The Bee Foundation supports survivors and families affected by brain aneurysms. Read TBF Ambassador Elizabeth Ratta’s inspiring story and learn how you can too help spread aneurysm awareness and fund research.
As Elizabeth Ratta sees it, her grandmother is why she’s alive. When her grandmother – Rita Skertich – was treated for a brain aneurysm in the 1970s, treatment options were drastically different than they are now. While she survived, her entire quality of life was irreparably altered, making an indelible impression on Ratta.
Fast forward to 2018, when Ratta was diagnosed with a 4mm left MCA after experiencing debilitating headaches. “The aneurysm was so thin, it could have ruptured at any minute,” Ratta recalls. Diagnosed on a Friday evening, Ratta recalls spending her time “going down the Google rabbit hole” for information on brain aneurysms, eventually stumbling across one of TBF’s “Shared Stories.” from a brain aneurysm survivor, a young mother like Ratta authored this one. “Everything she was think
ing, saying and feeling.. .it all resonated strongly with me,” Ratta recounts. “Her story was a life raft.” The event also put Ratta in touch with The Bee Foundation and prompted her to
launch her first fundraising effort – The Rita Skertich Grant to fund Black, Hispanic, and Women brain aneurysm research. That grant is currently accepting applications. (APPLY HERE)
But Ratta didn’t stop there.
As a patient at the UVM Medical Center, as well as in her work as a social worker and case manager, Ratta saw numerous brain aneurysm patients – many coming from small towns in the NY and VT areas – struggling with the financial after-effects. “I’m lucky to have the insurance coverage I do,” Ratta says. She knew many were not so fortunate – and she wanted to help. She started with outreaches to her management and key stakeholders in neurology, and her persistence gradually paid off. The Bee Foundation supplied a check from the funds raised by Ratta’s family and friends to fund the initiative at the UVM Medical Center. Applicants will fill out a one-page application to share their story, evaluated by Ratta and other hospital case workers. “We’re willing to consider a wide range of needs,” Ratta says, beyond just medical treatments. “If a recovering patient needs money for heating or food, we will provide them with money.” Ratta acknowledges that, even with her connections and relationships at the hospital and the medical field, getting the fund off the ground has taken a lot of persistence and cooperation. But with the monies on hand, “We can already fund 20 people, and we’re ready to go live!” Within just a few weeks, the first grants will be awarded.
For Ratta, the experience has been a roller-coaster, with many heartwarming moments along the way. “During our first walk for the Rita Skertich Grant,” she says, “my husband, our kids, and I wearing TBF shirts, stopped by a lake and asked a woman to take their photo. When they turned around, she was crying. “Where did you get those shirts?” she asked us, revealing that both of her parents had died from brain aneurysms. “That’s some kind of coincidence,” Ratta says. But it’s moments like that and the fact that she is now paying her initial experience forward, supporting another mom experiencing the effects of a brain aneurysm diagnosis, that gives her energy. “I’m not a person who typically puts herself out there,” she says, “but I’m grateful I have a way to honor and remember my grandmother.” And so many others.
-Thank you, Elizabeth!