I was on a safari in Africa in November 2006. One night, sitting around the campfire, I suddenly got the worst headache, the worst pain of my life. It was crushing, writhing pain. It started with a sound in my ears, then the kind of dizziness where the earth seemed to be tilted sideways, then the pain. Crushing.
After awhile, my pain subsided. The next morning, my head slightly ached, my neck felt stiff. The safari doctor thought I had an inner ear infection and prescribed anti- inflammatory pills. I continued with the safari for the next week. I had no idea how precarious my situation was. I flew in small airplanes to the next camp and went in safari vehicles over bumpy roads.
A week later, after travelling 20 hours I arrived home and saw my primary care doctor. He immediately sent me to the hospital where an MRA revealed I had two aneurysms. The next day, I had two aneurysms treated with coiling embolization. During the 12 hour procedure, I had a small stroke.
I don’t know why I survived. I was in the hospital for a week, out of work for about 3 months. I needed physical therapy to regain my balance. My concentration was bad; I had trouble reading, trouble in situations where there was a lot of commotion. Every time I sneezed or coughed in those first few months, I panicked that my coils would slip.
A year later, I had to have another coil embolization to stabilize my aneurysms.
It’s now been three and a half years. Most people who meet me don’t realize what I have been through. I have to remind people that I still struggle with multi-tasking, with a lot of noise, and with needing time to just decompress.
Because I am so aware of what I almost lost, because I am so aware that I have so much to be grateful for, and because I can, I trained to run a marathon last October.
I ran 26.2 miles! I did it. I had never run more than a 10K before. I trained for 18 weeks. While I ran that day, around mile 16, my eyes filled with tears. Not because I hit “the wall” as marathoners say, but because I was doing it, I could do it!
I’ve met many people through The Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Each one with their own unique story. Of survival, of appreciation for what we still have, of loss and triumph, of gratitude and grief. We all share an appreciation for being, for having survived, for loving who we have become through this experience.