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So I'm relaxing in Mexico . . .

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Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 12:05 pm

I'm recognizing a quiet anniversary once again. March 16th. I don't have a party or usually even mention this day to anyone other than my husband. But it bears recognition nonetheless. On March 16th of 2000 I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm that changed my life in many ways.

We were in Mexico on our first vacation in just about forever and I awoke in the middle of the night with all the usual symptoms of a rupture. Except that I didn't know that. I thought I had a really, really bad headache accompanied by something questionable to eat that had me running for the bathroom all night. We were, after all, in Mexico, and these things happen. If I'd had any idea what was really happening in my head, I'd have been a nervous wreck and never would have gotten on the airplane that took us home a few days later.

Which was when, after a quick trip to the ER to determine the cause of this nasty headache, they discovered I'd had a rupture.

Without going into great detail (because, well . . . ewww!), I immediately had surgery (a craniotomy and a clip inserted), beat the odds and was home in a week and back to work in two months.

Which tells the story of what happened and when, but it doesn't come close to describing the terror, paranoia, fatigue and overall hugeness of having brain surgery and trying to move forward afterward. Every headache I had for about 6 months put me in a panic; I had a terrible time sleeping so I was tired all of the time - all the while trying to convince myself that I was over it. And at that time, there were very few resources for information and virtually no support for survivors. Probably because there weren't very many of us. For a few years I lived with a "Before Aneurysm" and "After Aneurysm" philosophy about my life.

But - scars heal, sleep eventually comes regularly, headaches are just headaches, and the big "A" doesn't define me any more. Needless to say, I was one of the lucky ones. Treatment is getting better and support is easier to find. But statistics still show that approximately 40% of those with a rupture die immediately, and of those who survive, 66% of those have live-altering neurological defects. To my knowledge, I don't have any of those defects (but who am I to say? I could be way off kilter and not even know it!). And I can probably quit blaming the aneurysm on the pounds I put on and can't seem to get off completely - it was eleven years ago!!

But I can do this: Just in case you're not overwhelmed with causes to research and donate to, here's another one. Check out this web site  if only to educate yourself about this condition. It comes on without warning and the only way to predict a rupture is through some pretty invasive tests. But knowledge is power and if you learn one or two new things that you didn't know before, then my work here is done.

Also — please don't be one of those people who ask me "Don't you appreciate life a whole lot more since you've come so close to dying?" Because to you I would have to say "No. I was hanging out on a beach in Mexico drinking margaritas. I was already appreciating life!"

(Okay, maybe a little . . .)