, the removal of a piece of skull and the first vertebra to relieve pressure on my brain. Pressure caused by a Chiari Malformation. Simply put, my skull was too small for my brain causing the base of the brain to descend into the spinal canal pressing on the spinal cord.

I had many painful neurological symptoms throughout my life but things became worse in 2008-09. Eventually I quit my job and my contact with the outside world ended. I had been in Second Life™ for two years but my time inworld increased out of loneliness. I spent most of my days with my best friend, Toxic Menges. We did things I was not able to do in RL, danced, shopped tirelessly and produced a wild music video. I laughed, a lot. I forgot the pain.

Oddly enough, Toxic was visiting us in RL when the testing that led to this event began and shortly after her return home, I had a diagnosis and date for brain surgery. Both of my worlds came to a screeching halt. I floated through both lives keeping people all around me at arm’s length.

My real life would never be the same but I had no idea my SL would be effected so greatly. Not much matters when you’re facing something as serious as brain surgery and a virtual world was the least of my worries. Sadly, so were as the people in it. When RL is out of control it’s very easy to forget the connections and friendships in SL are real, they are important.

Recovery was difficult and I was unable to be fully present in either life until early fall. My return to SL was not as easy as I expected, I couldn’t reconnect with anyone. I was and still am confused. I’m still struggling a year later. A lot of isolation, time, patience and understanding has been necessary. I’ve changed, as has my avatar. While very different, my lives carry on.

____________________

Sesi Ackland is 38, she lives in Chicago with her RL and SL husband, Winston Ackland. Sesi is adjusting to a new way of living as a proud Zipperhead, a nickname given to Chiarians because the incision on the back of the head looks just like a zipper. She loves to cook and watch Winston’s belly grow as a result. Sesi has become involved in promoting Chiari awareness, support and research as Chiari is a rare and often misdiagnosed disorder as many doctors have never heard of it. In SL, Sesi was an important member in many aspects of SL music for nearly two years. Winston and Sesi both “retired” from the SL music scene in April to build houses for their newest venture, Little Boxes.

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