Friday, February 29, 2008

Anna's Story (AVM)

Anna's Story

I've often thought about what a brain aneurysm patient must go through. What impact does the unanticipated existence and sudden rupture of a brain aneurysm have on that person and his or her loved ones? How does their world change? How and when do they heal? Will I ever truly understand?

Below is an account of a brief but critical epoch in the life of Anna, a brain aneurysm patient. "Anna" is her pseudonym. While I recognize that Anna's story is unique to Anna and her loved ones, there are threads of her story that are woven into those of many other brain aneurysm patients. I have included it in this Site to offer you hope and to focus on positivity. However, it is important to note that although Anna's outcome was excellent, many ruptured brain aneurysm survivors have very different experiences and outcomes. For the gamut of experiences in this condition, I refer you to the numerous narratives posted on the Website of Dr. Bill Maples ( take me to the narratives on the Aneurysm & AVM Support Website). The Brain Aneurysm Foundation also provides information and services related to support and recovery for patients with brain aneurysms ( take me to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation's Support and Recovery Section).

For families of ruptured brain aneurysm survivors, you may come across times when you are forced to make very difficult decisions, and deal with circumstances that you may never have imagined before such an event. Please be strong, persistent, and united. Your loved one is likely facing a life-altering event, whose recovery frequently requires considerable patience and ongoing love and support, even if the event seems to have changed them physically or psychologically. Such changes are not necessarily permanent. For persons who survive brain aneurysm rupture, you may need more help than you were previously used to or more than you are willing to accept. Such help is critical and should benefit you significantly. It may be in the form of physical therapy, a home nurse, a temporary stay in a Skilled Nursing Facility, Rehabilitation Center or a Nursing Home, more contact and support from your family members and your friends, more interaction with a Priest or Church, or an equivalent reglious or spiritual person or group. Time and positivity are so essential.

Anna's Warning Headache

Six weeks after completing her doctorate, Anna experienced what she described as the worst headache of her life while playing a tennis match on a bright and warm day with her Fiance. A headache was no complete stranger to Anna. She had experienced some relatively benign tension-band headaches during her final year at Grad School while writing and defending her Thesis, and also the rare migraine with nausea during her young life of 28 years thus far. While her mother carried a diagnosis of "migraine sufferer", Anna had no medical diagnosis, nor had she ever smoked. In any case, this particular severe headache of Anna's was very different to any that she or her mother had ever experienced. Anna reported that, uniquely, it came on suddenly, like a lightning bolt. Although she did not collapse or experience any vomiting or neurological disability with the onset of the headache, Anna felt as if her head had been struck suddenly and forcefully with a baseball bat. Her head was now pounding like it had never done before. She came off the court and sat for a while comforted by her Fiance, before he helped her to the car and home. During that short drive, she became nauseous, "dizzy", and vomitted. She didn't think of going to an Emergency Room. She was healthy, somewhat stoic, and as the headache improved slightly after an hour, she mistakenly wrote-off her headache to a bout of "heatstroke" during her Tennis match. Within four or five hours of lying down, her headache had improved more, but it took nearly two days before it resolved substantially. In the interim, Anna's Fiance had searched the Internet for causes of headache, and suggested to her that she might have experienced a "head bleed" or brain hemorrhage; because of this, he urged Anna to see her family doctor at once. Anna refused, citing that no one had suffered a head bleed in her family, and that she was only 28 years old, and thought it very unlikely for a young and healthy woman to have a brain hemorrhage. While Anna was correct in thinking that most young and healthy women are not likely to have spontaneous brain hemorrhages, her Fiance was correct in thinking that regardless of age, gender and previous health status, the kind of headache that Anna had experienced was very highly suggestive of a brain hemorrhage-related headache. That is, a headache caused by the sudden rupture of a diseased brain vessel. It turns out that this headache of Anna's represented a "warning leak" from a brain aneurysm she didn't know she had.


some interesting stuff...

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