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Debbie M's Story


June 19th, 2009 is a day that I will never forget. At 8.30 p.m. I suffered a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage (SAH).

I have finally decided that it is time to document the most terrifying experience of my life. If I seem to ramble, please excuse me, as I will type this as it all tumbles out of my head.

I had experienced a most exhausting week at work. We were in the middle of renovations at work, so therefore mess and chaos everywhere. My boss was ill with the flu and had taken the week off work, something which he never ever does, so he must have been sick. Needless to say I felt very stressed by the end of the week.

The week had ended and I was looking forward to the weekend. I had my dinner and was sitting outside having a breath of fresh air when all of a sudden I started to feel funny. I felt a really strange feeling in my head. Something that I can’t really describe other than I thought that I was going to faint. I quickly went inside and told my husband, Paul, that I didn’t feel very well, that I was experiencing a weird sensation in my head and that I had started to get a massive headache and really bad neck pain at the base of my head. He asked me if I wanted him to take me to the hospital or get an ambulance, but once he asked me that question I thought that maybe I was being a bit dramatic and that I would just have a couple of paracetamol and have a lie down. I asked him to sit with me and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning ( Saturday 20th) I woke up still with a headache and neck pain. I just took it easy and pottered about the house for the morning. I still wasn’t feeling well by early afternoon, so decided I would do a Google search of my symptoms on the internet as I felt that it wasn’t like a normal headache. Quite a few results came up and I narrowed it down to either meningitis, which I knew I didn’t have, or a brain haemorrhage. It was at that stage that I became quite alarmed and decided that the best thing to do would be to go see a Doctor. But it was early afternoon on a Saturday.

I got Paul to take me down town to try and find a clinic that was open but the first one we went to was closing for the day and advised that we go to the medical clinic that is at the local hospital. So off we went to the clinic and sat around for ages waiting to see a doctor. Finally we were called through to see the doctor on duty. A lovely woman doctor, who I owe my life to. After explaining my symptoms to her, she took my blood pressure and advised me that my blood pressure was extremely high. I am talking very, very high. High enough for her to tell me that I wouldn’t be going home, but that I was going straight to the Emergency Dept of the hospital. She wouldn’t even let me walk and got one of the nurses to take me to Emergency in a wheelchair.

I was rushed through Triage and and once in the inner sanctum of the emergency department the waiting began again for a doctor to become free. I have no idea of the time at this stage only that there was steady stream of people being brought in by ambulances. Some having sustained injuries at footy matches. One young man in his 30’s had had a heart attack. Finally I was taken to an emergency treatment room where I was told to put a gown on and hop up onto the bed. A gown? What the heck is going on? I was asking myself. A whole heap of monitors were attached to me and the treating doctor put a tablet under my tongue and a patch on my upper chest. This was to bring my blood pressure down. Well, that worked quite effectively but it only enhanced the head and neck pain that I had and I was yelling out that ‘my head hurts’. I was suffering the excruciating head pain again. Once they had gotten my blood pressure to an acceptable level they then took me through for a CT scan of my brain.

When I came back from the scan the attending doctor showed me all the pictures of my brain and indicated that he thought that everything was OK but that he had to wait for the radiologist’s report. I was then wheeled off to a curtained cubicle in the main emergency area. Once again we had to wait. I’m not sure for how long but it was getting quite late in the evening by this time. Finally the attending doctor came to see me. He then advised me that the astute radiologist had found a bleed on my brain and that they couldn’t treat it at that hospital. He had been in touch with the Neurosurgery Department of the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne (Australia’s biggest trauma hospital) and that they had agreed to take me and I was to go there immediately by ambulance. This is where it all began to get a bit scary. Telephone calls were made to family members to advise them of what was happening. The ambulance arrived soon after and I was transported to The Alfred.

On arrival at the Alfred, I was admitted and spent the night in the Emergency Department. Members of my family rushed up to the Alfred to be with me. Paul tells me that was approximately 2.00 a.m. The next morning ( Sunday 21st ) I was visited by some members of the neurosurgical team and was sent off for another CT scan of my brain. This time with a dye injected through my blood stream. After the scan and on looking at the pictures the neurosurgical consultant advised us that it was looking good and that it was looking like I would be allowed to go home. But, once again, they were waiting on the radiologist’s report. When the radiologist’s report came back it was discovered that I had a burst aneurysm. That evening I was transferred to the High Dependancy Unit on the Neurology ward where I was monitored.

Next day ( Monday 22nd ) I was visited by a neuroradiologist who advised me that it had been decided by the neurosurgical team that they were going to perform an operation called coiling. I was told that I was suitable for this type of treatment. So on Tuesday 23rd June 2009, my mother’s birthday, my aneurysm was coiled successfully. Whilst they were coiling this aneurysm they found another small unruptured aneurysm which I had successfully coiled on Dec 1st 2009.

My recovery has been a series of ups and downs. I have suffered depression, panic attacks and severe fatigue. But I continually improve and the bad days are getting less and less. I am back at work working the same hours as prior to my SAH. I am thankful every day that my SAH was discovered by a very caring doctor who just didn’t send me home with some painkillers and say that I had a migraine. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be here today.

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