A unique insight into the fragility of the extraordinary human brain. A true story. A detailed account of a Ruptured Brain Aneurysm Survivor.
It’s been a year and a half now since I was operated on Ruptured Brain Aneurysm. If you are a new follower of this site or only knew my name and don’t know me personally, I guess you don’t have an inkling that I am a Ruptured Brain Aneurysm Survivor.
Before I was operated on, the only time I’ve heard the word “aneurysm” was when the Philippines Action Legend Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) suffered from a ruptured Brain Aneurysm and died. Since I am not really into showbiz and medicine, back then, I never bothered to Google the word.
That time, I was not aware that brain aneurysm can exist in the brain without exhibiting any outward symptoms and go undetected until it ruptures.
According to my neurosurgeon, the word “aneurysm” comes from the Greek word aneurysma (ana, meaning across, and eurys, meaning broad) and denotes an abnormal dilatation of an artery.
Please take note that a strong clinical suspicion of aneurysm may be validated by the use of several diagnostic studies such as the following:
- computed tomography (CT) scanning
- lumbar puncture
- Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- cerebral angiography.
When my brother and I got back home to the Philippines from our New Year vacation in Thailand and Malaysia the rupture occurred . Home for me, is in a province in the Philippines, where my only companion is only one staff in our store. You see, my parents had died already so I am living all alone in our store/ home in the province.
Previous to that fateful day, I already had been having bad headaches over the previous one or two years. I thought it was only due to migraine or my eyesight because I was nearsighted. So, I usually sleep and wait for the headache to go away. But one day, the pain suddenly became horrendous, it won’t go away even after drinking paracetamol and sleeping all day.
Even with a big headache, I still have to oversee our store. So after putting a heater on a pail of water. I went down to our store. Completely forgetting about the heater on the water. At around 5 p.m. I decided to take a bath, and remove the heater which was submerged on the water for several hours already. Don’t get me wrong we have a shower but we don’t have hot water function on our shower in the province where we are only renting. This is one of my dilemma but this is another story.
I carried the super hot pail of water inside the bathroom and that was the last thing that I remember. Yes I lost consciousness, the doctors think, I might have hit my left eye on the toilet bowl or sink. Why they thought so? I have a big round black eye on my left eye when I was brought in the hospital. And in the process, submerged my left thigh in the pail of hot water, resulting to a second degree burn on my left thigh. I wanted to publicized the picture but it is gruesome. Some of you might puke so I did not push through with the idea.
When I regained consciousness, I was lying down in the bathroom floor tiles. I felt an incredible pressure on my head and began vomiting. I can’t even reach for the bathroom door knob. I don’t think I have a voice. I think, I called out for help, but my staff could not hear me. I really don’t know how I manage to stand up and open the door and went to my bed. A good ten meters away from the bathroom. Maybe God sent his angels and helped me.
I felt so ill, I couldn’t bear to speak and even the rustle of sheets caused me pain and I had a hard time concentrating or understanding what the other people were saying. In my failing consciousness, I texted my brother in Manila and he instructed me to text my cousin who live nearby. By the time a cousin drove me to the clinic in our town thirteen hours had passed already. I was drifting in and out of consciousness and vomiting uncontrollably. I was diagnosed with aneurysm and was within a few hours of death. So my cousin brought me to the Hospital in Legazpi Albay. ( Gosh, that is where my mama died 🙁 sniff !) The doctors said to my staff and cousin that I am so lucky. The doctors think I am a miracle because I am still alive even if it took my cousin thirteen hours before he responded and brought me to the clinic then eventually to the hospital. Then the doctor recited the statistics to them.
“She is so strong! We couldn’t believe that she’s still alive!”- This is what the doctors had told my cousin and staff. They then perform ct scan, blood test and inject pain reliever every now and then. They also injected medicines to prevent shock and convulsion. And they also put me on oxygen.
Unfortunately, the doctors in the province don’t have the necessary machine and modern skills to operate on me, they cannot give an assurance to my elder brother that I would come out alive after the operation. This was narrated to me by my assistant and my elder brother since during that time. I am already going in and out of consciousness and was suffering from a very bad headache. The pain is no longer tolerable. It is as if somebody, kicked a football straight to my head.
Our eldest brother, who talked with the doctors at the hospital was already resigned with my fate, after hearing the statistics, he thought I have no chance coming out alive but my second elder brother would not hear him out and decided to bring me to Manila.
The three airlines flying the Legazpi to Manila route would not admit me to fly with them because I have an oxygen and I could not stand or sit down.
My brothers then asked helped from my cousin and also from our governor. That is why, two (2) ambulance arrived. One from our town mayor and one from the governor. My brother chose only one of course, and just give gas money to the driver and asked him to thank our mayor on his behalf. You might have thought that it was free, but you are wrong, because my elder brother had to give gas money also to the ambulance drivers and airfare money to the doctor and nurse who accompany us to Manila.
Nevertheless, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the governor of Albay, Governor Joey Salceda, maybe he doesn’t know or remember me personally. But I am still thankful po Gov! And also to our town mayor. Thanks po Mrs. Cherry Mella- Sampal.
My neurosurgeon explained that an Aneurysms are swellings on the wall of an artery and are usually congenital, but they can also be the consequence of high blood pressure, often linked to stress or aging. Mine is inborn according to my neurosurgeon. He said I am too young to acquire it from Hypertension. He said I might have been one of those people who was born with aneurysm. We have a time bomb on our head awaiting to explode anytime. The sad thing: We don’t know about it.
Smoking or excessive alcohol consumption increase the risk of rupture. I neither smoke nor drink alcoholic beverages. I never smoke a single cigarette in my entire existence and I am not even a social drinker. I drink fruit juices and soda though.
I underwent a three-hour emergency operation, during which, a coil was placed over the artery to stop it from bleeding. I was left with a temporarily blind left eye, the aneurysm had not been easy to access because of its location. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer any brain damage but my a second degree burn on my left thigh hurt like hell. The doctors needed to change the dressing everyday to prevent infection.
I stayed in the hospital for three weeks. I felt unimaginably exhausted and could not connect with the world. I could not tolerate noise! I can imagine how I rattled the doctors and the nurses when they celebrated UST’s 400th year right outside my hospital door! Ha ha ha! My assistant and brother told me later that I keep on complaining why the heck are there so many fireworks and noise outside. My assistant said I even asked him to get the name of the nurses so I could file a complaint to the hospital administrators. Ha ha ha!
I also felt isolated, my short-term memory was hopeless and I was so weak I had to learn to walk again, my lower back is so painful, my second degree burn hurts, my left eye was partially blind. Initially, I could only manage several minutes’ exercise at a time, but I persevered and after four months I was walking again.
I then consulted a rehab doctor and underwent physical therapy at a hospital nearby, it was a blessing that my elder brother never ever gave up on me. He patiently bring me to my therapy sessions and wait for me until I finished all of the necessary sessions. I also had several x-rays and different doctor consultations from neurosurgeons, yes with an s because I had two (2), heart specialist, ophthalmologist, rehabilitation doctors, physical therapist.
Although my ruptured brain injury happened a year and a half years ago, I still suffer from the physical and psychological after effects.
Even now, as we sit eating lunch in our house, I suffer from a temporarily blurred left eye, it is like someone had put a white cloud on my left eye, but that is an improvement already because it was blind before. I also have third degree burn on my left thigh which if you will inspect from the outer skin would make you conclude that it was already healed but the sad thing is, it is very painful whenever someone touch it accidentally. Sometimes, my right hand would involuntarily go down even if I wanted it to go up. I also always ending up apologizing whenever I loses the thread of the conversation with other people.
Physically, I look normal. (except for my temporary blurry left eye, which you won’t notice.) No one would guess what I’ve been through. I know that looks are not important. Just like you and everybody else, all I want is to lead a normal life, with normal eyesight on both eyes and maybe to find a husband and start a family. But I guess, that would never happen, because that someone would need to have a very long patience, slow to anger and should love me unconditionally because I would never ever be 100% again according to my neurosurgeon.
I learned that just like with many other ruptured brain aneurysm survivors I am very sensitive. I initially lost my confidence and felt very vulnerable as if a protective layer of skin had been stripped away, I am very sensitive than usual. People often misconstrued me and think I am so bad. Maarte, insecure and other unfounded accusations, they already labelled me with that in the blogger’s blind item mill. Now, I know how an actor or actress in the eye of controversy felt. I now empathize with them.
For the first several months after the hemorrhage, I felt I was doing everything in slow-motion. I was terrified of crossing the road and couldn’t cope with noise. My slowness made everyone else seem to be neurotically running around, as if they were in a Charlie Chaplin silent film.
Until today I am not as tolerant as I used to be. Other experiences, however, were incredibly intense and looking at a picture could make me so emotional I’d cry. Imagine how many bucket of tears I shed when my favorite comedian died. I am much more emotional now than I was, before my aneurysm and surgery. I will cry and take offense much more quickly. But unlike other aneurysm survivors who quickly forget why are they crying or why they take offense, I do remember why and how I was wronged. Maybe, that is both a good sign and bad sign, right doc?
I also got depressed, which is very common. I was not as fast as I used to be and couldn’t achieve as much. I used to be an achiever and now I am an underachiever. I believe my I.Q. and E.Q. had dived down.
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down”.-Oprah Winfrey
Sadly, I lost some friends as we couldn’t connect in the same way. Unfortunately, they don’t understand what had happened to me. They can’t tolerate whatever I might have said or done. Or maybe they were afraid I might ask for financial help from them. I really have no idea. So many years of friendship down the drain. If you needed help and they deserted you, what can you do? Oppps, let me clear myself, I never ever ask nor received anything from her in the past.
As a result of the ruptured brain aneurysm, I also suffered mild aphasia. I can’t remember even the simplest things. I have to re-train my brain and it takes time. You can’t name simple words, simple objects I’ve known all my life. It can get frustrating at times. This communications disability that occurs after a brain trauma makes an individual thinks of one word but says another.
I might, for example, wanted to say “white” but actually say “black”. I still say the wrong word sometimes, but luckily I am not too bad. I also had a very slight stutter. I hope they don’t notice it.
In addition, I couldn’t cope with some things I used to love, such as going to different places here and abroad alone. During the first several months after my operation. I was totally secluded from the outside world. I couldn’t even meet friends in a cafe, as it would be too noisy and crowded. Plus I can’t go alone to different places. I had been a great chatterer on the phone, but I was uncomfortable holding a mobile to my ear and tired quickly of talking sometimes I would fall asleep on the phone or when I try singing. I thought I’ll gonna die from boredom looking at our ceiling every single day from sunrise until dawn.
I also have a very low immune system, I easily gets sick, when I went to places with a lot of people.
Earlier this year, I started attending blogger events that turned my blog from a travel blog to a food and lifestyle, entertainment and events blog. Some journalists I met on those events, wanted to interview me for TV and print but I beg off. I never wanted to be famous. But on second thought, I might make a documentary on brain aneurysm in the future to help other ruptured brain aneurysm survivors to cope up with their lives. I also wish I could put a support group in the Philippines for ruptured brain aneurysm survivors. I hope the Philippine government provide a FREE brain scan in all hospitals in the Metro if not the whole Philippines to prevent fatality. If this is next to impossible, then I hope that an awareness campaign about aneurysm be launch so people will be aware and prevent loss of lives due to aneurysm.
I think the challenge of talking with other survivors would help me with confidence and I think I will be able to learn much from them. If I hadn’t had ruptured brain aneurysm, I might never stay in the Metro and be an active blogger.
My neurosurgeon asked me to have MRA / MRI within the first six months of my coiling. Since the MRA/MRI results “SAY” that I have a NEW ANEURYSM. My neurosurgeon wanted to perform an angiogram to confirm it, but I have to sign a contract that in case he was able to confirm the aneurysm, he will treat the”aneurysm” right there and then. I beg off, because at that time it was barely six months and we don’t have enough money to pay for the second angiogram or coiling if ever the need arises. I have had to give up working at my business, yes up until now I feel bad about it since I own the business and we’re still paying for the rent up until now because I still have a lot of inventories and I don’t know if anyone would be interested to buy them. We are drained financially from my first operation and I had to earn money and now I had to think of ways how to earn money in order to afford the second angiogram and treatment.
I have good and bad days but I know I don’t need people judging me for something which I don’t even know. I don’t need them to sympathize with me, I just want a little understanding, a little empathy maybe.
It will be a long, long way to go for me and I don’t know what the future holds for me and some things will never be the same again.
I hope and pray my other aneurysm won’t rupture until I can afford my second operation. From where in God’s hands will I get the money? I don’t even know yet. I can’t work just yet according to my neurosurgeon. How I wish I was someone famous now, because from what I observed, famous people gets free medical treatment. And poor unknown people are entitled to nothing . So sad but true. So Please pray with me, okay? Salamat!
Be thankful that you are alive! For what? As for me, I don’t know yet, but I hope God hold my hands and lead the way.