It has been five years since my sister Dori died from a ruptured brain aneurysm. She was the same age I am now. She left behind a 15-year old son. She didn’t live to see her son turn 16 later that same year and wish him a happy birthday. She didn’t live to see him graduate from high school and give him a hug and tell him how proud she was of him.
Dori’s story is just one of the many brain aneurysm-related stories my husband and I tell when we meet other people. We have met so many over the last 11 years. So many wonderful, uplifting survival stories, but also too many heart-breaking reminders of the devastating, life-changing effects a brain aneurysm can have on a family.
I survived my first brain aneurysm rupture in 2006, but just two years later Dave’s niece Kim died suddenly of a rupture at the young age of 32. Heart-breaking, soul-shattering and devastating our small family to the core.
Each year we meet more individuals, more relatives, more survivors, and more medical people with brain aneurysms being the common thread that binds us.
Dave and I didn’t ask for this cause. No one does. If found us. After Kim died, we could have easily turned away and ignored the reason behind her death and behind my near-death experience. I could have walked out of the hospital after 20 days and 6-months of recovery and never wanted anything to do with brain aneurysms again. Some do. They think once the doctor “fixes” them, they’re all set to go on with life and never look back.
However, to ignore the issues that brought us to that life-threatening event, or to ignore the sudden death of a loved one or friend, is to give this disease the upper hand and potentially kill & disable people.
Yes, we started the KAT-Walk in 2009 to honor Dave’s niece, but we also want to educate the public to the symptoms and treatments available for brain aneurysms. Our event, and other events throughout the year, have become bigger than just a local walk to honor a beautiful, vibrant young woman.
It’s the STORIES that continue to steer this wee boat in the storm.
It’s the STORIES that show us the incredible strength one person can have despite overwhelming odds and despair..
It’s the STORIES that tear out your heart and remind you just how precious life is.
It’s the FACT that by sharing our STORIES, we can actually save a life if we’re able to educate someone to get to the hospital and fight for your own health and the life you share with your family.
All of those stories are IN me now. I KNOW those stories. I KNOW those people. I have my own heartache and my own medical struggles I am still dealing with, but so does everyone else. I’m not special in that regards and I’m not famous by any means, but I CAN do something and I CAN help lend comfort, share knowledge, and yes, save a damn life.
So, this Saturday, when I walk to honor the lives of Kim and my sister Dori, I’ll also walk to celebrate my survival and all of the STORIES we have been told the last 11 years. I feel the stories of everyone I’ve been in contact with. We need to help people understand what a brain aneurysm is. We need to share our brain aneurysm stories.
I hope you’ll join us. Visit MaineBA.org for more event information.