MY FIRST BLOG POST!!! Yeeeeek!
This is a big deal for me; well, a huge deal actually. Let me explain.
6 months ago, December 07, 2015 at 10:00'ish in the morning, to be exact, I suffered a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. Part of one of the arteries feeding my brain had delaminated and blood had pooled, creating a berry aneurysm, which burst, sending blood into the space in between my brain and the tissues that cover the brain. Fortunately my husband was home with me, and our four year old daughter, and he called 911. I was life-flighted to Emory University Hospital where an amazing team of doctors and nurses went to work to save my life. I will forever be indebted to Dr. Jacques Dion and all of the folks that took care of me for the month that I was in the intensive care unit. A month...yeah, you can just imagine what that bill looked like. Staggering. The helicopter ride alone was 28,000.00. Ack! But healthcare costs are a topic for another day.
I have an amazing and wonderful support group of friends and family that reminded me daily of just how loved I am, and how much I would have been missed had I not pulled through. One dear friend came from Tennessee to stay with me overnight in the ICU, multiple times. One of my sisters, and her husband, drove all night from Texas to be with me and stay with my husband and daughter to offer them support. My sister-in-law flew out from San Francisco to be by our side. I was unaware, until much, much, later just how close to death I came.
With some therapy, I learned to walk again, and on very wobbly legs - literally...I could barely get into the house, collapsing on the walkway from the car to the door, and terrifying my husband....I arrived home on January 07, 2016. Happy New Year!
When you have an SAH, there are a slew of things that they know you are going to suffer, like strokes, seizures, neuropathy, etc. There are a lot of unknowns though, and because people are different, and locations of aneurysms are different, areas of damaged brain cells are different, there are things that can happen to you that they might not anticipate, but when you ask the doctor, "Is this normal?", you might get a, "Meh.....for you, yes."
The brain heals slowly. Soooo slowly. All of the scars from surgery have healed up, and your hair is growing back. You can really even barely see where holes were drilled in your head. So you "look normal" from the outside, but inside you are anything but. The only way I can describe how it feels to me, is to say that my brain feels bruised. And during the day, as I use it to do menial everyday tasks, I have exert more effort than I used to. Things don't come to me as quickly, and I have to concentrate to do stupid stuff, like use the restroom. And as I am concentrating to do all of this stuff, it feels like my brain is being squeezed a little. By the end of the day, or even sometimes in the middle of the day, I hit a wall and can go no further. At this point I feel like my brain is about to pop out of my skull, and I am forced to lie down and rest. Sleep is your friend.
When I first came home from the hospital, all I did was sleep. Weaning myself from the pain medication was easy. Yay. After about a month I was permitted to stop taking the anti-seizure medication. Yay. Truly Yay because this meant that I could have a glass of wine. I was surprised to find that recovery was, and still is, not linear. You might have a really good day, followed by a horrible one. One step forward, two steps back. I had to learn to accept, and gracefully so, my limitations. I had, and still do have, anxiety about whether or not I am providing a good example for my daughter. There is a balance between pushing yourself a little, but then resting when you need it. I can hear Clint Eastwood, "A man's GOT to know his limitations!"....one of my all time favorite movie quotes.
So what CAN I do? This was my thought each day. Initially, just doing the things that I HAD to do sucked up so much of my energy that it was all I cared about. But as time passed I started to think about the things I WANTED to do. I have several hobbies, but some were out some like playing the Clarinet, was impossible because it creates too much intracranial pressure, and honestly didn't sound that appealing to me.
I truly love my secular work, accounting, but I lost vision in my left eye when the aneurysm burst and seeing spreadsheets with one eye was too difficult. Besides, at this point I had no clients. The thought of trying to convince anyone that I was capable of work, much less sticking to someone else's deadlines was overwhelming. Physically writing was difficult and taxing. Typing, not so much, but I am not at the 105 wpm that I was at pre-aneurysm. As Sharon Stone once said, after she had her cerebral hemorrhage, everything is burned to the ground. Life as you knew it is gone. You literally have to rediscover your capabilities, and push yourself to rise above the ashes. To quote her, "Once you've had your life burn down, it takes time to be a phoenix." At the hospital, the nurses said that it would take 3 months. 3 months later, when things were still not great, I asked the neurosurgeon about it. Perhaps there was something still wrong with my brain? Well, the neurosurgeon said it was really more like a couple of years to get, "back to normal", and to "give yourself a break."
Back to the drawing board - what can I do, what would I like to do and can focus on? I have always loved sewing, and had been hobby-sewing since I was young. I was, and am, extremely grateful that I already had a stash of fabric, machines, etc., because to sewing I turned, and I found joy. It keeps me occupied, prevents me from being self centered and depressed, and gives me a great sense of accomplishment. At the end of the day I have something tangible that is useful, and at the same time beautiful. Fabric is very cheery! Projects that used to take a day or two to complete, like sewing a dress for my daughter, now take a couple of weeks, but it is still immensely satisfying and makes me happy.
I find that I have to write a lot of things down now, and keep notes. A friend suggested blogging - perhaps what I have to say could help someone else? I've never been much for reading blogs - certainly never had a desire to create one, but like sewing I find that it is helping me to get back to a more normal pace, establishing new neural connections, and has helped me learn new things. It has been enjoyable to organize my thoughts and work all of this out on the page. It's also helped my typing skills to rebound.
I love to read, and know that I am certainly no Jane Austen, so if you've taken the time and patience to read this far, thank you!
I plan on continuing to sew, and blog, and I selfishly hope it continues to help me advance in my recovery. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sewing websites already on the Internet, but perhaps I can contribute a new thought, and others can benefit as well.
For more information about aneurysms: