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Old 12-18-2002, 04:56 AM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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One Year Since My Mom's Brain Aneurysm (Long But Happy)

I've only posted a little about this on the board. I'd like to tell (any brave soul who is willing to read this lengthy thread) the whole story. Today is the one year anniversary of my Mom having a (then unknown) brain aneurysm that ruptured. I wish I had been a registered poster then (I was still a lurker) I could have used your good vibes/positive thoughts/prayers. What better topic to create my first thread about.
Here goes:

About 9:00 pm on December 17th, 2001 (Monday) I called my Mom to tell her I was back in town from a weekend trip. It was also one of my brothers' birthday. Mom & I chatted for about 30 minutes and she said she was going to bed; she was tired and had a slight headache. This wasn't anything out of the ordinary - she was working full time (on her feet all day) and raising 3 sons by herself, of course she'd be tired. I told her goodnight, thinking we'd talk again in a few days.

At about 3:30 am (Tuesday the 18th) my phone rings. It's my Aunt (Mom's Sister) whom I hadn't talked to in about 7 years. She said: "Beth honey, I need you to wake up, it's Aunt J." I asked her if everything was all right and she said: "No, everything is not all right." I was wide awake at this point. She told me that she thought my Mom had had a stroke. She was currently at the hospital in my tiny hometown. They knew she needed more help than they could provide her so they were sending her by Life Flight (helicopter) to Toledo - the next largest city. Holy shit. I could not believe this was happening. My Mom was 45, she had a 15, 13 & 11 year old still at home, this is not how The Universe was supposed to be unfolding.

I was kind of in shock. I called my (then) SO and told him. We cried together on the phone as I tried to figure out just what I was going to do. Then I called my Dad & Step Mom. They had a strained relationship with my Mom but were very supportive to me while on the phone with them. Also they wired me $250 that same day to help me get home.

For some weird reason I got up, showered & went in to work. I was in a daze and I guess my normal morning routine seemed like the thing to do. I went in to work and told my boss and co-workers what was going on. I stayed all day though I didn't get much work done. I was on the phone several times with my Aunt. The "stroke" turned out to be a brain aneurysm that had ruptured. Brain Aneurysm? I knew almost nothing about them, except that a brain aneurysm is what took the life of a friend of mine, back when I was in high school. It turns out that the ruptured aneurysm was leaking blood; if it was allowed to continue it would kill my Mom. Surgery was the only option and a grim one at that. The rupture was near the brain stem, a delicate area.

I had to get home - I couldn't let my Mom go through brain surgery alone (even if she might not know I was there). It was 2 days before payday and I was flat broke. The $250 that my Step Mom wired was so that I could drive home. By this point though, I was stressed out, worried and tired. I didn't think it was safe to drive 15 hours by myself in December (snow & ice) while being so frazzled. What to do? Both of my credit cards were maxed out and same for the former SO. I called my best friend in the world and told her everything. She bought me a last minute plane ticket home. I will always think of this as the kindest thing that anyone has ever done for me.

Wednesday, 19 December I flew home. I left at 6:00am and got in to Toledo at 10:30 am. My Aunt & 15 y.o. brother picked me up. We went straight to the hospital where my Mom was. She was heavily drugged but seemed happy to see me. The doctor in Toledo told me that her aneurysm was in such a precarious location that they (Toledo) couldn't operate on it. They didn't feel skilled enough. The doctor knew another doctor whom he thought was capable of doing the surgery but Mom would have to be transferred to yet a third hospital. First they told us Detroit, then they said Cleveland, finally they settled on Cincinnati. The University Hospital would be where her surgery would take place. They flew her again by helicopter to Cincinnati. My Aunt & I made the 5 hour drive.

On Thursday the 20th the surgery was performed. They told us to expect 6-8 hours. Mom was out in 4 hours. We got to see her a few hours later. I wouldn't have recognized her had they not pointed her out. Her face was swollen like a boxer at the end of a match. One eye was black and shut. She woke up briefly and told us we were her two favorite people () and that she loved us. I told her the same. The next two weeks were critical. The doctors worried about spasms and her high blood pressure. There were some times that looked quite grim but my Mom pulled through.

She was released from the hospital on January 2nd, 2002 and stayed home from work until April. She has worked her way back to almost full time and is taking great care of my 3 little brothers. She has no complications - her short term memory is a bit spotty at times but overall, she is doing wonderfully. She's a new person now: she gave up smoking (1 year!) and is optimistic & happy. She used to be a worrier - pessimistic & negative. Now she's thankful and boisterous.

I've learned a lot in the past 365 days. I don't take life for granted; I know what matters and what doesn't. I'm trying to be a better person & use my life wisely. I also have an emergency fund (in case I ever need to buy a ticket in a hurry again). And I call my Mom several times a week now (a lot more frequently than before). So, that's the story (I know it's long but believe me, I left a lot out). If you read it in its entirety, I thank you & applaud your determination. I wanted to write something to observe the day and share this with a few hundred of my closest friends. The SDMB is a community and I am quite honored to be part of it.

This Christmas is much brighter for my family & I than it was last year. To the Dopers who are having a rough time right now, my heart goes out to you. I know how you are feeling - hang in there.

I'll never be able to thank the following people enough:

Dr. Zuccarrello who performed the surgery (and in general seems like a really great person) &
The Nurses of the University Hospital (Neurological ICU) who took superb care of my not-always-cooperative Mother (and kept me informed of her status daily).

And God - whatever you may be, I believe you were watching over this as does my Mother & her Surgeon.
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  #2  
Old 12-18-2002, 07:33 AM
roadrunner70 roadrunner70 is offline
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What a perfect time for a story like this. It's a great reminder to appreciate those around us. Bless you BB. The courage and strength you've had to muster over the past year is quite impressive. I'm sure your Mother is quite proud too. I'm so glad to hear she's doing so well, and I hope she continues to progress. She's a very lucky lady.
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  #3  
Old 12-18-2002, 07:41 AM
Skerri Skerri is offline
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Slainte, I am so glad you get to celebrate this day!

It's amazing how sometimes it takes a tragic incident for us to realize how special life is. Thank goodness your story has a happy ending.
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  #4  
Old 12-18-2002, 07:50 AM
Legomancer Legomancer is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Did she have that platinum coil procedure? My dad had an aneurysm about 7-8 years ago and had that procedure done. He's fit as a fiddle now, and was even able to take care of my mom through most of her run with Alzheimers.
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  #5  
Old 12-18-2002, 08:09 AM
Biba Biba is offline
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I won't hijack your wonderful story with my tales, but I just wanted to say thank you for reminding me how precious my family and friends are to me.
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  #6  
Old 12-18-2002, 09:23 AM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2002
superbee, thanks dear. You are truly one of my favorite Dopers, I look forward to meeting you & Kat IRL someday. I'm glad you got to read this, I know you "get it".

Skerri, you are one of the first Dopers I met IRL, I'm glad you're one of the ChuckDopers Thanks. I look forward to another night at AC's.

Legomancer, she had the "clip". I guess there's clip & coil. She says coiling can sometimes have a lot of follow-up involved. Does your Dad have to go in for check ups every 6 months or so? I'm glad to hear he's doing so well.
Also, I'm not sure if your Dad is a Net kind of guy or not but my Mom highly recommends these sites:

www.tbiguide.com (Traumatic Brain Injury which has a lot of easy to understand info)

and

http://bafound.org/board/?topic=topic1
(which is a message board for aneurysm survivors & family members)

Biba, thank you for reading it & getting the message I was afraid no one would read it due to its length.

Best Wishes to you all for the Holidays. Hug your friends & family a little extra.
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  #7  
Old 12-18-2002, 09:27 AM
Legomancer Legomancer is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Slainte
Legomancer, she had the "clip". I guess there's clip & coil. She says coiling can sometimes have a lot of follow-up involved. Does your Dad have to go in for check ups every 6 months or so? I'm glad to hear he's doing so well.
Also, I'm not sure if your Dad is a Net kind of guy or not but my Mom highly recommends these sites
He may have had some follow-up originally, but these days he doesn't go to the doctor any more than usual. We joke about it, actually. He was telling me that he went in for some kind of scan (for an unrelated minor problem) and said he could see the coil on the scan and it looked huge. I said, "That's pure platinum, right? Make sure we get that back eventually, that's worth a wad of cash!" Sounds tasteless, but it's the way we joke.
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  #8  
Old 12-18-2002, 01:53 PM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Legomancer, you have to see the humor in Life otherwise you'll be miserable.

My Mom has a letter from her Doctor in case she ever flies. Just try to get through the airport metal detector with a metal clip or coil in your head!
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  #9  
Old 12-18-2002, 02:30 PM
Honey Honey is offline
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Slainte, was your Aunt with your Mom when this happened? If your Mom was sleeping, how did she know there was anything wrong?

I ask because, 22 years ago my Father went to lie down, saying he had a bad headache. When it was time to wake him for dinner, he was dead. He was only 42 years old. I've always wondered if there was anything we could have done.

Please forgive me for telling my own story in this wonderful thread about your Mom. I'm so happy your story had a happy ending.
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  #10  
Old 12-18-2002, 02:55 PM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Honey, I'm sorry to hear of your Father's passing. (Don't feel bad about telling me - I'm glad you shared it). And thanks for your kind words. 42 is terribly young but really there wasn't much you could have done. His aneurysm probably ruptured after he went to lie down. Please don't blame yourself or feel like you could have / should have done more.

My Mom's bedroom is downstairs & my brothers are upstairs. On the night that my Mom's aneurysm burst (after midnight sometime) my Middle brother had come downstairs to sleep on the couch because he had an upset stomach (the bathroom is downstairs and I think he just wanted to be close to Mom). Anyway, my Mom said the noise of the aneurysm rupturing woke her. She said she could actually hear a popping noise. She said she awoke with the worst headache of her life (she said a migraine is a walk in the park compared to this). She yelled out for my brother (she heard him come downstairs earlier). He came in the room and she told him to call her sister because "something's really wrong". She tried to stand up and fell to the floor. She said she couldn't make her legs move; that she could only move "the way a fish moves its tail". My brother called my Aunt who lived about 3 minutes away. My Mom passed out & my Aunt had to do CRP because my Mom was turning blue/purple. The EMS was called & they took her to the hospital.

As far as I can tell several miracles had to have taken place that night for everything to work out the way it did. Had my brother not been downstairs or my Aunt not have moved back to Ohio just 4 months before, my Mom probably would not be here today. It still amazes me when I think about it.

Thank you for telling me about your Dad.
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  #11  
Old 12-18-2002, 03:06 PM
Honey Honey is offline
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Thank you Slainte. Happy, healthy holidays to you and your family.
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  #12  
Old 12-18-2002, 03:18 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is online now
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Your mother is very lucky. Glad to hear everything worked out well.

In the past ten years, one co-worker (37), and the wife of another (early 40s) both died in their sleep from aneurysms. The wife of another person (40ish) in a neighboring department woke up realizing "something was wrong," and survived a ruptured aneurysm.

I guess the point, there, is that in all those cases, there was no advance warning. Good to know that in your mom's case, they were able to take care of it.
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  #13  
Old 12-18-2002, 03:34 PM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Thanks, Mjollnir. My Mom realizes how very fortunate she was/is. She is a much different person now - happier & taking nothing for granted.

I never knew before this happened how frequent (and deadly) aneurysms were. You're right, there really is not any advanced warning. You can get a scan or MRI done if you have a family history (or if you just want to check, I suppose) but otherwise you wouldn't know. Sometimes aneurysms form later in life and in some cases they are present at birth. There isn't much rhyme or reason. 55% of the time they happen to women, no one is sure why that percentage is higher. Also, even if an un-ruptured aneurysm is detected on a scan or MRI, they aren't always operable. If they are internal to the brain instead of external (like my Mom's) there is nothing that can be done. There is a lot of mixed information as to whether they are hereditary or not. Most experts say no but there are a lot of cases of parents & children or several siblings having them. For the time being I have decided not to have a scan or MRI. They recommend getting them at age 30 if a direct relative has had an aneurysm. I'm 26 now. I think I would rather not know if I have one. My mom says even now that she would not want to have known or know now. It would worry her too much. She has a friend who has an inoperable aneurysm - he was worried for a long time but has now made peace with it. I'm scared of being told I have an inoperable one. I guess I'd rather not know. Maybe later I will change my mind - as I get older or if I ever marry or have children. I may feel differently then.
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Old 12-18-2002, 03:36 PM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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Honey & Legomancer (if you're still reading this):

Have you guys been Scanned or MRI'ed? Do you plan to? Just wondering if you all feel the same way about it or not.
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  #15  
Old 12-18-2002, 04:13 PM
Monopoly Money Monopoly Money is offline
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On the very rainy, dark morning of December 21, 1973, I went to the breakfast table, turned on the light to eat my cereal, and my mother kept yelling at me saying "I want it off!!!" I was so angry with her that I left for school without saying goodbye, which was a big deal in my house - my mother always said "Never leave the house angry at a family member, it may be the last time you ever see them". Well, guess what? She died several hours later from a ruptured brain anuerysm. I found out later my brother had the same experience with her that day - he had an argument with her and left the house without saying he loved her, a first for him. A few days later, we had to open up the presents we had bought for her and put under the tree, and for months afterward, we were finding gifts that she had bought for us and hidden, but not wrapped yet. The sad irony now is I recently found out that intolerance to light is a symptom of a ruptured aneurysm, the very thing we had argued about.
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  #16  
Old 12-18-2002, 04:31 PM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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Monopoly Money, my heart goes out to you & your family. Thank you for posting your story. I really hope you & your brother don't blame yourselves - there is no way at the time you could have known what was happening. You were just kids then, don't feel guilty for the way you left that day. She knew you loved her.

All of you, feel free to e-mail me if you would like. My e-mail is in my profile. I'm so glad now that I started this thread.
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  #17  
Old 12-18-2002, 06:27 PM
rocking chair rocking chair is offline
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i'm glad to hear your mom has recovered. it is amazing to me how many people are able to survive aneurysms.

have a happy and serene holiday this year.
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  #18  
Old 12-18-2002, 06:40 PM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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Thanks, rocking chair.

Happy Holidays to you & yours as well.
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Old 12-18-2002, 06:51 PM
Batsinma Belfry Batsinma Belfry is offline
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What a wonderful story. I'm glad your mom is well now.
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  #20  
Old 12-18-2002, 07:59 PM
Honey Honey is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Slainte
Honey & Legomancer (if you're still reading this):

Have you guys been Scanned or MRI'ed? Do you plan to? Just wondering if you all feel the same way about it or not.
I haven't, but I do know that it's hereditary and I have suffered with almost daily headaches for my whole life.
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  #21  
Old 12-18-2002, 08:11 PM
Slainte Slainte is offline
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I should also note that having an aneurysm doesn't mean it will rupture. My Mom had high blood pressure & smoked a lot which her Dr. thinks contributed greatly to her rupture.

When I discussed my choice not to get an MRI with her, she understood why I felt that way and mentioned that my chances of a rupture would be a lot lower (if I had an aneurysm at all) since I don't have high blood pressure or smoke.
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