Little did I know that after waking up on Thursday, Feb 10th 2011, that this was going to be a pivotal day that would change my life forever! I started the day as I normally would with a full day of work followed by the gym. A half hour after getting home from the gym, I would find myself being intubated and med-flighted from a small local hospital in Southern NH, into a Boston Trauma center hospital, being in the midst of a Grade 4 brain hemorrhage due to an undiagnosed AVM. I’ve always been intrigued with helicopters yet never dreamed that this would this would be my first experience in a helicopter being one that I don’t even remember.
The first few days of this experience is something that is so very hard to remember; being on a ventilator, and even more difficult to describe in words. I Truly believe it was during these first few days that my angels were being rallied up and sent my way to watch over me and to pour some extra strength in both; me and my family, to get us all thru this terrifying trial. I only remember bits and pieces of my fateful night and have to say that my family went thru so much more agony & pain than I did, not knowing if I was going to survive the night thru the embolization they needed to do to stop the bleeding; which ultimately saved my life! This was just so hard for my son Henry (my only child); who is now 28 with the nurses preparing him for the worst and hearing that the chances of me making it thru the night were unknown. Henry’s Dad passed away when he was 5 and now he was watching his Mom clinging to Life. But much to everyone’s surprise (doctors included), I pulled thru a few days later with flying colors. Upon coming out of a coma and regaining consciousness; I had no idea where I was and remember my head hurting a lot and was very nauseas from all of the meds they had been pumping into me to keep me heavily sedated. Once that passed, I thought I was in a hotel room and on a business trip. Needless to say, I was a bit confused but coherent and somewhat responsive; which provided my family and the medical team with hope that a full recovery was on its way! I also remember wanting one thing and one thing only; which was a can of soda or a glass of water. I even tried to bribe one of the ICU nurses by offering her $100 for a can of coke but she wouldn’t budge from doctors’ orders! I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything as they didn’t know if I was going to require immediate surgery or not.
Things remained Peaceful for me until the doctors came in and explained to my family and I the details of what happened and diagnosed me with an AVM on the right side of my brain. An AVM is something my family nor I had any knowledge on nor did we know what this 3-letter acronym stood for. This is when I started to panic and intense worry started to take over in me. To make a very long story short, I took up residence in ICU over the next 3 weeks and was scheduled for open brain surgery on February 24th to remove the AVM. During the pre-op Angiogram, the day before my surgery, the results showed that my AVM was reduced by 85% with the Embolization procedure and the Surgery was cancelled :). It was too risky to proceed with the surgery due to the small size of the AVM. I walked out of the hospital in March with a lot of unknowns as they weren’t able to tell me that my AVM was gone. However, in parallel to the unknowns and fear, I was so very Grateful to not have one physical deficit – talk about mixed emotions! I had a follow-up Angiogram later in March that showed that there was still a small residual AVM that they wanted to treat with the CyberKnife procedure (a form of stereotactic radiation). I spent the next few months going back and forth to Boston for all of the tests and procedures required to proceed with the CyberKnife treatment which I had in June of 2011.
My follow-up Angiogram was on May 4, 2012 with Dr. Ogilvy and will tell you with a very Thankful and Grateful heart; that after 15 months since being diagnosed with an AVM, there were not any indicators of the AVM and no further treatments would be needed; truly a Miracle I was Blessed to receive. This was truly the best gift I could have ever received --> to know that this beast who reared its ugly head on Feb. 10th, could no longer invite harm into my life.
I now refer to February 10th as my 2nd Birthday and my new lease on life! Although this was a terrifying experience for both my family and I; my AVM also brought forth so many Blessings into my life that would have never surfaced had it not been for this encounter. I am so very Grateful to not have one physical deficit as a result of my brain bleed and am even more Grateful when my feet hit the ground each morning. I said goodbye to the high-strung Type A, personality I lived with for decades and graciously welcomed my easy-going Type B personality that I now get to enjoy each and every day. As ironic as this may sound, I will always reflect back on this as a terrifying bump along my journey thru life; yet a very positive bump that welcomed such Peace into my life I’ve never known before and am truly Blessed to enjoy each & every day. As the saying goes; “Life can sometimes be too short” and I am choosing to enjoy ALL the beauty life has to offer while I am here.
I now realize that no matter how difficult life’s journey can be; we can ALWAYS count on our Blessings – Past, Present, and Future!!! Being an AVM survivor has enriched my life in just so many ways ... the grass is greener, there are so many more roses to stop and smell, the skies are always clear; even thru the clouds, and I have a much different perspective on how to truly enjoy the beauty of life. I have more Comfort with the difficulties life can throw at us out of no where, More Smiles when sadness tries to take hold of my heart, Colorful Rainbows to follow the clouds that are sometimes dark, Sunsets to warm my heart and My Faith that Blesses me each and every day with Peace, Confidence and Courage keeping me Strong and Joyful.
I thank you for listening to my story; one which we all have, and my wish for you is that ALL of your days are brighter thru some of life’s toughest storms!