Hannah Black

My story of survival starts before I was born a little over 30 years ago and is one that my whole family is a part of. My older brother survived a brain tumor in his cerebellum and has done extremely well. He has a wife, dog and twin boys that are 9 months old now. As part of his monitoring, he gets a scan every year to check for any tumor regrowth and look at his shunt. Every scan he’s had since age 3 has always been good news until November of 2019. On this particular scan, a new Doctor he’d been paired up with saw something that resembled a small aneurysm. He was assured this was no cause for immediate alarm and they would monitor it more frequently than the (1) year scans he’d been having. Because we are siblings, it was recommended I have a scan just to check me out. With his babies being born prematurely and a pandemic, I never got the chance to get that scan. So, when I woke up on May 6th, 2020, I didn’t know I had an aneurysm that was going to rupture that day. I was home with my family (out of my apartment in the city) because of the pandemic doing an online workout when the headache came on. It was strong, sudden and some of the most intense pain I’ve ever felt. All I could do was curl up in a ball and whimper. However, this is when my brother’s story comes into play. When this happened to me, I knew there was a chance this headache could be more than just a headache. With a call to a friend in the medical field we discussed the history here and concluded I should visit the ER. I am very lucky that I never lost consciousness and was able to get the ER staff the correct medical information, including my family history. This was imperative, as I had to go into the ER alone due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Little did I know that I wouldn’t see my family again for about (2) weeks. I credit my community hospital for recognizing what was going on with me, getting me a scan then transferring me to one of the Boston area hospitals who could provide the care I needed. The next day, I had a coiling done to stop the bleeding and a drain put in my back to help get rid of the residual blood/ fluid. I soon realized this drain caused a lot of pain for me and made it very difficult to get out of bed and move around like the medical team wanted. The next two weeks were spent primarily in the ICU as I got stronger. Once the drain was removed, I found it much easier to move and do basic things like use the bathroom, shower or even sit up to eat. If May 6th was the worst day of my life, May 20th was the best day of my life as I finally got discharged to come home. My parents and boyfriend greeted me at the hospital front doors and it was the best homecoming that anyone could have had.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Because of my rupture, the doctor my brother and I see wanted to do an angiogram on his aneurysm to get a better picture of it. This was something we encouraged him to do to give him a better chance of not having the surprise of a possible rupture down the road like I had. In particular, I didn’t want him to go through what happened to me while he has a young family. Once the procedure was over, we got the best news we could get. He actually did not have an aneurysm and instead an “irregularly shaped” blood vessel that is really no cause for concern. Just as we got this amazing news, he had a seizure reaction to the dye from the procedure and ended up needing to be intubated on the same ICU floor I was on for a couple days to recover. We even had some of the same nurses! He is lucky yet again to be doing fine. After a little R & R and some PT he is back to normal once again.
This story is certainly unique. It has brought my brother and I together even closer as our own misfortunes have essentially saved the other one. If he didn’t have the tumor we would have never known about his possible aneurysm that triggered me to act on my severe headache that turned out to be a subarachnoid haemorrhage. Then he had the procedure to get the best news of all but not without experiencing a medical complication that is extremely rare. All of this story is tied together by our wonderful parents who’ve been there with us through everything and helped put the pieces together for this story of survival.

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