Brain Aneurysm Support Community

My Story 02/15/2012

When I was 22 years old, less than 6 months after graduating college, excited to begin the next chapter of my life, and deeply engrossed in the uphill battle to find a job in Boston, Ma, my life flipped upside-down.

On a trip to visit my parents I mentioned my frequent (read: daily) migraines to my mom who suggested that since I was in town I ought to see a neurologist and get some answers. Dr. Seegar of UW-Madison hospital and clinics listened to my testimonial and saw red flags left and right. In her opinion it was probably just a case if bad luck and genetics but suggested an MRI and CT scan just in case.

Less than 30 minutes after my appointment she called my cell phone to tell me the news—there was a bomb in my head sitting right next to my ophthalmic artery threatening my vision and my life.

Still in disbelief hours, days, weeks later I was, a scared and naive 22-year-old faced with, honestly, my first ever grown-up problem. This was something I couldn't talk my way out of, or work out on my own; this was serious business and I needed help. Regardless, I was determined to face it as I had always faced every other challenge in my life--as simply another hurdle and a way to prove my strength. I'd take care if this little inconvenience and be back "on track" with my life and my plan in a few weeks.

Obviously this would not turn out to be the case.

Not having surgery was never an option to me. Sitting around and waiting really isn't my style. All that isn't to say I wasn't petrified—but above everything else I felt it was necessary to appear in control, strong, and unafraid for the sake of my family who I knew was struggling with the news. I was determined not to cry; sometimes I failed, but mostly I kept my promise to myself. Next step was finding a surgeon. I saw two surgeons, one in Madison, Wi where my parents live, and one in Boston. After hearing what each surgeon had to say, Dr. Ogilvy at MGH was the most confident and compelling. He told me not that he'd fix the problem but that when he was done it would be gone—it would be as if it never existed. I'd have zero restrictions, I'd be me again, and I could get back to the business of living and enjoying my 20s.

My consultation with Dr. Ogilvy was in January and was told my surgery couldn't be booked until many months later; however the next thing I know I receive another phone call telling me surgery has been bumped up to next week.

The next week was a blur of deciding where I'd recover, do I cut my hair, who do I make my medical proxy, deciding who to tell, and mentally preparing myself for the worst. Needless to say I was way above my pay-grade and felt as if I was endlessly drowning. All this until the day I received the sacrament of the sick—my last rights. I felt it was important to have God's blessing before my surgery. I knew there was a plan and that he wouldn't put this on my plate for no reason; however, my doubts and fears were clouding my brain. With a few words and a smearing of oil on my head suddenly all fear and doubt was gone: God would watch over me now. I imagined Him taking my hand and holding it gently.

After that everything was simple. I was able to go through all the motions of pre-op with a steady heart and nerve-free. I had God and an angel disguised in a white lab coat on my side.

Surgery went swimmingly—my family later told me my doctor basically skipped out of the OR. He was thrilled to have diffused this bomb when he did. Apparently I was at a much greater risk than they had previously suspected. But there I was 20 odd stitches a metal clip and a handful of titanium screws and plates later, alive with my vision in tact.

It took me a year or so to call myself "healed" though it's been 2.5 and I still have some problems that plague me. Overall, though, I can't complain. Honestly, even the worst days (and there were some truly awful days in those first few weeks) were blissful to me. I had my life back.

Again Welcome to BAF ~ I am happy you shared your story on the front forum...I want to get it back on front page for other's to read...You keep on healing...~ Thoughts out to you ~ Colleen

Thanks for sharing your story, CValdes.

When I was 26 way back in 1990, I had a lot of weird symptoms that turned out to be caused by a combination of thyroid problems and anxiety. I was so sure that I must have something wrong inside my head (I thought brain tumor) that I had a CAT scan. I wasn't sure if I wanted them to find anything wrong or not. If they did, I knew it was serious. If not, I wasn't sure how I would ever get back to normal, since the thyroid issue supposedly had been corrected but I was still having symptoms worse than ever. I felt like you did - above my grade in pay.

As it turned out, they did see a brain aneurysm in the scan. I immediately told myself "see, I knew there was something wrong up there". But then they said the aneurysm was benign, and had absolutely nothing to do with my symptoms. Long story short, I was referred to a psychiatrist, and was prescribed medicines for anxiety and depression. I recovered completely within a couple of months. I never thought about the aneurysm again (since they said it was benign and did not need to be treated) until it ruptured last April. Then I remembered having the CT scan.

Like you, I have been fortunate enough to have help from my church. I received a lot of prayers, as well as help with practical things like getting places when I couldn't drive yet.

I have a one-year followup surgery scheduled with possible additional coiling on April 9. I still experience a lot of emotional symptoms (they started about 2 months after the ruptured aneurysm), but I am still working at a pretty demanding job, as well as a small amount of volunteer work.

Who tells a patient not to worry about an aneurysm?!!!! I hope you called a lawyer! Errrr...this infuriates me. You did not have to go through that. Best wishes to you.

Amy

Yeah I've never heard of a "benign Aneursym"--maybe due to the fact that they're never considered "benign" ?? wow, I agree with Amy, get yourself an attorney if you haven't done so already!

I'm surprised you had to wait so long to have surgery--i'd think that, with symptoms such as yours and knowing it was pressing against your optic nerves they would've made a point of rushing you straight into a hospital bed and into surgery ASAP~glad you've made it thru all this, what sort of complications or after-effects do you suffer with ?

peace, Janet

I agree--I never would have been able to live knowing I had a live bomb in my head. I am so happy to hear that you are okay now though! Even the 5 months I had between diagnosis and surgery were tough for me.

I also experienced some emotional duress following my surgery. I believe it was only because of the adrenaline I was experiencing during those first 5 months that I didn't fall into a depression. After the fact, though, with the adrenaline gone, I certainly went through a tough patch. It was difficult for me to have been taken from my prime and put on the sidelines while my former classmates and friends all moved on and found jobs and apartments while I was stuck relearning how to walk and tie my shoes. It took me a full year to even feel ready to look for my first job out of college and then was greeted with the harsh reality that many employers couldn't get over that I had been unemployed for 2 years.

Christina