A Marine’s Strength and Will To Live

by James McKinney

In his own words… It was August 18, 1995, and I was a 25-year old Corporal in the United States Marine Corps stationed in Washington D.C. I was a mellophone bugler in the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps when I collapsed during a Friday night performance. Marines “crashing” in the summer heat was not uncommon, but the fact that I did not try to get up or even move was an indication that something else was wrong. Twenty minutes later I went into convulsions. I was rushed to George Washington University Hospital where the Emergency Room staff assumed that I was on drugs. I had become combative and being a Friday night, they immediately thought I had overdosed on PCP. After constant urgings from my fellow Marines and the negative drug test results the doctors received, I was put into an MRI machine where they discovered a ruptured aneurysm in the anterior communicating artery on the left side of my brain. I was rushed into surgery whereupon it was discovered that I had a condition called Malignant Hyperthermia that caused an extreme negative reaction to the anesthesia. Fortunately, in a night of fortunes, the reaction occurred towards the end of the surgery and the doctors were able to successfully repair the ruptured aneurysm.

I woke two days later having no idea what had just happened to me. After numerous days of questions followed up with more questions, it finally dawned on me as to what happened. I was in the hospital for eleven days. They finally released me when I started picking the staples out of my head. The headaches that were to come were excruciating, the weight fluctuations were difficult to control, and the constant exhaustion was frustrating.

I am now a six-year survivor. I am extremely lucky in the fact that I have had no adverse effects from the rupture. The biggest challenge I face is living in fear every day. I know the chances of having another aneurysm are close to zero, but every headache and twinge awakens the paranoia. I have learned to deal with it, living life as best I can. I know this may sound petty compared to the challenges that most survivors face, but I am glad I found a forum to share. Good luck to you all!

©2002 Permission Granted to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation For Use On Website and Other Print Materials