My World, My Life, My Survival!
By: Amy Hodgkins
December 2, 2005 was just like any other day. Being 19 years old and on Winter break everything seemed perfect. I woke up in a great mood and just spent the day around my house getting ready to meet my boyfriend’s entire family. That night I drove to his house where we took his car to his grandmother’s house, still I felt fine. When we arrived at her house we walked in and all of a sudden, THE WORST HEADACHE OF MY LIFE” hit me, it was horrible. I went about meeting his family and tried to ignore my headache for a few minutes until it was unbearable. He then walked me to the bathroom because I felt sick. I was hoping his hand when I had a seizure and collapsed. No one had any idea what had happened to me since I was unaware of my aneurysm. 911 was called and when they arrived they had said that it seemed like it might have been a sinus infection, either way, I was then rushed to Salem Hospital. I spent about 3 hours there while they tried to figure out what had happened to me. Aneurysms had not existed in my family before all of this. In fact, in aneurysm was the last thing anyone expected to hear.
They eventually brought me in for a Cat scan at Salem Hospital and then they soon came to find out that it was a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage(Brain Aneurysm). I was sent to Massachusetts General Hospital as soon as possible. When I arrived at MGH they performed a few more tests to set me up in ICU. They gave me the option to wait until the next morning, which was about 5 hours away, when the best surgeons arrived or to have my surgery done by surgeons who had already been there for excessive hours and would be exhausted and unable to focus during my operation. I chose to wait until the next morning with the help of life support. The next morning they proceeded with the surgery. I then spent the next 2 weeks in the Neurology Intensive Care Unit followed by one day in a regular room.
During the months leading up to my surgery I had gone to my pediatrician multiple times for headaches. Once she told me I was depressed and told me I needed help, another time it was that I was striving for attention and everything was self-created in my head. I saw her one last time 3 days before my aneurysm ruptured and she told me that I had a sinus infection, she prescribed me medication and sent me on my way. I, in fact, didn’t have a sinus infection, this was actually the beginning of the leak that lead to the rupture. Due to my doctor’s lack to examine me completely, my aneurysm leaked before I was even aware of it.
Two months later and this is the hardest time of my life. I don’t remember much of December. I don’t remember much of anything anymore. My childhood is missing, my teen years are missing, and sometimes my day to day life is missing. It’s extremely frustrating to not remember something that changed my life so dramatically. Without family and friends through all of this I still have no idea what I would be doing or how I would be holding up.
I’m still trying to continue college courses, however, I am suffering from short term memory loss and I am unable to focus on things for an extended amount of time. I attempted to attend classes full time this semester, however, 2 days in and I realized that I couldn’t handle it so I split my course load in half. It is unbelievable how quickly your life can change.
This surgery gave me a total new outlook on life. I believe everything happens for a reason and that God must’ve put me through all of this for some reason, unfortunately, it is so hard to the good when all I’m faced with is the bad. I’m happy to be alive and would never wish this upon anybody. This is definitely the hardest thing my family and I have ever had to deal with it. Thankfully, I have them to help me through this difficult time. I will continue to be tested for aneurysms and my entire family will also begin to be tested. Thankfully, I sit here today, telling you my story. I survived brain surgery.
My World, My Life, My Survival!
By: Amy Hodgkins
Decemeber 2nd, 2005 started out just like any other day. I was 19 years old, on winter break, and unstoppable. Life was perfect. And then my world was lit on fire and everything changed.
It was about 7pm on a Friday night and it happened. I was unaware of a brain aneurysm that has been consuming my right hemisphere for the last 7 years of my life. It started with “the worst headache of my life” followed by a seizure and ended with an emergency phone call to 911 and an ambulance ride.
I had been experiencing headaches for a few months and had seen my pediatrician frequently. Aneurysm are typically passed down from generation to generation, however, doctor’s never think of the fact that a younger generation may have a health issue before the older generation does. This was true in my case. I was barely 19 years old and a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage rocked my world. It ruptured on my right hemisphere just centimeters from my right temple. I am lucky to be alive.
I was brought to Salem Hospital via ambulance to be seen by a doctor. I was unable to stable myself enough to be able to have tests done immediately. Once I was able to be transferred they sent me in for a Catscan. Once they read the results they diagnosed me with the brain aneurysm. It had ruptured and was quickly travelling throughout my brain. This was it, this was the moment that was going to change the rest of our lives. I was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital where I was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit. This needed to be repaired, Brain surgery was necessary. My family and I were given the option to have a group of exhausted doctor’s begin the 5-7 hour brain surgery or to place me on life support until the morning and have fresh doctor’s perform my surgery. Without hesitation we chose the best option, fresh doctors.
The next morning I was prepped and brought in for a surgery that had a 2% survival rate. Thankfully, I don’t remember much of this but I can only imagine all of the pain and worry my family, friends, and loved ones were going through. 7 hours later they got the news, the surgery was a success! Although they were able to clip and drain my aneurysm there was no telling what the next few weeks would bring. Things could have gone very bad very quickly. Thankfully, for the most part I recovered quickly. I think that all of the support and love that surrounded me really kept me going. I spent the craziest 13 days in Intensive Care and then I was transferred to a regular room. I was discharged the next morning. This was not the end of my journey.
After leaving the hospital and returning to my “normal life” I struggled day to day. Still to this day I cannot understand why this happened to me. Why do these things happen to people? What made me so lucky that I recovered from a brain aneurysm? Two months later and I still didn’t have any answers. This was the hardest time in my life. I don’t remember much of my childhood, I don’t remember much of anything anymore. There are memories that flash in my head about my stay at Massachusetts General Hospital, however, all of these memories are untrue. My mother is great listening to all of my false memories. She doesn’t tell me that they are wrong or make believe, she just listens. She will tell me stories about when I was a child to bring back different memories. She will tell me anything I want to know about my “accident”.
It’s been 7 years and 9 months since my brain aneurysm. I am now 27 years old, a mother to an incredible 3 and ½ year old little boy, a stepmother to a funny whole-hearted 9 year old and married Brian, the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with. Now I can honestly say my life is perfect. Everything I experienced in 2005 may never make sense to me but I can almost understand why I had to go through it. Since my aneurysm, I have evolved as a person. I found my voice, my humor, my true ability to love, and the true meaning of family.
Since my brain aneurysm there has been quite a few aneurysms discovered throughout both sides of my family. One of my aunts from my father’s side has a handful of aneurysms that are attacking her all over her body. My Papa, my mother’s dad, had a few aneurysms that were in his stomach and heart. My VooVoo, my father’s dad, also has a few aneurysms in a couple different locations. They may be hereditary but that doesn’t mean that they attack in order. They are in our blood and they aren’t going anywhere.
After educating myself on aneurysms, I am always willing to share this information and remind my family that the odds aren’t always in our favor, but we will always prevail. I wouldn’t take back my “accident” for anything. Without it, I’m not sure I’d be the Amy Hodgkins that I am today. I still struggle day to day with short term memory loss, headaches, anxiety, and the physical changes that happened to me due to my surgery, but every single one of them is worth it. Being a survivor is the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished. I struggle knowing that there is so much of my life that I cannot remember. Having no recollection of something that changed my life so dramatically can be overwhelming at times, but I’m taking life one day at a time.
This surgery gave me a whole new outlook on life. I believe everything happens for a reason and that God is just testing me. I only have one thing left to say, “BRING IT ON!”