September 3, 2014
I was getting ready for work when I noticed a missed call from my dad. Since it was Marleigh's birthday, I figured he was calling to talk to her, so I called him back and immediately realized that something was wrong. He told me that he was on his way to the emergency room where my mom had been rushed a few minutes before after she passed out at the gym. Her vitals were strong and she seemed okay, so I called my sister and we planned that I would meet them at the ER, visit for a while, and drop Marleigh off with her for the day while I went to work. We made it to the emergency room and when I pulled up to find a place to park, I noticed my dad was outside on the phone -- crying. He came over to my car and told me the news that my mom had had a brain aneurysm and had bleeding on her brain.
I rushed inside, knowing that my mom was obviously going to be very upset. Her mom had passed away from an aneurysm when my mom was young, and she has always been worried that she would suffer from the same fate. The doctors at the ER told my dad that they would be transferring my mom to Buffalo General hospital for a procedure to stop the bleeding. He said it looked like it was a small bleed and should be able to be fixed through a minimally invasive procedure where they go in through the groin, insert dye into the brain, and "coil" the vessel to reroute the blood to the normal direction.
At my mom's bedside, she was clearly in pain with a bad headache, but was trying to make sure we were okay. No one who knows her would be surprised by this! She had planned on having the day with Marleigh for her 2nd birthday, celebrating with a special pink cake that she had baked and a playdate with MJ's best friend Emma. Her main concern was to still give Marleigh a good birthday, so we promised we would. Before we left, we exchanged hugs and kisses and I told her she would be okay. She nodded, and I tried to make her promise that she would be. She shook her head no, as she always does when asked to make a promise, and whispered that she would try her hardest. Through tears, my sister and I left the emergency room with Marleigh and made our way back to my parents' house to wait while my dad stayed with her for the transfer to the other hospital.
The afternoon dragged on forever. We waited for news and my dad finally called to tell us what was going to be happening. The doctors at Buffalo General confirmed that she did have an aneurysm and that they were going to be taking her for the angiogram procedure soon. If they couldn't get to the aneurysm that way, they would have to perform brain surgery to get to the bleed. This surgery posed a lot more risks, and we were all hopeful and optimistic that the surgeon would be able to do what he needed to do for the first procedure and this would all be behind us. We prayed and waited, and waited, and waited some more.
My dad called a few hours later (timing is such a blur these past few days), and he was crying on the phone. They weren't able to fix the bleeding through the first procedure, and the second option was much more serious than any of us originally thought. My sister and I made arrangements to meet Luke at the hospital to drop Marleigh off with him and went as fast as we could to meet my dad in the waiting area. He took us into a room and explained what was going on. Basically, there are three common types of aneurysms, and my mom had suffered from the hardest to fix. The bleeding was shallow, but wide, making it impossible to fix with the coiling and wire mesh procedure. The only other option was to perform invasive brain surgery, where they would go in from the base of the brain, find the bleed, and clamp it/insert some sort of metal plate to fix it. There was one major risk in it: if the surgeon got into the brain and the blood's clotting agents weren't working, she would bleed out and there would be no fixing it. Basically, if that was the case, she would die on the operating table.
We were all obviously very distraught, stressed, worried, anxious, and pleading with God to not have this be the case. We waited hours in the waiting room. Pastor John from our church came (thanks to Luke calling him and telling him what was going on), and right around the time he got there, they told us we could go in to see her in the ICU. We all thought that this had meant the surgery was done and she was in recovery... we were wrong. They hadn't even brought her in for the operation yet.
When we got into her room, she was heavily sedated but still able to respond to us by moving her head/hands/legs and trying to open her eyes. We were able to tell her how much we loved her, that she was going to pull through this, and that everything was going to be okay. Pastor John said a prayer over her and we all laid our hands on her and went before God to beg Him to be with her. After a few minutes, she was starting to get overwhelmed/overstimulated, and we were asked to leave the room. We gave her more kisses/hugs/hand squeezes, said we loved her again, and went back to the waiting area.
We waited longer, and longer, and longer still. Finally, at around 8:00, a nurse came to tell my dad that they were going to be postponing her surgery for first thing the next morning. Apparently they had a lot of "emergency" cases that caused them to bump my mom's surgery back later and later throughout the day and evening, and since it was so late, the surgeon's "A Team" was coming to the end of their shift. They reassured us that the drain they had placed in her brain earlier that day wasn't draining (a good sign meaning there was no pressure building up) and her vitals and function were still strong. Nervously, we obliged and made our way home for the night.
I don't think I slept for more than 4 hours total Wednesday night, and I kept being jolted awake in cold sweats, waking up crying, begging and pleading with God not to take my mommy from us. I couldn't wait for the time to pass to morning.
I woke up and got Marleigh ready for the day as fast as I could. I dropped her off to Luke's dad at 7:15 and made my way into the hospital, driving as fast as possible and listening to Christian radio loudly the whole way in. I fought back the tears until I reached the road the hospital is on and sitting at the stop sign, I lost it. This song came on the radio and I prayed it was a good sign of things to come.
I met my uncle downstairs in the lobby and we grabbed some breakfast and drinks for everyone for the morning, even though none of us felt like eating anything. We went upstairs and waited for the word that they would be taking her back soon. At around 8:30, they called my dad back to sign the papers for anesthesia. We think they took her back for her surgery at around 9:00 AM.
The entire day was spent in the waiting room. Every time a door opened or a patient was wheeled by, we would anxiously look and wait for any news or updates. None came for hours. We had no idea how long the surgery was supposed to take or when we would hear anything about what was going on. We waited anxiously, nervously, emotionally, until around 3:00 PM (I think) when my dad saw my mom's surgeon walking down the hall. I don't think any of us were breathing as he was walking towards us. My dad got up, and we all watched nervously and tried to hear what he had to say. The first thing he did was shake my dad's hand and said, "All good." After that, I kind of stopped listening. We all broke down in tears and rejoiced in the Good News. I can't even remember the last time I cried so hard. I don't think I ever have. The surgeon explained more details to my dad, which I couldn't hear from where I was sitting, and told him that his team was working on closing her up and then she would be transferred back to her room in the ICU.
We waited about another hour after that (I think) until we received the word that she was in recovery, and we were able to go back to see her for a few minutes after they got her settled in.
It was both a huge relief and extremely scary to see her in that room. She still had a breathing tube down her throat, wires and tubes coming out of almost everywhere, and the drain was still placed in her head from the surgery. She was awake and able to nod/shake her head, and move her extremities. We were only allowed to stay in the room for a little while, and they told us they were going to be taking her out of sedation and trying to remove the breathing tube soon to see how she did breathing on her own.
At 6:00, we were able to see her again, and they had removed the breathing tube from her throat. She looked so much better already than she had a couple of hours before, and she was able to talk to us and slightly open her eyes. Hearing her voice was music to my ears!! The pain medicine made her pretty loopy, so she was making us laugh and laughing about silly things, and of course still asking questions about how everyone else was doing and apologizing over and over again for scaring us. It was so amazing to see her, hear her voice, see her laughing, and squeeze her hand and hear her tell us she loves us!
All of the doctors and nurses seem to be really happy with the progress she's made so far, and we've heard on multiple occasions that most people with an aneurysm the size of hers aren't quite so "lucky."
Although we are all so incredibly grateful and happy that she made it past the first big hurdle of the surgery, we know that she has a long road ahead of her with her recovery. The next 7 days are particularly critical, as the brain reacts to the surgery and the blood vessels can possibly "spasm" and constrict, which could lead to brain damage or stroke. Thankfully she will be in the ICU under constant monitoring for the next 14 days and on medication twice daily to help prevent this from happening. The next milestone to get through after that is 30 days, where the risk of a re-bleed or repeat aneurysm is apparently more prevalent. She will be in the hospital for two weeks in the ICU and then another 1-2 weeks (on average) in another recovery room before she is eventually released.
We are taking everything one day at a time and making sure to stay positive about everything, or as my mom would say, we are finding our "happy place" in all of this. We are all so proud of her and how strong and courageous she has been thus far, and I know that she will continue to fight through this recovery process.
Thank you all for the ongoing love, support, help, and prayers these past two days. It has been amazing to see how many people love my mom and how important she has been in so many lives. We ask that you will please continue to pray for a speedy and smooth recovery until she is home sweet home and safe and sound again!