This is part 2 of a two-part blog entry submitted by U-M brain aneurysm patient Donna Poole. Read Part 1 here.
On the day of my aneurysm surgery, my family waited for many hours as Dr. Gregory Thompson and his crew took me apart and put me back together.
The big words for what happened in surgery are right-sided supraorbital craniotomy for aneurysm clipping. Essentially, it involved immobilizing my skull, cutting through skin and scalp, drilling through my skull, opening the protective membranes that surround the brain, and gently continuing down until they got to the aneurysm on the anterior communicating artery at the bottom of my brain.
Later, Dr. Thomspon told me later that the aneurysm was so close to rupturing he did something he seldom does. He used a temporary clip. He then used three permanent clips to deprive the aneurysm of its blood supply.
When the surgical team finished they backed their way out, using four way flashers. OK, kidding about the flashers. But when it was done, they closed the skin with temporary staples. Our daughter counted 48 of them. I wish I had saved them but didn’t think to ask for them at the time. They may have come in handy for deck repair.
The staples in my head looked like a zipper, making me a proud member of what our aneurysm support group calls the Zipperhead Club. I also have 13 pieces of permanent hardware in my head.
The surgical team sent me off to the ICU with instructions for frequent “neuro checks”: that’s hospital code for bug the patient with questions day and night. After repeatedly answering the same questions I decided the serious team of University of Michigan doctors and nurses needed a laugh.
So, when they asked for the umpteenth time if I knew what hospital I was in, I answered I was at Ohio State. There was a moment of shocked silence… before the room exploded with laughter. Dr. Thompson said, “I was going to tell you that you were one of my favorite patients, but not now!”
I loved the competent, compassionate U-M neuro nurses, especially the sweet, short one with the Scottish accent. She challenged me to do what I needed to do to get out of the hospital and sent me home with a hug and a kiss. Hug a nurse the next time you get a chance.
A mere 48 hours after surgery found me home in bed, with flowers, meals, calls, cards, gifts, and visits from family and church family surrounding me like a blanket of love.
A month ago, I marked six months since surgery. Unlike many aneurysm survivors I do not have serious handicaps, but I am not exactly as I was before.
Things that were simple before confuse me now. I cannot smell, which comes in handy because of the mountain of manure that sits behind our backyard. Nothing tastes the way I remember, but it doesn’t stop me from eating. My balance is still a bit off, and my short-term memory problems could give three comedians enough material for full-time work.
They tell me that it takes 18 months for complete healing, so I fully expect to make more progress.
Mostly, I am grateful. I am grateful to God, and to the skilled doctors and nurses, especially Dr. Thompson, my gifted and gracious surgeon. I am grateful to my husband who did so much for me when I could do so little. I am grateful to my children and grandchildren for their help and their humor. I am thankful for our church family. I am grateful to my online aneurysm family, the Facebook support group, 868 members strong and growing daily.
Most of all I am happy to be alive. I celebrate love and laughter every day. My aneurysm was, in many ways, a gift to me. It reminded me, in a way I will never forget, that life is too short for anything but love.
It is love that makes me holler to you, “Watch out!” That aneurysm fast ball can hit you next. Be aware of the symptoms. You can learn more on the site of the Joe Niekro Foundation.
Take your loved ones out to a ball game. Hug them tightly and tell them you love them. If a fast ball reaches the stands, you decide what to do. Either catch it and get it autographed, or duck!
Take the next step:
- Read the first part of Donna’s story.
- Help Donna with her goal of raising awareness of brain aneurysms. Share this story with friends and family.
- Find more information about brain aneurysm treatment at the U-M Health System.
- Read and share the brain aneurysm symptoms shared in this post.
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.