My Life On Hold

Back on Jan 26, 2009, I was visiting my father in the hospital when I started having this tremendous pain in my head. I told my brother to take me to emergency and that’s when I blanked out.

My next memory was 40 days later in the hospital when my son tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Dad, I’m taking you home today.” I was really confused. I had experienced a massive brain aneurysm. With my reasoning skills impaired, it was a lot harder to process things. I was mostly like a robot just doing what I was told. I’d lost a lot of weight and it was hard to do things like go up and down stairs.

Everyone was so worried about me. At first I thought my family was just being way too dramatic and were grossly exaggerating, but piece by piece I began to put together how serious the aneurysm really was. As they started telling me the details, I realized that they’d been through trauma too.

My wife, Elma, told me what she’d been through: “when I got the phone call from my daughter and realized it was Don who was having the emergency, I walked the short ways over to our son’s home where I found my dear friend and collapsed into her arms and wept and wept. That was my worst moment. I was in complete shock for three weeks. I often said to the children, 'Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.' They automatically fell into roles in supporting Don. But in those first three weeks we really didn’t know if he was going to make it. He would thrash around on his bed and had to be tied down. He went through three brain surgeries and had to get a shunt put in to deal with the fluid around his brain. It was really hard on everyone. We were scared we’d lose him. Or that if he survived, he’d be different or impaired mentally.”

That’s when I began to feel so grateful! I could be dead. Aneurysms often leave people severely challenged mentally and physically for the rest of their lives. They can even become aggressive verbally and physically with those they love. But I was spared those effects.

What if it happens again and it turns out far worse?

I was making improvements daily, regaining my mobility and mental faculties faster than expected. My family surrounded me with so much support and I had a great occupational therapist who made a huge difference, as well as a physiotherapist who greatly helped improve my physical condition. I was so appreciative to have advanced so quickly in my recovery. After just a month I went back to work part-time.

But there’s still the unknown. Elma met a man in the hospital who had a recurrence and he was significantly and permanently impaired. When I’m tired or get a cough, she’s hyper-vigilant to make sure I take care of myself. She fears losing me if there’s a next time. Some days I see the worry on Elma’s face. Sure, I’m doing better, but in the back her mind there’s always the question: “What if it happens again and it turns out far worse?”

If you or someone you love is suffering the physical or emotional effects of trauma, it really helps to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone, we’ve faced it too. If you leave your contact info below, someone will connect with you to listen and offer support.