Nonaneurysmal perimesencephalic subarachnoid hemorrhage. There are 52 letters in that thing. Fifty-two of them! Go ahead, count ’em. What is it, you may ask? Well, my friend, it’s a medical diagnosis and pronouncing it is easiest than describing it, its torture and it’s effects. Not only was it an eye-opener, it was a warning.
As one of the best (or worst, depending on who you asked) basketball moms around, I lived for my son’s basketball games, and never missed one. He began playing in Denver when he was six years old and played on elite teams through his senior year in high school in Allen, TX. He began playing football (in earnest) after we moved to Allen in 2007. I had never missed a game. I never missed one, that is, until 2009.
We spent the week of June 29, 2009 in a hotel in Kissimmee, FL running all over creation for my son’s AAU basketball tournament. Had the situation been different, I would have had a fantastic time with the shopping, Disney World and because my best friend just happened to be in the nearby town of Ocoee with her fiancé. It should have been a fun week. It wasn’t. I was stressed to the point that I predicted that something was about to happen to me. Even before we left Allen that Sunday, I told several people that I was too stressed and that I needed to get away. As one of the few times he actually paid attention to me, the man I was married to at the time told me that he would send me anywhere I wanted to go once we got back to Allen so I could relax and unwind. I was definitely going to take him up on it because I felt myself approaching the edge and I knew I was going to tip over that edge once I got there.
We should have been headed back to Allen early that week, but the boys kept winning. While I was thrilled that they were winning and that I was getting to spend some time with by my BFF, I was ready to go home. I needed to get on with that mini-vacation. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best memories of my life occurred on that trip, none more precious than that we spent my best friend’s fiancé’s last 4th of July enjoying each other’s company. Until earlier that month, he had been in remission from a very rare form of leukemia. I was so incredibly happy to see him but I could also tell that he wasn’t feeling as well as he said he was. He could also tell that I wasn’t feeling my best. He passed that following February. I was snapping at everyone, fussing about everything. I wanted to go home. Little did I know that in about three weeks, I would be in the fight of my life.
If there was ever proof that God has a hand in everything we do, it was proven on July 21, 2009. If one thing, ONE THING, had been done differently or if one of those things had happened even five minutes off the time it actually happened, I wouldn’t be here to share this. By all accounts and according to the medical books, I should have died.
At the time, my now ex-husband was working in the Dallas area and that in and of itself was rare. Starting in the early years of our marriage, he did contract work and rarely worked where we lived. Even on that day, although he was working in the area, he was allowed to work from home on Tuesday and Thursday. My medical conundrum began on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 10:36 AM. I remember the time so precisely because I had been watching the clock so that we wouldn’t be late picking Will up from camp. Even though he was working, William liked to pick Will up because he always wanted to know how things had gone.
As fate would have it, that morning, he got a call from his work informing him that one of the programs he had written that failed and there was an emergency. That call came in at 10:30. That meant that he couldn’t leave. As I picked up my keys and purse to leave, I kissed William on the forehead and since he had just gotten off the phone, I said, “We’ll be back in a few”. He went on working. The drive to get Will was all of 10 minutes and five minutes into it, my phone rang. It was William telling me that he had fixed the error and that I could turn around if I wanted to and he would get Will. I told him that I was almost there so there was no need. We chatted up until I pulled into the parking lot, at which time I said to him, “I’m gonna go so I can watch my baby run”.
No sooner than I hit the ‘end’ button, the pain that smacked me in the back of my head shock me to the point that I dropped my phone. I actually jerked my head because it felt like someone had dropped a car on my head. I remember looking around because I was startled. It was July in Texas so it was hot. For whatever reason, I turned the air up as high as I could get it but I was still drenched with sweat. It was like someone had doused me with a hose. My hair was long at the time, and as was standard for me, it was up in a ponytail. I thought I could relieve some of the pain by letting my hair down. It was like someone turned on a faucet. Water just poured from my head. The woman in the car next to me had been watching me and when I looked over at her, she mouthed, “Are you okay?” I said, “No.”
Because I had been a Claims Adjuster for almost 10 years, and was also a Litigation Paralegal, I knew what was happening to me. I called William and said, “I’m having and aneurysm. I’m driving myself to the hospital.” He said, “Wait, Tre! Give me a minute and I’ll be right there.” My response was, “No, William, if I wait on you, I’m gonna die. I have to go”. I had paid for enough funerals as an adjuster to know that most people die almost immediately from brain hemorrhages. I didn’t have the 10 minutes to spare that it would have taken him to get there or to wait for an ambulance. More than anything, I did NOT want my son to come up to that truck and see me like that.
I pulled off and headed to the ER. I had the wherewithal to turn my flashers on so I was moving at a pretty good clip. The ER was exactly 10 minutes from the camp site and at that point, I knew my time was winding down. By the time I made it to the ER, I was in the throes of a level of pain that I have NEVER experienced. Not even childbirth. I was in labor for 36 hours and finally pushed out an 8-lb., 22 in. future NFL player and would rather have given birth to him at his current 6 ft., 225 lbs.
I stumbled into the ER and the first thing out of my mouth was, “My brain hurts. I’m having an aneurysm. I’m dying.” The girl behind the desk just looked up at me and said she needed my insurance card. At that point, I was screaming, “My brain is hurting!” An older man who was volunteering asked I wanted water. By the time he handed me the water, I was throwing up. It was on.
After enough yelling from me and William, who had arrived with Will, they finally performed a spinal tap and realized that my entire spinal column was filled with blood. The attending doctor was frightened beyond anything I had ever seen. They were not equipped to handle my situation. Before I knew it, I was being filled with morphine and was rushed to Texas Presbyterian (yes, the same facility that treated the first U.S. Ebola victim).
I lay in ICU for four days. I was poked, prodded, examined, tested and re-tested in every imaginable manner. I was asked repeatedly if I had been under stress. I kept saying no. They kept asking, I kept denying it. The truth is, my way of life had become so full of stress that it was normal to me. I wasn’t lying, I just didn’t consider my lifestyle stressed enough to cause this kind of damage. It was how I lived. I knew I needed a break and felt like something weird would happen if I didn’t get a grip, but I never imagined that.
After being released on July 24th, which was two days before my son’s birthday, I lay on my back until mid-January 2010. I missed an entire season of my son’s games. I missed my family reunion for the first time in years. I missed birthday parties. I missed a lot of life. Why? Because stress had finally overcome my life. It almost took me out. I have no residual damage. The chances of it happening again are nearly non-existent.
What I took from it all was that unhealthy stress is without a doubt, a killer. The stress I was allowing to overshadow my entire being was mostly the result of a marriage that was out of season. Nothing and no one is worth your health. Period. Spend your time loving people and life. Refuse to allow anything or anyone inside your space who creates strife, chaos and constant confusion. There are plenty of people who love you fiercely. Don’t bank on the few who don’t care.