Written by Cindy Payne, featured in Ben’s Friends Blog
I am blessed enough to be married to my best friend, Elaine. We met at church in 1992, became really good friends, started dating in 1994, moved in together in 1995 and were able to legally marry 20 years later in 2015.
I’m also lucky enough to work in a field that I love. I have been in the commercial construction industry for over 35 years, selling steel doors and frames.
I need to feel needed and love to help and support people, especially people who are willing to help and support themselves in ways they are able. For instance, I’ve been on several advisory boards in my community for STEM education, the local soup kitchen, and the Board of Governors to name a few.
My family, there are four of us in our home–my wife Elaine, myself, and our pups Nina and Ohana. I love my pups and consider them part of my family.
We live a fairly simplistic life. Elaine can’t handle much drama these days and I don’t need the stress. Nina and Ohana just pretty much “go with the flow”.
The day I will never forget
Life changed a lot for us in November 2013.
At 5:03 p.m., Elaine called me at work (which was very rare), and said she needed me to come home now. I hung up the phone and headed home. Good thing we lived less than 10 minutes from where I work.
It took less than normal on that November 7th.
I pulled in the driveway and she was on the front porch talking to someone on the phone. She looked at the car and told me to move, that the ambulance was on its way.
About that time the first responders started showing up, checked her out and headed to the hospital. She was still talking to 911 when I pulled up, sitting on the porch because she didn’t want our 14 1/2 year old lab Trouble to get maced if she tried to protect her.
Elaine got to our county hospital where they ran some tests. They told me that they were going to send her to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center via helicopter and I couldn’t leave the hospital until the helicopter got out of site (in case for some reason they couldn’t make the flight).
That helicopter left my site at 9:27 PM. WFBH is about 60 miles from where we live and before I could go, I had to go tell Elaine’s parents who were, at the time, in their late seventies and had already lost one child, that their youngest child was on her way to Winston Salem via helicopter because the doctors think she has a brain aneurysm–one of hardest things I have ever done in my life.
Her parents kept Trouble and luckily our best friends went with me to Winston Salem. Even with doing all that, I made it there by 11 p.m.
At the Wake Forest Baptist Hospital
Elaine was still in emergency when I got there and they kept running tests for hours.
At about 1 a.m., Dr. Patel asked me to come into a small conference room with him and I asked our friends to come with me. Let me just say, “Thank God for your friends!”
Dr. Patel explained that she had a ruptured brain aneurysm and what that means. He said that they would have to do surgery but that at the time she was not stable enough.
He went on to explain the risks and what I might expect, such as . . . she may not survive until we can do it, if she does, she may not survive the surgery, if she does survive the surgery, she may be in a coma. However if she is not in a coma she may not know who you are, she may not know who she is, she may not be able to speak, she may be paralyzed .
Then he had me sign the papers giving consent for them to do the operation.
The day of the surgery
They were finally able to do the surgery about 7 a.m. on November 8th.
The surgery took about 7 hours and that’s when I met Dr. Stacey Quintero Wolfe who is an ABSOLUTE Angel, in my eyes.
She told me that the surgery went well, that it was complicated because of the location (left internal carotid artery), the type (multi lobe), and the amount of the bleed (Fisher level III). I learned ALL the terms later.
I am ecstatic to tell you that not only did Elaine wake up, she knew who she was, who I was, could speak and was not paralyzed! Yes, she is stubborn.
Dr. Wolfe was able to coil the aneurysm, so a craniotomy was not necessary. She spent 26 days in ICU and 2 nights on the floor, then I got to bring her home!
Helping as part of healing through Ben’s Friends
Before her rupture, Elaine was a Child Protective Services On Call Social Worker. As you can surmise, she needs to help people too. But she couldn’t work anymore after the aneurysm. I think it’s safe to say that she didn’t see how she could continue to contribute because of this.
I don’t recall how Elaine found out about the Brain Aneurysm Support Group, but it has helped her immensely. She is a moderator for it and that allows her to continue helping people.
Working with this support group affords her responsibilities such as welcoming new members, researching information to help them deal with whatever they may be going through, monitoring inclusivity, etc.
When Elaine has her moderator hat on, she is VERY focused. Don’t mess with her, she is doing her job. She takes her time, is responsive and if she can help someone by doing some research for them, she is up to that task as well. If she begins to feel overwhelmed, which does happen occasionally, she gets away from it for a while and usually does something else (primarily, yard work). She loves it and pulling weeds and digging in the dirt is relaxing to her (something I don’t think I will ever understand :’D).
We have met some great people and made some good friends through her work with the support group.
If you know Elaine at all, you understand that helping others is her life’s blood. She is GREAT at researching valid sources and is always willing to share her knowledge (especially when she thinks I’m wrong :D).
My worries and the friends who are always there
Even after almost 7 years some things still worry me, like if she doesn’t answer her phone when I call, the first thing that creeps into my mind is not that she may be busy or talking to someone else, it’s that she CAN’T because something has happened.
Elaine doesn’t drive much, but if she is gone longer than I think she should be, I get extremely worried. She is very aware of her capabilities and doesn’t usually take unnecessary chances (in her mind) but sometimes we disagree on what is “unnecessary” :D.
I have to travel some for work and she can’t cook without supervision so, getting prepared for me to travel can be an ordeal depending on how long I will be gone. Again I am VERY grateful for people in our life that will check on her and make sure she is OK.
How Ben’s Friends helped Elaine
Oh my, without Ben’s Friends, I don’t think Elaine would have continued to heal as well as she has.
Ben’s Friends has given her many hours of satisfying contributions to others and I believe it has helped her growth and healing immensely.
7 years and 2 coilings later I am very thankful to say she does well. She has “off” days and it’s been a long hard journey, but as my wonderful Elaine says “I walk, I talk, I wipe my own arse, Life is good”! She is my hero!
All I can really say to Ben’s Friends is THANK YOU! Thank you to your staff, which I have had the pleasure of meeting some of them. Thank you for having a place that people can go to for support, especially during this time of such isolation.
And of course, thank you for giving Elaine and others a place where they can help others. Thank you for helping them feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.