Written & Contributed
by Angela Sharer
Faith Over Fear .....
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what is in my head. I am a 51 year old Mother of 3 and devoted wife. I had a brain aneurysm rupture a year ago on August 23, 2016 causing a subarachnoid hemorrhage (a brain bleed), and subsequently a hemorrhagic stroke.
I spent 16 days in the Neuro ICU at Memorial Hospital. Those 16 days have shaped the rest of my life, some for the good, most for the bad. I had suffered from severe headaches since my first one at age 17. So that morning of the rupture started no different to me with a headache. I thought nothing of it.
When the aneurysm ruptured, I felt it, like a gunshot to the back of my head. I knew immediately that I was in trouble. That something had just happened to me in my brain and that my brain was not functioning right. I fell unconscious for I do not know how long.
When I came too I texted my husband that I was in trouble. The text he received said none of that. He tells me it was garbage. That I was not speaking correctly. Somehow in his heart he knew his wife was in trouble, and he left work and came home.
To this day I don’t know what made him do that, but I am glad he did and very thankful to him. I am also thankful for my daughter Morgan, who is an RN and works in the Emergency Department at Saint John’s Hospital in Springfield. She saved me!
Had she not insisted I get help I would not be here today. I also owe my life to the Neuro Interventionalist Team at Memorial Hospital. Dr. Augusto Elias, who was on call that night when I arrived via ambulance to Memorial in Springfield.
Dr. Elias and his team performed the life saving endovascular coiling and the cerebral stent to secure the coils. So every day I think about what is in my head. 6 platinum coils and a nitinol mesh stent. They are keeping me alive.
The fact that I survived the rupture shocked my Doctor, and he has said more than once I should not be here. I had in essence suffered a traumatic brain injury, a TBI, from the inside out. It would be like being thrown off a building and landing on your head.
The type and placement of the aneurysm and the shape he described as ugly, very very ugly, should have killed me on the spot. Of the people he has seen with what I had half die of the rupture when it happens. The ones who make it to the ER half of those will die. Of the ones who make it past the ER half will die within the first week from the secondary problems.
These are not the exact stats, you can find them on the Brain Aneurysm Foundation website, but it is how he explained my grave situation to my husband and myself. The secondary problems are accumulating spinal fluid and vasospasms, which is when large or small arteries constrict and can cause strokes and seizures.
I had all of these happen to me along with Cerebral Salt Wasting Syndrome. Patients are also at risk of re-bleeding, which can be fatal. I should have never made it past any of those points. Yet I survived them all.
My Dr thinks my rupture happened and by some miracle my brain started to clot around it. My stay in the ICU was filled with being hooked up to so many IV’s and ports and arterial lines… I felt like a human pin cushion.
I was taking handfuls of pills what seemed like every half hour. I had scan after scan after scan. I know the MRA and CAT scan machines by heart. The mandatory time in the ICU is 15-21 days. A re-bleed is more than likely to happen in that period of time. Luckily I did not re-bleed and my stay ended at 16 days.
I know my team of Doctors would probably have liked me to stay the whole 21 days, but I was begging daily to go home. I had not planned on this, I had not prepared for this, and my children had just started school, they needed their Mom at home.
I have lingering deficits from the brain damage caused by the bleed, but I could have it worse. I could be spending the rest of my life in a nursing home or learning to walk and talk again. I can say I am thankful for that, but I feel deeply for the ones who were not as lucky.
I continue to live every day in some sort of pain. The ordeal took a lot out of my family and myself. My husband never left my side. I could not have survived the 16 days without him nor this last year of recovery. He has been and continues to be my rock putting up with the anger and anxiety and depression that lingers.
I am not the same person as I was a year ago. I am different in many ways. He has never wavered in his support. I owe him everything. I also owe my team of Neuro Interventionalists and Neurology Team.
Most of all I owe the biggest Thank You to all the nurses that tirelessly took care of me at Memorial in the Neuro ICU when I was incapacitated. I was helpless, and they showed me compassion and care with the biggest hearts. They are my heroes. I could not have made it those 16 terrifying horrible days without their support.
Lastly my husband, daughter, and my Mom never let me be alone. Someone was there with me at all times. For 16 days and beyond they put their lives on hold to make sure I was never by myself. I could not have made it without them.
Lastly a big Thank You goes out to my friends who banded together and brought my husband and children meals and food. They kept them fed for me so I didn’t have to worry. That meant more to me than they could know!
Brain aneurysms are something you can walk around with and never know you have. I had no idea I had this monster lurking in my head. They give you no warning they are about to devastate your life. They happen. Then you deal if you survive.
If you are lucky enough during a routine scan for another problem one may be detected and corrected prior to any rupture. If you are lucky!
So every day I think about what is in my head keeping me alive. Scared and amazed but eternally grateful!
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