Survivor Stories

Julie

I suffered from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm on March 3, 2006, one month before my wedding date and the day of my father’s viewing. He passed away after two weeks in a coma caused by a cerebral aneurysm.

After surgery and a few weeks in the ICU, I was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital on March 16th. I was released from the Rehab hospital on April 6th to learn how to compensate for my disabilities on my own. I continued exercises as prescribed by my Physical, Occupational and Speech therapists and have added water aerobics three times a week.

During this period, my fiancée decided that he no longer wished to get married. I was dealing with a great deal of loss; loss of my father, loss of some physical abilities, loss of my job and loss of my independence and freedom. As if that wasn’t enough, loss of my home, fiancée and future step-sons were added.

In summary:

I was in a coma and paralyzed on my left side. Today, I am walking without my cane and with only a minor limp (when tired). I weaned myself off all pain meds (oxycodone/oxycotin) and have been off the seizure med (dilantin) since July 2006.

I read a lot about brain injuries to try to understand my illness more. Specifically, I tried to get an understanding of how a brain injury affects emotions. I found it difficult to control my emotions and suffered from mood swings on occasion. Also, I’ve learned how loneliness affects brain injury patients even when they are surrounded by family and friends.

Originally, I had no left or right peripheral vision and a void in my visual field straight ahead. The doctors were not optimistic that my vision would recover, which would ultimately determine whether or not I could return to work. With the help from my amazing employer and a co-worker, I returned to part-time work in November 2006. After 9 months, I decided to return to work full-time despite my inability to drive.

It just goes to show you that when you are surrounded by supportive friends and family, you can do anything you set your mind to. In October 2007, I took the visual field test again and showed marked improvement in my vision. According to the results, I met MVA’s visual field requirement to drive. Some say it’s a miracle!

Today, I’m working full-time, driving and own my own home.

Christine’s Story

My name is Cristine and I am a 39 year old married mother of two. I guess I should begin when I first discovered I had a brain aneurysm, the day it burst. I was at work on a Friday night, November 15th 2007. I left work at my normal time and went directly to the house of my friend who had my 9 year old. I thought about just beeping the horn and having her come on out so we could just get home, because I was tired. Thank God I didn’t because I truly believe I could have killed us both had this happened while I was driving. I went into the house to pick her up and was having a conversation with the husband and wife when suddenly I drew a blank about what I was in the middle of saying, I got extremely dizzy and then I passed out. This happened within less than 5 minutes of my arrival. I have very vague and brief memories of being on their kitchen floor, of being in an ambulance and of being in the ER. The aneurysm burst at that second. I had no prior symptoms; no headaches or black outs. There was nothing to perhaps give me a sign of what may be coming.

My husband got there in time to follow the ambulance to the hospital. He thought all along it was heart related, as heart disease runs in my family. He never suspected a burst aneurysm. I was in and out of consciousness in the ER. I was throwing up a lot. I can remember the doctor saying it was an aneurysm. I can remember this doctor saying I would be having a 5 hour surgery and that 50% do not survive an aneurysm. I heard it, but I just didn’t care. I’m not sure why, but I was just in a state of acceptance that whatever was going to happen, would happen. I worried more about my husband and my children and how was he going to make it through a 5 hour surgery; I can’t imagine how hard that would be waiting on the outcome of someone you love. And my children, how could they take anymore because just 4 short months prior to this, our house had caught on fire and we lost everything. They had all been through so much.

Under normal circumstances, I would have had to been sedated if I had been told I was going to have a 5 hour BRAIN surgery! I remember nothing of prepping for surgery or the surgery itself. I remember waking up and having my head bandaged and feeling very woosey. People were coming to see me. I felt like I was talking ok and doing ok but I wasn’t sure.

But here is the thing. I came out of this fine. I almost threw in the words “so far”, but I didn’t because I want to be positive in my thinking that I will remain fine. I feel like a miracle. I feel like I must have had a guardian angel looking after me that night that it didn’t happen while I was driving and would have had no help. It happened in a place where I could get help fast. I have since read and been told by my neurologist that 50% die upon the aneurysm bursting. And of those that survive, another 50% die during surgery or suffer from stroke, memory loss, etc. I didn’t need any physical therapy. I had all my memory intact. My speech, my motor skills, all just as they were before the aneurysm. I sometimes wonder why I was spared and it’s hard when I start thinking about it and how horribly different this all could have turned out. I am trying to live thankful each day of my life that I AM still here!

I was mentally fine in the hospital and just so happy to still be alive! Once I got home, though, I did go through a bit of depression. For one thing I did get online once I was able to get up and walk and sit for any period. And what I read on the Internet was depressing. The facts of aneurysms are quite depressing. I cried a lot then. I read a lot of stories that were so depressing and sad and heartbreaking for the people who had to write them. I started waiting around for another one to burst and take me. The doctor had said once you have one then you are more susceptible to have another one in your lifetime. It was a bad point in my life.

I did manage to come out of that point though. I had to quit reading all the sad stories and deadly statistics. And I had to quit living each day waiting to die. It’s still hard and there are still days I have to fight it. Not a day goes by I don’t feel my head and feel the scar and get scared. I think about aneurysms every day of my life.
But not all outcomes are so horrible. My husband encouraged me to come on here to write my story. He said someone else like me may be out there looking for some words of encouragement and my story may help them. It has only been 4 months since it happened. It seems like so long ago that even as I type this I’m shocked at how recently it did happen. I am continuing to try to live my life without the fear that this brings and trying to stay positive that I will continue to live a long and full life and to see my children grown with children of their own.

Thank you to all who took the time to read this.

Kay’s Story

In July of 1998 I had the “worst” headache of my life. It was probably one of a handful of headaches that I had ever had. I suffered for a couple of weeks until my mother finally convinced me to go see a Dr. I didn’t have insurance, so I hesitated.

As soon as I reached the Dr.’s office, they sent me by ambulance to a hospital in a larger city about an hour away. The family doctor just told my family that he thought it was pretty bad, but didn’t say exactly what he thought “it” was.

When I reached the hospital in the larger city, the doctors there worked hard to find out why I had hydrocephalus. I think I had a number of surgeries to relieve the pressure and place a shunt before some smart cookie thought to look in a different, an unusual place for a bleed. Sure enough, that was the location of the leak. They coiled the aneurysm.

The surgeries themselves caused me to have a stroke. I had to learn to walk, talk, and even to swallow all over again. Looking at my weight now, one would never guess that I ever had a problem with eating. I can’t stop now.

I am just so grateful that I am still around and that I got to see my daughter, who was ten at the time, grow into a really great person. I still go for annual visits to the neurosurgeon who gives me the thumbs up for another year each time. I can’t believe that it has almost been ten years.