Survivor Story: Karen Quirk

April 14, 2000, was a beautiful, warm and sunny day. Tomorrow was to be a bridal shower, for our youngest daughter, Kara. Family and friends were coming; some enroute already, from as far away as Pennsylvania. Final preparations were wrapping up. I was out inspecting some vacant land for a potential development, and planned to come home in the early afternoon. Karen, that morning, was chatting on the telephone, with her dear friend Jane. Doesn’t get any better than that!

All of a sudden, Karen’s end of the conversation ceased, and our family’s life changed dramatically.

Jane’s first impression was that they had been cut off; but wait, she could still hear a radio, in the background? She hustled over, found Karen unconscious on the floor, and took immediate action. A speedy ambulance ride to South Shore Hospital, resulted in a quick diagnosis of the severity of her condition, and the need to move her to a Boston hospital. By the time I was contacted by cellphone, and had arrived at the hospital shortly thereafter, there were no decisions to be made by me, as the medical helicopter was touching down, momentarily. Miracle # 1! Arriving family members began to realize the revised nature of their visit!

After a quick trip by air for Karen, and a wild car trip to Boston for me, our family began our enduring relationship with MGH. Karen was diagnosed with a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage from a ruptured Aneurysm, and immediate surgical intervention was required. An emergency room, although well organized, is still very confusing to patients and their families alike. However, MGH assigned us an advocate, Linda Kane, who “took great care” of us. After various preliminary tests, we met Dr. Eskandar. He explained to us what we faced, and it was indeed, a shock! 50%-50%, life-death; and for those, in the surviving 50%; one third would recover fully, one third would have a substantial impairment, and the other third, would be institutionalized for life! At that point, we contacted a relative in Chicago, who is a neurosurgeon, to see whom he would recommend. His answer was Dr. Ogilvy. Before anything could be done, however, Dr. Eskandar reported that the senior surgeon, would be Dr. Ogilvy. Miracle # 2!

After an extended surgery, which ended in the very early morning, we moved into the Blake 12, Intensive Care Unit. Here over the next few weeks, medical professionals like Cathy Hill, an ICU nurse, various interventional radiologists, Dr. Ogilvy, and other neurosurgeons like Dr.Butler, and so many others, responded to her every medical emergency. Dede Buckley, nurse practitioner, entered the picture, and guided, counseled, and encouraged, all of us through so many problems; right up to this very day! She introduced us to “real” survivors, fully recovered; anecdotal tales are fine, but living proof, is far more effective. She also introduced us to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, and after experiencing the informational material and programs provided, I have been a regular participant, ever since. Miracle # 3!

Throughout this period, everyday life goes on. Close friends and family, get sick, and some die, grandchildren are born, and daughters marry. Karen missed all of this!

Some additional statistical “thumb rules” came to our attention. Wherever you are, at the two year mark, is probably as good as it will get! Murphy’s Law has been in force in Karen’s recuperation, from day 1! Whatever could go wrong, invariably did! Hydrocephalus was a continuing issue, requiring multiple shunt replacements, and revisions, each with surgery. The final installed version can be externally adjusted, should the need arise, with magnets. Because of the complications Karen experienced, the normal chronology, just didn’t apply! Karen’s continued recovery progress, is overseen by Doctors Ogilvy, and McDonald, and thank God, their task gets easier by the day!

We have just passed the second anniversary, after 250 days of hospitalization. The multiple brain invasions, by Doctors Ogilvy, Butler, Eskandar, and others, as well as the ongoing neurological care of Dr. McDonald, and wonderful nursing care, by Cathy Hill and Dede Buckley, have made her recovery a possibility. Also, after intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy, on May 26, 2002, Karen completed the First Annual, Arterial Challenge, the Brain Aneurysm Foundation’s, 1.5 mile Road Walk in Marshfield, in under sixty minutes! Miracle # 4!

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