Racing Against Brain Aneurysms

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The title says it all: the sooner we get the best, up-to-date accurate facts out to people, the more lives we can save!

Such is the message behind the hood and rear, deck lid sponsorship on the #52 Chevy Camaro for this weekends NASCAR Xfinity race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The Lisa Colagrossi Foundation, a worldwide leader in raising awareness for brain aneurysms, sponsored the car driven by Iowa native, Joey Gase. The foundation asked for people effected by brain aneurysms to donate money to have either their name or photo of a loved one on the car during the race. The amount of exposure Joey and the car got on this national event was priceless.

Dave and I were asked as special guests to attend the race. And we cannot say enough about Joey and his father Bob. They were extremely generous with their time and hospitality. We certainly never demanded or asked of anything, but they offered so much from golf cart transport to ear plugs and water. Respect breeds respect.

The car was beautiful (if you can say that about a stock car) and seeing it in person was emotional. Watching Dori and Kim’s photo leave the garage area was almost like setting them free to go fly on the track. 32 individuals effected by brain aneurysms were on the car including notable figures such as Albert Haynesworth (NFL), Maryam Dabo (James Bond girl), Andre Jones (TJ Jones/NFL, Detroit Lions father), and Ashley Harris (wife of Tommie Harris/NFL, Chicago Bears) and a few not-so-notable figures such as myself, my sister Dori and Dave’s niece Kim.

Bob Gase and Todd Crawford were wonderful hosts and showed us around the track. We also had an opportunity to spend time with Joey in his hauler to cool off and get out of the sound and noise. He’s a wonderful young man and shouldn’t have had to lose his mother at such a young age. I had fun talking racing with him – he may not say the same. 🙂 Dave and I are big NASCAR fans and we have been following him in the Xfinity series and the few cup starts he has had.

This summer weekend race at New Hampshire is always a busy one in the garage area because they have three different series racing on Saturday and the Sprint Cup teams also had several practices, so there were opportunities to see a lot of on-track action. We enjoyed some of the Whelen Modified race and got to see the end of one of the cup practices. With the pit access we had, we were able to get close to some of the cars and drivers on pit road. Dave snapped a photo of Jack Rousch and saw Richard Childress walking by. We’ve been to three races at NHMS before, but this was a different experience for sure.

The pit and garage areas are regular hives of activities throughout the day and one needs to be aware of your surroundings. Many carts, cars, gas cans, and groups of media moving back and forth between the garages and trackside. I was run into on pit road during the modified race because I had ear plugs in and he couldn’t stop the large cart. He hit me gently and did apologize and we had a laugh.

The weekly circus that is NASCAR is amazing. The logistics and organization that goes into each team and just getting the event produced is impressive. And then add to that the wonderful staff at New Hampshire Motor Speedway who could not have been nicer. A stellar group of people and a lot of fun.

We were able to take many photos with Joey at the car before the Xfinity race as well as stand next to the car during opening ceremonies and the singing of the anthem. Something I’ve only seen on TV previously, or in the stands. This perspective was a lot of fun and It was emotional to be standing next to the car and see our loved ones there with us.

Then after the anthem was sung Joey’s dad led us over to the team’s pit area and informed us we’d be sitting on top of the pit box for the race! Now THAT was very, very unexpected. We weren’t really sure where we’d be to watch the race, but I hadn’t even thought about the actual pit box that is wheeled over from the hauler. It was a tight fit, but Todd, Dave and I climbed the narrow ladder to the three chairs for us. What an amazing view for a race! Dave and I geeked out a wee bit I think.

The sounds and smells of the cars racing by and coming in for pit stops is either something you love or hate. I happened to be one of those people that loves it. My sister Dori and I always used to go the demolition derbies at our local fairgrounds every year until I moved to Maine in 2001. She was also a NASCAR fan back in the day and I truly felt her with my on top of that pit box geeking out with Dave and I and enjoying the event immensely.

Joey didn’t qualify for the race very well, but he move up during the race and finished a respectable 25th place out of 30 cars. He is a good driver. He doesn’t ruffle any feathers on the track and hasn’t caused any fights on pit road or in the garage area (that I’m aware of!) and I think he has treated other drivers with respect. Again…respect breeds respect. I think the two media pieces produced by NBC Sports about Joey over the weekend were a reflection of the kind of young man he is and how he has taken something that is very painful and is helping others. It was a pleasure to meet Joey and his dad and we will continue to support him and cheer for him on a weekly basis.

It was a special, special day at the track and it was wonderful to get close to the action. As a double brain aneurysm survivor, I took great pride in having my name on the car and hoping the words “brain aneurysm” have now entered into the vocabulary of the NASCAR community in a bigger fashion. There are a few people who have even effected within the NASCAR family and we know they’re going to be helping TLCF help raise awareness and make the public more aware of the symptoms and their own personal stories.

Thank you to Todd Crawford and The Lisa Colagrossi Foundation for making this day possible. We look forward to future endeavors and helping to save lives.

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Head Over Heels

A fellow brain aneurysm survivor posted on Facebook tonight that she had fallen and hit her head pretty hard. After a CT scan, she was given the “all clear”, but I know it must have been scary. She has been through multiple procedures and suffered a stroke.

This week I celebrated my 9th Annie-versary: nine years ago I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. The 11mm (almost 1/2 inch in diameter) aneurysm I didn’t know was growing inside my brain suddenly ruptured. The annie-versary day went by with little fan fare. My husband made me dinner, which is always a special treat, but beyond that, because I’m always so busy at work, I didn’t do much to celebrate.

The first couple of years, I would take the day off and have a spa day. I think I need to start doing that again…regardless of how stressful & busy things are at work this time of year…which it always is. They’re lucky to still have me.

Falling and hitting my head is probably my biggest fear. I hate it when I get to work late and have to park up on the very steep hill parking lot. I always fear falling down and make sure I grasp and have a good hold on the PVC pipe railing along the “side walk” up and down the hill. The railing is always covered with snow or ice too, so not sure how much of a help that is.

I probably didn’t share this with many people, but on our last night in Scotland in 2013, our tour guide dropped us off at a hotel near the Edinburgh airport. Dave and I enjoyed a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant, then I REALLY wanted to take a long soak in a tub and there was a deep, soaking tub in our room at the hotel. As I was getting out, I misjudged the height of the tub to the floor and slipped on the tile floor as I got out, BARELY missing hitting my head on the tub and landing on my backside pretty hard.

Dave immediately ran in from the other room. I was laying on the floor with my head pretty much laying up against the tub. Once we both realized I was okay, we both shook in fear. It was a scary moment and one I hope never to repeat. And that was before I had my craniotomy on my 2nd brain aneurysm.

I suppose the fear is that a hit on the head could produce some sort of shock on the aneurysms and force them to bleed. Or that the surgical work that has already been done…could become “undone”. I’m not even sure how realistic that fear is. I supposed I should ask on my next visit with my neurosurgeon. Because I’m susceptible to aneurysms and bleeding, I would think any hard hit could be a risk. So, I’m very glad Lori got a CT scan after she fell and hit her head. I’d do the same thing.

I didn’t hit my head when my first brain aneurysm ruptured in 2006. No warning, no symptoms, that I recall. But I know that brain hemorrhages can occur when hitting your head. The tragic death of Natasha Richardson is a sad example of that.

So, nine years ago this week, I was in the ICU at Maine Med, then moved to the 608 Neuro-ward. I was in the hospital for two weeks then had six months of recovery before going back to work full-time. Only one person from work visited me and it was simply because she was in the area. I’m so glad Lori has such a wonderful group of friends to support her. I’m sure this fall scared her very much. I know her daughter and husband keep a close eye on her and I’m sure THEY were just as scared as she was. Her service dog Tober will make sure she’s okay. What a great dog he is. Love him.

I’m a NASCAR fan, and the race at Charlotte, NC is this weekend. I remember watching that race in ICU with Dave and my sister Dori (who died of a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2012). They were impressed I knew the drivers and was so responsive. I was one of the lucky ones. Some times I wonder WHY I was one of the lucky ones when so many beautiful, vibrant people who had children to live for aren’t here anymore. It just doesn’t make sense some times. Survivor’s guilt? You bet cha. I’m not a mother and I think I’m a very selfish person, so I’m not sure why God chose ME to live over all of the other beautiful, strong individuals who have lost their lives and devastated their families over ruptured brain aneurysms. It just doesn’t make sense to me some times.

So, yes…I walk slower in snowy & icy conditions. I drive slower in snowy & icy conditions. I don’t ride a bike anymore because of the fear of falling off and hitting my head. I don’t do any strenuous physical sports anymore…not that I ever did before. Falling and hitting my head can happen at any time…even slipping on some of the acorns in the driveway, which is like walking on marbles, gives me pause. I bought this fear up at a support group meeting, but I was on the only one who addressed it. I’m sure other’s have that fear. I’m so glad Lori is okay after her fall. Aneurysms survivors have another added fear. Goody….but I’m still here.