It was a normal “conference” day. After working ALL day, I arrived much later than I wanted to. I had 2 of the 3 kids in tow and traffic was horrible. What should have taken 1 1/2 hours took 2 1/2 hours. And I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to it, for I’d much rather have had a quiet weekend at home, after having dropped our then 5 years old off at grandma & granddaddy for the summer, just 2 weeks earlier. I was looking forward to some much needed quiet time.
Well, best-laid plans…because as another successful conference came to an end, I began to feel ill. First, it felt like I had been hit with a hammer. The pain quickly moved down my neck to my back. Then, I suddenly became cold. Now, it was summer, the dead of June, and the air conditioning was blasting. Just moments earlier, I was warm, from the ‘passionate conversation we were having. Maybe too passionate. I now knew something was wrong. But since I often suffered from migraines, I thought, this is “really a bad one” and considered returning to my hotel room to lie down.
Thankfully my husband and my “Gail”, as I affectionately refer to her, decided to take matters in their own hands. They called 911. I was……embarrassed, believe it or not, to be wheeled out. But at this point, I lost the ability to walk (literally, fell to my knees when I attempted to walk). And although I had been used to “fanfare” during the conference, this was not the kind of fanfare I welcomed. I felt the most vulnerable, most out of control, I had ever felt in my life.
I recall sanking as I was wheeled through the hotel lobby, totally conscious by the way, but again, feeling awful. When we (my husband and I) arrived at the hospital, it seemed as though it took hours, to be seen. Well, it did take hours. And the hospital staff forbid me to take any medication and refused to give me anything until I was “seen”. And then it hit me! I had dreamt about this very scene, not 2 weeks before…..
In my dream….my husband was sitting alongside me while I lay in what appeared to be a triage Everything was white (the sheets, the blankets, the walls, his shirt, etc.). Almost exactly like it was at that very moment. And I turned and whispered to him, as tears rolled down my face, “tell them to come now, right now!”. He jumped from his seat and this normally quiet, mild-mannered man began to yell, “My wife has been here for hours. Someone needs to come to see her, NOW”. That’s when it dawned on me, “this is the moment you’re supposed to say it”. And so I did.
I leaned over, looked at my husband, sitting patiently as he usually did in any situation, and said, “tell them to come now babe. Right now”. Moments later, he was yelling, I mean, I could hear him from the nurse’s station at least 3 beds away, even over the screams of a woman who, a few beds down had just been told that her husband, rushed in from a motorcycle accident, didn’t make it (don’t know how/why I can recall that). Well, then things began to move. First, the cat scan…my husband would help me undress. He had done this before but never this way.
It was just he and I…as it had been when we had our 1st daughter …no fanfare. We were both quiet, calm and though I didn’t feel any worse, I didn’t feel any better, either. Shortly after, a young woman doctor came in, leaned into me and said, “how are you feeling”. While I don’t remember what I said, I remember thinking, this is the moment, my life is going to change forever’. She said, “….we found some bleeding”. She never said the word “aneurysm”, not once, but I knew. And then she said, “so, we’re going to give you something for the pain (until we decide what to do)”. I felt….” finally”. And at that very moment, a surreal calm came over me. I knew I was going to be okay. The message had to be sent and delivered.
For the next 3 weeks, my new home was the ICU, and it was the longest 3 weeks of my life. I came to appreciate my neurosurgeon (privately known as Doogie Howser due to his adolescent appearance…a cross between a young Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise). I was diagnosed as having a ‘double’ aneurysm. I had 2 separate procedures to repair them, procedures that I welcomed since odds were that I should have been dead.
It was in that hospital, during those 3 weeks that I began to craft my exit strategy (no more conferences, no more drama, no more stress). Things would have to be different. If I were going to live, to add more years to my (new) life, things were going to have to change! I had a full understanding of how I got there. It wasn’t luck or by accident but sheer stupidity and neglect. I had neglected to take care of the most important person in my equation….me! So that’s where I would start. I am thankful for the 2nd chance to do things right! I’m thankful for my husband, children, family & friends who willed me back. And I’m thankful that I literally had the worst headache of my life!