On February 19, 2014 I sustained a SAH as a result of an aneurysm that burst. In general, my work calls for me to travel a great deal, domestic and international, and when I am visiting work locations they can be quite rural and remote. For whatever reason, on Wednesday February 19, I was in Houston TX, less than 10 miles from a Level 1 Trauma Hospital, and gifted neurosurgeons, and assisted by wonderful emergency responders from the Houston Fire Dept.
I have memories of the initial searing headache, and some of the ambulance ride. There are brief memories of my wife arriving at the hospital with my boss, but mostly it’s a dark period of about 10 days. I’m told I endured quite a bit of pain (headaches and neck-shoulder pain), and I called a close friend and told him that I was at the end, and expected to die. Mostly though, the dark days are just that…time in a black hole.
Finally, daylight began to shine through and I made it out of ICU and into a general neurology ward, and after another week, I was released to fly home.
Once home, I was weak and struggled with physical activity and balance. As PT and OT, and my personal dedication to getting back on the exercise bike and rowing machine began to build strength back, each day seems to bring improvement. I will admit to having some issues with headaches and sensitivity to noise, but it doesn’t seem to be anything that detracts from the quality of life. I am not particularly burdened with emotional moments, or depressions, although I will say I am quicker to tears now than ever in my life. In three days I will have my initial follow-up with a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and both my primary care physician and myself expect a release to drive and return to work and travel. In my mind, I don’t anticipate and long lasting effects?
My wife and I have had lots of discussion since we’ve been home and I am at a loss to make sense of what has happened, and particularly the apparent minimal lasting affects. Rationally, I realize the seriousness of what I experienced, and the incredibly fortunate timing and location, when it occurred. I recognize that luck of the draw, on many other days might find me in West Africa, or many thousands of feet underground and hours from a competent trauma center…but, I wasn’t. I was in the right time at the right place. I don’t know what to make of what has happened in my life and how fortunate I have been as I recover and regain my life. My wife says I am more “mellow”. I say life somehow seems “sweeter”. I know weekends seem to call out for inviting a grandchild to spend the day, and stay overnight for Sunday pancakes… and the occasional “behavior” problems that can surface when dealing with kids are just momentary and changing my example of behavior seems to smooth out most problems. Mostly, though, I just can’t seem to make sense of what has happened to me.
I have been humbled at the outpouring of support and prayer from family and friends. I have found my way back to regular prayer. I seem to have reminded myself that every moment is worth celebrating, no matter its positive, or negative impacts.
If there are any emotions, I will admit to guilt. I feel very guilty for the emotional turmoil I’ve put my wife through. We were fortunate enough that my company immediately flew my wife to Houston, to be at my side and accompany me through recovery and my return home. I’m afraid that her time at my side, particularly during the days in the black hole took a toll on her. I can sense the worry when I flinch, or have a bad headache. I can only imagine how she’ll feel when I resume work and travel. I don’t know how I can make her feel comfortable and lift her worries.
I have to admit guilt for being here writing this and explaining how I had a day go incredibly bad, but for some reaason I’ve been allowed to pass through the treatments and rehab and really just dust off my sleeves and go back to my old life, with no life-altering side affects. Who experiences an event like this and walks away unscathed??
I have…and that’s why I am a Lucky Man