Lending a Hand

We spent the day yesterday down in the beautiful coastal town of Wells in the southern Maine attending a fundraising event for a Well’s resident who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm in March.

Due to Covid19, our MBAA group have not attending any of our usual brain conferences, fairs, and support events since March of 2020. So, we were looking forward to pitching our tent once again. And hugging! There was hugging!

About two weeks ago, I saw a news report on TV about fundraising efforts benefiting Bob Hoffman, who along with his wife, and another couple, own and run the Living Wells Farm, a horseback riding and boarding center. Bob suffered a serious brain aneurysm rupture in March and continues to heal with rehabilitation therapy at home.

Once we saw Bob’s story, we wanted to make sure he and his family were being looked after and had all the information and medical assistance they needed during this critical recovery period. The #BobStrong Fundraiser offered the opportunity to introduce ourselves and offer our help in anyway.

A small segment of the #bobstrong team

We contacted Katie from CrossOver Fitness Maine who, along with her husband Andre, were organizing the event for Bob at their fitness center in Wells. Thankfully, there was a quick response which also led to Bob and his wife attending a timely brain aneurysm support group meeting with us over Zoom this past week.

It’s so important for survivors and their caregivers to know they’re not alone during these critical periods of after-care and healing. We were really please when Bob and Amanda showed up on our computer screens for the support group.

Everyone is different. Every aneurysm is different. And everyone responds to a ruptured brain aneurysm differently. Some are receptive to help, others can walk out of the hospital on their own and never look back or look into what may have caused the aneurysm and how it has effected their brain and their families. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can lead a survivor/caregiver to a support group, but you can’t make them share their story or be open to receiving assistance and education.

Thankfully, Bob and Amanda were receptive to our group and were engaged and open with us. We were also highly impressed with the path to recovery Bob is currently on and the services he has been offered through some very tenacious efforts by Amanda and their rehabilitation center, Rehab Without Walls.

Yesterday’s fundraiser was a beautiful example of a community coming out to support one of their own and how they have wrapped their arms around this young family in their time of need. We met Bob’s parents and children and some of the good friends helping the family on their brain aneurysm journey. I am reminded, yet again, how the physical brain aneurysm happens to one person, but the entire family suffers the results as they are often confused and scared by all they have seen.

Our group tries to assist survivors and families in understanding the recovery period and what one can expect. We NEVER give them a timeline on when their recovery will be complete. No one can tell you that. But, if you put in the time and educate yourself on how best to help the survivor, it can make that journey easier and perhaps quicker to achieve better results.

Dave and I were joined by two of our committee members, Amy and Linda for the day and we were impressed by the over 200 people who participated throughout the day and brought such a loving and caring attitude. We were asked many questions and met a few people who had also been touched by brain aneurysms in their own families.

Linda, Dave, Heidi, Amy, and new survivor, Bob

Bob is a very fit and strong individual. Both of those traits should benefit him greatly during recovery, but it’s not a quick process. Reading my own blog from my first few months is a quick reminder of how frustrated and depressed I got. Having that strong support group around you is a huge benefit and I think Bob is one very lucky man after what I experienced yesterday.

Spending the day with Linda and Amy also allowed us some catch-up time and the chat was mostly about our experiences with brain aneurysms and our combined efforts in the state to educate people. I have something in common with both of them: Amy is also a survivor and Linda lost two loved ones to brain aneurysms – both of her parents. It’s interesting how easy it is to discuss these difficult topics when you know the person you’re speaking with has also endured similar difficult experiences.

Linda, Dave, and Amy

It felt GOOD to be out there doing GOOD again. It felt GOOD to load up the car, pitch that tent, lend a helping hand where we could, and hug people again.


It’s Show Time!

Because this is MY blog and I can write whatever I want, allow me to toot my own horn for a wee bit.

For many, many years, we have tried unsuccessfully to reach out to local print & television news outlets for coverage of our organization’s efforts to raise brain aneurysm awareness in the state. We have provided stories to the right people at the right times, but there has never been coverage of our annual KAT-Walk and Karo-5k.

Last summer we FINALLY received some television love after I responded to a local news reporter’s story on Twitter. She immediately responded to my reply and Dave and I ended up hosting the reporter in our home for a short interview and two very short spots on the local news station that evening.

NewsCenter Maine Video 1 — WATCH NOW

NewsCenter Maine Video 2 — WATCH NOW

A few people saw these videos and commented and we have no idea of knowing how many people actually saw the report and subsequent videos on social media, but if one person saw them, listened to what we said, and went to the hospital to get checked, it was worth it. We haven’t heard if anyone came to our KAT-Walk & Karo-5k as a result of watching the story either, but we still want to get the word out there.

When Mira, one of our committee members who lost her 27-year old daughter Karolina to a ruptured brain aneurysm, was trying to solicit sponsorship funds for our walk & 5K last year, she met a Portland, Maine lawyer. Derry Rundlett offered up his services in the form of impersonations of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis at our Dance for Awareness event in March, in exchange for a television appearance on his monthly cable show in Portland.

Derry is 75-years old, full of energy, and was extremely generous with his time and money at the dance. His performances were great fun and fit in perfectly with this year’s Rock n’ Roll theme!

Dave agreed to be on his show some time in April. He asked me to be a part of it as well, so we drove down to Portland, met Derry for lunch, then walked over to the studio to film the 25-30 minute show.

Because Dave and I have spoken to so many groups and organizations about brain aneurysms over the years and how we came to be involved with raising awareness, speaking to Derry came naturally, it was just in front of cameras and in a studio this time. Neither of us were nervous but we certainly wanted to make a good impression, represent our organization well, and raise awareness about brain aneurysms. I think we were successful on all counts.

We had a rough outline of the show, but weren’t aware of exactly what questions Derry would be asking us.

Watch the Derry Rundlett Show about Brain Aneurysms in Maine

WATCH SHOW – approx 25-30 minutes long

Although I have spoken to many people about my own experiences with brain aneurysms as well as about my sister’s death from one, for some reason after this taping I was quite sad and subdued on the drive north back home. Dave and I chatted a little bit, but I really wasn’t in the mood to chat. I have yet to figure out why talking about it on this specific day and in this arena made me sad. I suppose it just “hits me” on some days. I also think because Derry expressed such an interest and appeared to be deeply touched by our stories and our efforts, it rubbed a nerve/emotion that had been resting comfortably for awhile.

And, as usual, I don’t hear much feedback from my friends or co-workers when these shows are brought to their attention, which also depresses me. I need to stop expecting that support. If I stop expecting it, then I won’t be so disappointed when it never comes. You’d think after 12 years I’d learn….oh, well. You can lead a horse to a computer or cell phone, but you can’t make them watch things, right???

A Needed Break

Dave and I are always thinking….thinking about brain aneurysms. They have been a part of our daily lives since 2006. We raise money, we produce print pieces, Dave creates banners and maintains all of our Facebook posts. I do Instagram and Twitter posts and maintain the website. We help with the monthly support group and we’re always trying to raise awareness for brain aneurysms.

So,  it was odd when after our first real vacation in five years, I realized that we never discussed brain aneurysms in that three week period. I think the only time I thought about my aneurysms was on the flights, but for the most part…it was a three-week break from brain aneurysms.

At a beautiful waterfall in Scotland

It was a very welcome break and one we needed to recharge and discover the world outside of our little Maine bubble. And we loved it! It wasn’t until the last week of the trip we even turned on a TV and it wasn’t to a news channel but local UK home & garden programming.

Because we were gone last month, we missed last month’s brain aneurysm support group meeting. Tonight we attended as usual and welcomed some new faces. I’m again reminded at the important work we are doing. And I’m also reminded that what’s most important to us (Dave and I) is the human contact and helping others…not the money. Yes, the money is important and it’s helping to fund important research, pay for event costs, and student scholarships, but it’s that one-on-one support and comfort we can give to others that is certainly the most rewarding.

The break was great and it was needed, but I’m pleased with how Dave and I are spending a good deal of our time…helping others when and where we can.

Balloons, Brains, and Bravery

The 2015 KAT-Walk & Karo-5K for Brain Aneurysm Awareness was held this past Saturday and the weather Gods, or at least our angels we call Kim & Karolina, were on our side.

Hot Air Balloon
The gentle rising of a hot air balloon greeted us.

We arrived at the Back Cove to see the sun come up, and as we were unloading the trailer, I noticed a hot air balloon slowing rising above the horizon across the bay. I had to stop and take a photo as I didn’t know which direction it was going. Thankfully, it glided right over our location and provided a stunning view of the extremely colorful patterns. It was fitting the bright colors were in our array of colors; the teal blue for Kim, the red for Karo, the orange for Nolan and blue and white for Scotland! 🙂

We were extremely blessed by warm, but not hot temperatures, low humidity, no rain and light winds. Some years the high winds can cause major issues with the tents, printed collateral, and flags.

The event was physically moved down to a location along the trail that allowed us to see more of the people involved. The previous years we were set up in a row along the gravel trail. Last year, we had no idea there were over 600 people there until the 5k started and they all gathered in one place. Once they registered, they became all spread out until that point. This year, our hope was to provide an area where the teams, families, and friends could gather and continue to be a “part” of the day with everyone else. I think we succeeded in that respect and some very positive comments were shared.

I’m usually set up in the Brain Aneurysm Awareness tent and get to meet survivors & their supporters who are new to the event and welcome those who have returned. We also try to provide comfort and support for those who have lost a loved one. I know we celebrate those who survived, but we also try to remember the reason many of us are there is because we lost a loved one to this silent killer. We did have a tender moment of silence to reflect on those lost in the opening ceremonies and many people use the honor board to gather and take picture’s with their loved ones sneaker.

Another good thing about moving the venue location was having the Start/Finish line directly in the vicinity of our tents. Those who finished early, could continue to be apart of the event and still cheer on those who crossed the line because it was right there.

Because Dave is so familiar with so many of the families and participants through his direct personal contact with them, he knows so many of the runners, walkers and their supporters. So, as he started to see some of them come across the finish line, he grabbed the microphone and started announcing them. I think that added a real special, personal touch. I know it was nice to have my name mentioned as I crossed the line all by myself again. Heidi McCausland….team of one!

The Board of Honor where sneakers with a survivor’s name or one who was lost are placed.

Usually the most heartwarming and heart-wrenching parts of the day are when we meet random people who are coming to the event for the first time and are reluctantly coming to the tent to read more about brain aneurysms and who want to write their loved one’s name on a sneaker to add to our Honor Board. I met one women who was there to walk for her best friend whom was lost 6 years ago. This was her first time there and it was very emotional for her. I hope participating in the event and honoring her friend in such a way helped comfort her.

I also met another woman who had lost her sister two years ago and was just walking by and saw the signs for the event. She didn’t participate in the event, but came to our tent, signed in, made a sneaker out for her sister, and took a brain aneurysm awareness bracelet. No matter how we reach out and connect, it’s all important.

Last year’s event, which raised a record amount of money, helped fund a $25,000 Chair of Research through the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. The recipient of that award made the trip to our event to honor US and to participate. Not only did Dr. Kimberly P. Kicielinski make the trip from Alabama, via Houston, then Boston, but she participated in the 5K, received honors from our committee, made a speech, and then she and her boyfriend Justin helped tear down the event afterwards and joined us for an after-event party.

The work Dr. Kim is doing is very important. She is trying to determine the thickness and fragility of artery and aneurysm walls. Exploring this issue could result in saving many lives. If doctors are aware an aneurysm is at higher risk of rupturing due to a weakness in the wall structure, they could act and operate and save a life before a potential catastrophic rupture occurs. Dave had some wonderful communications with Dr. Kim via email prior to meeting her in person at the event and things she said and obviously has done and is doing, really struck a chord with our entire committee.

For me personally, after my 2nd unruptured brain aneurysm was clipped in January, 2014, the doctor said we dodged a bullet because the aneurysm itself was very oddly shaped and had a weak point at the top of it: something they weren’t able to determine UNTIL they opened up the skull and had physical contact with the aneurysm. Dr. Kim’s work could provide that information before they go into the skull. If I hadn’t made the preventative decision to have that surgery, it could have killed me…and sooner, rather than later.

I left the shade of my tent to participate in the 2-mile walk this year. I walked alone again. Many people pass me, some are way behind me, but I finished and was proud. I walked for myself, my sister Dori, Dave’s niece Kim, for my fellow survivors who couldn’t join us this year, Lori & Julie, and for all those who don’t have the support of co-workers, friends, or even family members.

The trail is a beautiful spot for a walk/run and Dave is always insistent that there be high tide during the event to provide the best possible view. Trust us…you don’t want to be walking there when it’s low tide. LOL Just not pleasant. The flags were waiving, the surf was light and the seagulls were chattering away.

Two special guests were Christine Doherty Kondra and Alison Sedney from The Bee Foundation, a national organization focused on research for brain aneurysms. It was wonderful they made the trip up from Philadelphia to join us and speaking to them reminded me of how important the national dialogue on brain aneurysm awareness is. So many people don’t know what a brain aneurysm is until they, or someone they love, is affected by it. Alison lost her daughter, Christine’s cousin, on Christmas day to a ruptured brain aneurysm and just like all of us who participate in the event on Saturday, she too, has decided to DO something. The efforts of The Bee Foundation not only raise awareness, but provide critical medical research. It was great meeting them.

Every year we try and try to get some local television coverage of our event. Local news can cover a story such as the new Passy Pete, the lobster that can predict six more weeks of summer, but we’re unable to get them to cover our event? I just don’t get it and it’s very, very disappointing and depressing.

However, this year committee member, and co-founder of the KAT-Walk, Art Piteau, did a wonderful radio interview that aired the morning of the walk on the Derek Volk Radio Show on WLOB radio 1310. We will definitely use this resource in the future and Art did a great job on a subject he’s very passionate about because he adored Kim and was a large part of her life. HEAR AUDIO INTERVIEW>

We were also blessed to have a wonderful article written by Harrison Thorp for The Lebanon Voice newspaper. He was at the event with his partner Martha who was a very recent brain aneurysm survivor having had a craniotomy and clipping just a few short months ago. They both participated in the walk and gave a heart-felt report on the day’s events including the story of one survivor, Deb Hanmer, who is source of inspiration for many of us. It was wonderful to get a new participant’s perspective. READ ARTICLE>

Overall the event was successful in my eyes. We had a tremendous group of volunteers this year which made set up and tear down so much easier and even, dare I say, enjoyable! Thank you to everyone whose tireless efforts provide a beautiful, personal, and productive event. BRAVO!