Thriving

Partly because it’s not politically correct to ask a person about his or her medical history, and partly because it’s self-centered to raise the topic unsolicited, I rarely talk about the effect that two brain hemorrhages and three brain surgeries have had on my life. But, that doesn’t mean that I’m ashamed of the illness or that it’s painful to recall. In fact, I’m proud of what I’ve overcome, and I treasure the affect that it’s had on my life.

The first thing I can recall after the onset of my first hemorrhage was in the late morning of November 13, 1995. A nurse was hovering over my hospital bed. My wife Andrea stood to my left. The nurse asked me a series of absurdly simple questions: “Where are you?”, “What day is it?”, and “Where do you live?” I got the answers right. Andrea congratulated me enthusiastically. That angered me at first; it seemed horribly patronizing. But, my attitude started to change when I realized that she had been at my side for more than two days, and nurses had asked those questions repeatedly.

“That’s the first time you got it right,” she said, with the combination of joy and sorrow that I’ve seen in people who have crossed the finish line of a marathon for the first time. And, when she said that, my anger turned to passion. I now recall this moment often, holding it like a prized and indestructible possession. I covet that she cared, that anyone cared, enough about me to want me back, not just in body, but also in spirit.

A day later, my two boys (ages five and two at the time) came to visit. The emotional impact of those events has shaped the way that I’ve reacted to things that have happened in my life ever since.

In early 1998, when I suffered a second hemorrhage caused by a separate, undetected AVM, I was determined to do whatever it took to recover, and to thrive. I sought therapy to help improve my memory, and I started practicing things that helped me overcome my minor deficiencies. I carefully examined my position when I got out of my car so that I could find it when I returned. I carefully added every appointment to a calendar so that I wouldn’t forget where I was supposed to be.

I suffered a brief depression. A therapist helped me understand that my sadness was rooted in the guilt that I felt for having repeatedly subjected my wife and children to the fear that I would die. I quit drinking. When my wife got an opportunity to transfer to California, I took several months off to travel across the country with my kids and spend more time with them when we arrived. I quit smoking. I started to improve my physical condition, first by mountain biking, then by running, then by doing triathlons.

Athletics had a profoundly positive impact on my life. But, I discovered that I’m epileptic. When overly fatigued, I often suffered from partial seizures: surreal, frightening, and incapacitating events that usually lasted no more than 5 minutes, but left me in a state of diminished mental capacity for hours. Things got worse in the fall of 2007, when I suffered two Grand Mal seizures within two months. For several weeks after that, while doctors tried to find drugs that worked for me, I suffered anxiety attacks whenever I felt the signs of the onset of a seizure. Eventually, I started taking an appropriate dose of effective drugs. I discovered that larger doses of any one drug caused debilitating side effects, but that a combination of a moderate dose of two different drugs adequately protected me from seizure with minimal side effects. I haven’t had a significant seizure since.

Today, I marvel at my good fortune, and I relish everything that life has to offer.

Your story is very inspiring. I applaud your positive attitude and the courage it must have taken to overcome so many obstacles. You’ve left me in awe, InAwe! :slight_smile:

Wow, thanks for sharing! I love your attitude. Being positive after what you've been through must get challenging but I commend you on committing to it. My children (girls) were young when I had my bleed also and the impact this had on them and continues to have on them and my husband is something I constantly struggle with. All I can do now is just be the best mom and wife I can be, given my limitations. They do notice that I am almost always positive though and that makes me happy.

So much of this is familiar. Thank you for sharing! It's always nice to hear from someone who understands, when so few people do.
Thanks!

Awesome and inspiring. Keep on keeping on, my friend.

The first paragraph is so true. I am the same way. I do not bring anything up to anyone, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I would love to talk about that event to others but unless they are prepared it feels awkward sometimes.

WOW! You certainly are a survivor, my Friend! Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story, InAwe....I am In Awe of you!

Thanks for posting Inawe and thank you for your wonderful candor in how it felt in recovery. It is so beautiful to see that any obstacles that got in your way, you were determined to fix and make better. I know this post will be inspiring to many :).

I really admire you, you have gone through so much and remain such a positive person! Thanks for posting this!

InAwe,

That is quite a journey and you really appear to have taken everything in stride! Take care of yourself and I hope you continue to do well !

Hi Georgia. I know exactly what you mean! I find that talking about my medical problems can be really helpful to me. And I get a little frustrated when friends and family don't ask me openly about it, as I am very happy to talk about it. But I think they feel awkward and therefore just avoid the subject. Maybe its one reason why this site is so valuable because we can share things with others who understand.

Lord bless you for showing the positives. We all have to ask each other about the negatives, the deficiencies, the how longs. All of us also need too see the small, and large, positive things. The little things, like the smell of French toast in the morning, and the huge happiness found in learning to walk again.

Thank you for sharing your story, you are an inspiration and I hope you continue to thrive! !