‘I’m A Survivor’: Ryan Strunk Shares His Story

In this story Ryan Strunk shares his experience suffering a ruptured brain aneurysm which caused a hemorrhagic stroke.

“I was 18. A senior in high school. I was on the baseball team. I was healthy. I was a month away from high school graduation. The gym had become a significant part of my life at this time. I was addicted to the progress. I was pushing myself to the limit. I was with friends at a local gym when it happened. I felt the pressure build up in my traps. I heard a loud snap coming from the back of my head over my deafening music. My eyes started twitching and I fell back onto the bench behind me almost passing out. It was the worst headache I’ve ever had. The gym staff helped me as I began vomiting. The last thing I remember is my friend driving my car to the hospital.

Two to three days later I wake up surrounded by medical staff and a ventilator protruding from my trachea. I had no idea what happened or how I got there. I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm which caused a hemorrhagic stroke. I later learned that I had undergone life saving neurosurgery that allowed a shunt to drain the blood from my skull and relieve the inter cranial pressure (ICP). I was in intense pain 24/7 from being in a hospital bed for an extended period of time and occasionally knocking out the tube that was constantly regulating my cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood. The CSF was warm and I was covered in it.I was taking an anatomy class shortly before the accident and we had dissected a sheep brain. The smell of the CSF was the exact same odor. I felt as if I had hit rock bottom.

Near the end of my hospital stay I was assisted in taking a shower for the first time. I couldn’t walk. My brain just could not coordinate the right side of my body with my left. In the shower I got the most intense realization of my life. The left side of my body could feel the hot water trickling down my body but the right was completely numb and dull. I cried. I had so many questions. Who am I? Why did this happen to me? Will I ever be able to see straight again? Will I be able to walk on my own again? In time with countless hours of speech, occupational, and physical therapy I would get my answer.

I slowly improved to where I am today. My feeling on the right side of my body is mostly back but it is still completely different when compared to the left. I still have slight diplopia (double vision). I’m still going to the gym and I’m currently the strongest I’ve ever been. I’m studying accounting at The Ohio State University. I have a new outlook on life. I’m grateful for every moment that I get to experience. I finally have the answer to my first question. Who am I? I’m a survivor.”