I was 34 years old in May of 2011 when my aneurysm ruptured in my sleep while visiting a close friend in Bloomington, Indiana. It woke me up and I jumped out of bed. I didn’t know what was happening but I knew something was wrong. I went into my friends living room to let him know I wasn’t feeling well. He said I should lay back down and try to sleep it off. At that point it all went black. When I opened my eyes I heard Shawn calling an ambulance and my friends all around me holding me. I was so confused. At this point the headache was beyond unbearable. I remember being taken in the ambulance but nothing else. It must have been a few days later when I found out what happened when my brother who was holding my hand went into detail. Later in the week my ruptured aneurysm had started to bleed again. Over the next few days it was a touch and go situation with my family and friends not knowing If I was going to pull through. However my story doesn’t end there.
It was all new to me at this point. I didn’t even know what an aneurysm was! It was a hard reality to swallow but I did and started rehab at the hospital to learn how to walk and speak again. After a month in the ICU and rehabilitation unit I was transferred home to WVU Hospital and Healthsouth in Morgantown,WV. After performing the craniotomy and removing a large portion of my left skull bone to release pressure and stop the bleeding my family was assured my skull flat would be sent to pathology and then placed in a freezing unit to preserve it for when the other doctors were ready to replace it. At this point Dr. Bailes contacted the Doctors in Bloomington to get my skull flat from them to be reinserted within the coming months. After a few days I was contacted my the Surgical scheduling Nurse to tell me Bloomington had located my skull bone and sent it threw Fed Ex to the shipping and receiving department of WVU. It has been noted by both sides that it was incorrectly shipped and should have been cleaned and sent through a medical supply company for more extensive care. I was so scared….I thought this aneurysm was behind me. I came to except the inevitable. I had to. I was going to go in as an existing aneurysm survivor and come out all back together and I was scared but also confident everything was going to go well. Less than 30 days after my craniotomy was performed presumably successfully, I began to experienced complications. According to my family, my brain became swollen causing it to press on my spine. Another surgery was performed to relieve the pressure and address the infection caused by my body rejecting the foreign objects they were trying to use to replace the skull flap that was destroyed. I stopped breathing a few times. I developed several other infections over the next couple years. All and all I completed my last surgery in June of 2013 making the total nine. I had lost so much weight. I didn’t recognize myself. I strongly thought I was going to die there. I saw no recovery in sight. I had complication after complication. It was a total of 2 and a half years in and out of the hospital months and weeks at a time and rehab. I had to learn to walk again and get strong enough to take care of myself. It was years of recovery. I went through and still go through many ups and downs fighting depression and anxiety. When I tell people my story they ask me how I got through all this. It’s always been an easy question for me. I survived because of my family, my friends, faith and my will to live.
It’s been almost three years since my rupture and first surgery and six months since my last craniotomy. I look back sometimes and realize that I spent most of the last three years fighting for my life. Later this March I have my six month CT scan and appointment with my Neurosurgeon. I am 37 now and I have a great partner, family and friends who have been by my side this entire journey. My family is very supportive of me. Although I am told how lucky I am by many, including my doctors, I feel blessed. Of course, as we all know, we are never the same person we were before. I do still suffer from bad migraines, have some memory loss and problems staying focused. The doctors and medical findings have proven this is from the multiple surgeries I’ve been faced with over the last few years. Infection and the rejecting caused by the numerous synthetic foreign objects being placed in my body are the documented cause.
Consequently, I have a brain injury and I can relate to the other individuals who have their own story. There was something that stood out; one individual described a brain injury as: ‘the invisible disability’. This caught my attention because it is true. Lots of people in society still believe to this day that if you cannot see the disability, then you do not have one. Although I consider my disability something private and something no one has to know about, sometimes I wish everyone knew for one second so that people can perhaps have another perspective on individuals who have disabilities. We are all different but we are all human. I’ve had to experience this a lot in my daily life. Some people either talk negative in regards to disabilities or they crack jokes. The minute I tell them, “I have a brain injury”, they go silent. I can see it in their face the confusion, due to my high functioning ability to move on with my life and do the things closest to what I wanted before I sustained a brain injury. Lots of the comments in regards to coping skills and rehabilitation seemed quite similar to my life. Everyone deserves a chance and society needs to help with the assistance and guidance if need be.
A little less than three years ago I was a youthful, vibrant, athletic, charismatic professional who loved to travel, loved his job, and was optimistic about what the future held for him. My brain injury took most of these things from me. Presently, I am unemployed. I have trouble remembering certain things. I am anxious in crowds. I can be anti-social around even my closest friends and family. Fear and panic consume me at times. I’ve gained weight due to not being allowed to work out. My body tells me that I am still the same Randy pre aneurysm but my mind tells a different story. While at first I wanted to give up, I’ve turned dread into a will to live, a fight to the end. I know that I will never be the same person as I was before my brain injury. One thing is for certain: sure, maybe my brain aneurysm could not have been prevented but moreover I am assured that the post aneurysm events stemming from the improper shipment of my scull flap have contributed if not wholeheartedly been the main culprit in the lifelong disabilities that I am left to suffer. However, optimistically I can only move forward and hope for and work towards a new and improved Randy. One thing is for certain; I still possess the same spirit and heart within myself and these are the driving forces in my recovery process. Aside from the shear will to live a happier, healthier, more meaningful life, I am slowly starting to work out more. I use different online games like Lumosity to assist with cognitive development. I’ve started a blog to tell my story about my brain injury which will not only assist me in the healing process but will hopefully educate and inspire others to tell their story, feel more confident about themselves, and realize that a brain injury is a true disability and while difficult can be overcome through dedication, hard work, and support from one’s friends, family, and loved ones. I could have let my brain injury rob me of my future, a life of adventure; however, I have chosen to focus on all of the positive aspects of my experience and my life and move forward. I have no where to go but up.