15 Years and Counting

15 years ago today my first brain aneurysm ruptured. The previous day, I had just finished the initial layout for the entire catalog. What a huge relief to finally know it would all fit after a stressful five months. I still had a great deal of work to do yet on the catalog, but my brain had other ideas on that chilly October morning.

I am still around today for several reasons:

  • My bleed didn’t kill me instantly
  • I listened to my own body and had Dave take me to the ER
  • The quick work of the attending physician at Maine General who immediately sent me in for a CT scan where the blood on my brain was detected
  • The high-speed and safe driving of the EMT ambulance squad who got me to Maine Medical Center in record time
  • The skilled hands and eyes of Dr. Eddie Kwan who performed the endovascular coiling on my 1/2” brain aneurysm the next morning
  • The compassionate, and hard-working nursing staff at Maine Med who attended to me for 21 days
  • The many prayers from my family and friends
  • My Maine man, whose constant care and attention gave me the strength to get up each morning

Dave, my rock, my constant companion for over 20 years. I am so fortunate that I was discovered on AOL by this GOOD MAN in 1998. Not only am I amazed, blessed, and thankful by the care he provided ME while in the hospital and in recovery, but also by the time and attention he pays to other survivors we have met over the years. The world, and MY world, is a better place because of you, Dave. THANK YOU!

Brain aneurysms don’t discriminate and my story isn’t unique. There are thousands of people just like me around the world. Brain aneurysms don’t care how old you are. They don’t care what race, gender, political leanings, or financial situation you are in. A ruptured brain aneurysm can happen to anyone.

Although I started sharing my story on https://heidisbrainblog.com as a way to keep my family and friends updated on my recovery, it became a therapy of sorts to fight my way back, relearn the computer, hand-eye coordination, and connect with others going through the same thing.

It was wonderful to discover I was not alone and others were going through very similar struggles. I’m so thankful to the other survivors I have met over the years. Each of their stories have touched me and given me strength.

I am not a glorious survivor. I haven’t run marathons to prove my incredible physical strength, or started podcasts proclaiming a new-found energy and awareness for life. I haven’t shown the world my face on tons of YouTube videos (okay, I have a couple out there) or written a book, but I am surviving every day….and I think that’s pretty damn good.

15 years…and counting! Happy annie-versary to me.

Ghosts From The Past

At work today, as we were discussing a return of flower bulbs to the catalog, we were looking at older catalogs when we sold bulbs previously. For about three or four years we sold Narcissus and Tulips. As I was looking through one of the older catalogs, I noticed a major typo! The word Narcissus, was spell with an “M”!

Marcissus (oops!)

My first thought was embarrassment because I would have been the one who typed that and then I was laughing because…well, it was funny! Obviously our copywriter/editor/proofreader extraordinaire missed it, and probably many others did too. A group effort!

Then I realized the year of that particular catalog – 2007. Which means I was producing it in 2006. Which means, that’s the catalog I wasn’t able to complete because I had my ruptured brain aneurysm in October of that year.

It was NOT easy for those left behind to complete the catalog that year. They did bring another graphic artist in, but it must have been horribly difficult for her to pick up where I left off and not know how I pulled in information from our database, nor any of the processes, or where I had left off.  I seem to remember I was able to tell my husband to tell them a few things, but beyond that, they were on their own.

Seeing this typo brought back a lot of memories of that period and also of Jeanne, our proofreader. She was brilliant at her job and worked tirelessly to make sure the information that went out of the building to customers was accurate. So, seeing this typo, I wanted to contact her immediately, because I know she would have felt the same way about it as I did.

Heidi & Jeanne (left to right)

Sadly, I’m unable to contact her because she passed away almost two months ago from cancer. Even though she retired two years ago, I always knew I could reach out to her and she’d understand. I also know she’d be some pissed that this typo went out to customers, but she would have also stated that it was a stressful time for everyone while I was out and that “shit happens”.  Yes, it does…so I look upon this little typo as a badge of honor. Jeanne and I BOTH survived that catalog season. Marcissus be damned.  You can be sure in this, my 17th year of catalog design, I’ll spell it correctly!

October, Shocktober

October has always been a bitter-sweet month for me and my family.

The Sweet:

  • my nephew Ian was born (he’s now a handsome 19-year old!)
  • my step-nephew Adam was born
  • my sister Dori was born

The Bitter:

  • my Dad was diagnosed with cancer in October (lost him in 1994 – 6-months after diagnosis)
  • my Mom passed away in October last year (2014)
  • my brother-in-law Fred was killed in October
  • I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in October in 2006.

And I’m sure I’m leaving something out, but those are the biggies. I think that’s enough, don’t you?

October 25th is a bitter-sweet day for me as well. It was Dori’s birthday, but it was also the day I was released from the hospital after a three week stay nine years ago next week. I remember speaking to Dori on the phone after I got home and she told me my coming home was the best birthday present I could have given her. We were both crying.

How awful that six year’s later, I was crying in a London hotel room after findiing out Dori had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm too and I never got a chance to say good-bye and let her know how much I loved, and adored her.

Brain aneurysms simply suck. They take the lives of young, old, healthy, joyful people, and devestate the lives of those they love. Granted, they don’t always kill, but they certainly can cause distruption and change the lives of all those around you forever.

October is also a stressful month for me at work. With my rupture happening in the critical last weeks of catalog production, it was left to our small crew and a poor graphic artist brought in to pick up the pieces to finish the book. They did the best they could. Three months later I returned to work part-time to find my office with calendar’s still set on October and reminders on my computer for jobs that needed to be completed…in October. A surreal experience for sure.

I am one of the lucky ones who #1, worked at a great company that allowed me the time to heal and recover and #2, I was physically able to perform my job full time after a 6-month recovery period. Soooo many are not so fortunate and the needs of survivors and their issues after a rupture are so varied, it’s difficult for employers and co-workers to truly understand the depth of recovery needed.

I suppose that’s one of the reasons I speak out about brian aneurysms and try to educate others. Although this blog as been theraputic for me personally, I have received a few comments from other survivors and those who have lost loved ones who tell me it has helped. That means more to me than any amount of money I could raise. Support is what we all need. I have survived a rupture, a coiling, a re-coiling and a stent, then a craniotomy on a 2nd un-ruptured brain aneurysm. And that first large brain aneurysm is STILL giving me issues. Look for updates on more potential “brain bling” in the New Year!

Every October I remember the day of my rupture. Every October I remember my mother’s death now. I remember my father’s diagnosis with cancer and I remember my sister’s birthday on October 25th. I still hate October, but I’m here. For whatever reason, I. AM. HERE.


8 Years And Counting

20141004-230625.jpgI say it every year around this time but Happy Annie-versary to me! 8 years ago today I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm at home. I believe I was guided by God’s hand to go into the ER when I did. I KNEW it was something I had never experienced before and wanted to get it checked out because it scared me. I was only vaguely aware of the term aneurysm because a cousin had one coiled a few years earlier. I had no idea just how serious it was for her and just how my life, and my family’s life, would be changed.

No, I wasn’t sent to Boston for my surgery. My particular aneurysm was a good candidate for the relatively new procedure called coiling. What I know NOW, but didn’t know then, is that the rather large, 1/2″ diameter brain aneurysm is actually sitting on my optic nerve and the head of neurology was nervous about doing the more invasive procedure of a craniotomy and clipping (which I just went through with my un-ruptured aneurysm). Thankfully the staff right here in Maine at Maine Medical Center were more than capable of handling that procedure and are now in 2014 even MORE prepared to handle all of the new treatments available.

16 coils and four additional coils, a stent, a craniotomy, and now a metal clip, and here I still am. It was a frustrating recovery in 2006 and I am now meeting, and hopefully assisting, recent survivors at our brain aneurysm support group. We’re all lucky. We survived.

I’ve given up asking “why did I survive” and why didn’t Dave’s niece Kim or my sister Dori survive their ruptures. There is no answer. God had other plans I guess.

I mentioned to my mother earlier in the week that I had finished the first round of layouts for the ENTIRE catalog for next year’s book. Ironically, 8 years ago, I remembered celebrating that milestone and one or two days later, the brain aneurysm ruptured. I’m still working just as hard, still stressing just as much, but a little bit more tired this year because my UN-ruptured brain aneurysm was clipped in January. One of the side effects from THAT surgery is when I’m overly tired, my left eye lid gets droopy and even though it doesn’t look it, I feel like my brain and skull are swollen when I’ve worked too hard. Yes, I still push myself. It’s my job, it’s my responsibility. I do have limits though….you’d think I would have learned that 8 years ago. LOL

I still don’t eat as well as I should and I don’t get enough exercise. Perhaps that part of my brain that activates motivation has changed. Who knows, but I’m here. No special celebration today, just making home made chili in the crockpot, working on the catalog (yes, on the weekend!) and hanging out with my Maine Man and my kitty cats. That’s more than I was doing eight years ago in ICU.

If I’m able to help any other survivors and help spread the word about the symptoms and treatments of these silent killers, then I’m hopefully turning something bad into a more positive thing. There are days I don’t want to talk about brain aneurysms. There are days I don’t want to think about them, but I can’t get away from them. That’s the sad truth. So, I’m trying to make the best of it and try to help others LIVE in whatever way they’re able to. They are a part of my everyday living.

For those of you still struggling, you’re not alone and things will get better with time. Just treat yourself right, enjoy life, and celebrate the people around you. You just never know.


Photo taken on my first walk outside after craniotomy in January this year.