It all started on August 15th, 2013. My mother was at work and suddenly felt an unusual sensation in her head. Not overthinking the situation, she decided to talk to her boss. A decision was made that it was probably best to go to the Emergency Department instead of going home to nap. Fear began to set into my mother as she waited because at age 63, my mother’s father died of a ruptured brain aneurysm. Following this wait, my mother was given the devastating news that she had a ruptured brain aneurysm in the centre of her brain. If you are unaware, a brain aneurysm is an abnormal bubble in a brain artery that develops where a blood vessel wall becomes weak. In my mother’s case, hers had bursted.
The doctors at the hospital treated my mother immediately. This case was especially hard for my mother and the staff because she was so close to them all. She was the Director of the Acute Psychiatric Unit for 12 years so she knew just about everybody around. Setting aside the fear, the doctors acted proficiently and quickly. While all of this was transpiring, I was at my friends house enjoying my summer day. I got a call from a family friend saying I was getting picked up to go to the hospital because my mother had a headache. I wasn’t too sure why my mom had gone into the Emergency Room for a headache because it’s not normally something we worry about. I thought nothing more of it and went along to the hospital to check up on my mom. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when I walked into that room. Her pale, sick face drooped down, with her eyes hardly open. Immediately I knew it was more than just a headache and reacting the way any 12 year old would, I was beyond terrified. My heart sank and I became fearful that I was going to lose my mother. Something a child should never have to think about was my only thought and seemed to take over my life for the next couple of months.
My mother became progressively worse rather quickly. My sister, family friends, and I were asked to leave the room because my mother was being sent to the Resuscitation Room. Her symptoms got worse and the doctors made the call that she needed emergency surgery. She was rushed out by air ambulance to Ottawa, about an hour and a half away from our hometown. We got to say goodbye even though my mother was hardly visibly with all the tubes and machines attached to her. I kissed her arm and said what I thought would be my final goodbye.
There was a 40% chance of survival for my mother and a 67% of living with a serious impairment if she came out of surgery alive. Thankfully the surgery went extremely well and they were able to coil her aneurysm. Coiling is where a metal spring-like contraption is placed onto the neck of the aneurysm to prevent it from bursting. They went up my mothers femoral artery, which is in her leg, all the way up to the brain. Immediately after waking up, my mother was told more heartbreaking news. She came out with absolutely no impairments. But not even being awake for an hour and she was already dealing with everything once again. Her neurosurgeon informed her that they had found another aneurysm, this time only larger. She was scheduled to have another operation in December. This time would be slightly different as the surgery would be more invasive and involved a craniotomy. My mother had part of her skull taken out to reach the brain and had a clip placed onto the neck of the aneurysm. Her skull was sealed with a titanium plate and then 30 sutures were placed to keep the incision closed, plus another 30 staples on top. Just home in time for Christmas, my family and I celebrated the successful surgeries and road to recovery. The next few months would be different for my sister and I as we had to take care of my mother, what a role reversal! We all made it through and my mother made a full recovery.
After the incident, my mother noticed her moods were not as they were before. She was often very sad and found herself crying often. She had difficulty sleeping and lost interest in her previous hobbies. Our family doctor was helpful with the situation and referred her to a psychiatrist. Being diagnosed with depression and anxiety my mom began another journey to recovery. This all takes us to where we are today.
This is one instance where I have personally dealt with mental health issues. But by my mother getting the right treatment and help she required, she is the happy, beyond healthy, and beautiful woman she is today. For the past year she hasn’t required antidepressants. If you were to meet my mother now you would not focus on the scar on her head but her big heart and her outgoing soul!
Mental illness is not something that plagues an individual, it just becomes an outlet to let their true beauty show. When faced with a mental health issue we have 2 choices: define the mental illness and prove you are stronger or let it overpower you. We can all choose to beat the stigma and mental illness itself and show the world what power we have in store.
Thank you for reading my mother’s story and I hope you gained some insight on brain aneurysms and my journey with mental illness!