December 7, 2012, excited for the upcoming holiday events with my family, I got the worst phone call of my life. My now sister-in-law called me explaining that her father had called her to let her know my brother, who had been exercising in his back yard, was not feeling right and was headed to the hospital. Transported to a local hospital where a scan of the brain was done, it was found that my brother suffered a 6cm bleed and his vitals were looking poor. It was deemed necessary for him to have emergency brain surgery, and he was transported to another hospital where a well-known neurosurgeon would be meeting our family. In the mean-time, my parents and older sister pregnant with her first child, who were living in South Carolina frantically drove the long way from their home to South Florida in hopes of making it in time to the hospital. Upon arrival at the ER, I ran to the side of a brother in distress and what I saw did not look good. He was groggy and now under sedation with a breathing tube in his mouth. I found out later but a friend of his who was a nurse in the ER that the medical staff was told to go through the motions for friends and family as he was not going to make it.
I call it prayer while some may call it luck, but miraculously emergency surgery was not needed that night after a major turn around and improvement in vital signs were seen. The doctors thought, which we all agreed, it would be better to have the time to see what the cause of this bleed was, rather than go in blind. Of course, my brother was in the ICU and an angiogram was done as well as several scans. The angiogram showed the avm as the root cause. How can this be? How can a 26 year old who has been active and athletic and healthy his whole life have this condition? The questions swarmed our minds as we attempted to make sense of it all.
In order to not take up 5 pages on our feelings and emotions and the ups and downs of Phil’s AVM, the family elected to have surgery done to remove the AVM. Once surgery was over, recovery began. My brother was paralyzed on the right side of his body, his short term memory was very foggy and seeing him that way was devastating.
Moving him to an inpatient rehab center, the treatment for Phil began. It started with a single movement of the pinky, and we knew that all of his supporters, friends and family, were encouraging and pushing him. Phil, at the time, was on break from Medical School, set to be married in May and graduate as a Doctor in June. There was nothing that was going to stand in his way of walking down the aisle and walking across that stage. He worked and he pushed and today, Phil walks. Phil remembers. He is a husband and a doctor. He is the family inspiration and has pushed me on my own journey to become a physical therapist to help patients like him, as well as their families.
This story does not do him justice. The video clip above is part 1 of a 2 part news report done on my brother. It shows real footage of him in the hospital, what his bleed looked like on a scan, as well as commentary from the Doctors and Nurses who worked with him. Part 2 was covered at his wedding, where the news station videotaped him walking down the aisle to “Stayin’ Alive”.
Thank you for reading and for watching,