My wife (37) had SAH about 6 months ago. It was a severe bleed from large aneurysm. She collapsed in a car-park, comatosed by the time Ambulance crew arrived and intubated/ventilated on arrival in A&E. I had spoken to her 15mins before she collapsed and everything was fine. I didn’t find out for another hour as I had left my phone in the car. She was ventilated in A&E, right beneath my feet, in the hospital that I work and I had no idea.
We have 4 children. Two boys - 5 and 3yrs and twins, now 8 months. The twins were 3 months when my wife collapsed. She had just loaded them into the buggy before she had the bleed. The police took them to a travel agents as they couldn’t find anyone to collect them. The boys were picked up by a school friends Mum. The whole thing, everything, was just completely and utterly heartbreakingly horrendous. I wouldn’t wish that sort of day on anybody. It was torture.
They transferred her to Neuro-ICU and basically informed me they would support as long as there were signs of improvement, they couldn’t say how things would pan out. Surgery wasn’t an option given the site of the aneurysm and they would only coil if things got better. I cried myself asleep and cried myself awake for 10 nights in a row. In-between that I sat by my wife’s side and prayed to everything and anything. I then drove home to have some dinner, give the kids a bath and put them to bed. A combination or her family and mine filled in for childcare. The twins had an abrupt start to bottle feeding caringly administered by my parents.
She did improve (opened eyes to pain), so they coiled the aneurysm at 24hrs. That really was awesome. Then came the vasospasm - the amount of blood made this almost inevitable. All hopes raised with subtle improvements were dashed by Day 5 with a sudden drop in conscious state. With all the drugs pumping at quadruple strength to push her heart and circulation to the brain to the max, her heart started to fail. She had aspirated (inhaled) vomit when she collapsed, so one lung was already out of business. Repeat brain scans showed widespread focal ischaemia (brain with poor blood supply) but no infarct (dead/dying brain tissue). Nothing was going right, absolutely nothing.
We hadn’t been getting on before she collapsed. Standard stuff for parents with 4 children I’d imagine. A rather stressful life and little time for each other. We argued lots. She sent me an email a week or so before, wanting to know if anything was wrong, pleading with me to talk to her so we could find a solution. I ignored it. As I was sitting in intensive care I realised what I had done. The regret was unbearable. I just wanted a moment of consciousness, just a moment, so I could talk and she could hear and I could say sorry. So I could reassure her, tell her I love you. I then thought about how that would be just for me and how selfish I was for thinking that way.
Her brother sent me a message on Day 10 - “Miracles can happen”. I pulled myself together, told the kids Mummy was going to get better and come home and went back to her. Over the previous few days I had received literally hundreds of messages sending love and prayers. There was a lot of love being sent her way, so I decided I’d have to channel all to her. I sat resting my head on her right hand and thought of anyone and everyone that she knew - the kids, the family, her friends, acquaintances and everyone that had been in touch.
I imagined them one by one, said their names to myself and whilst doing so pushed as much positive energy my spirit could muster towards her. That might sound ridiculous (I am a doctor and a scientist so it does to me) but it was strangely comforting. Here’s the thing: Miracles can happen, they really can! If you are reading this in a similar position to me - Please believe this. It’s an extraordinary paradox - most of the time we are completely unaware of our human bodies treacherously fragile existence, but at the same time we are blessed with an innate biological toughness and resilience that makes the extraordinary and miraculous possible.
From that day onwards my wife got better and better and better. One day later she was opening her eyes spontaneously, the next moving one side, the next moving all limbs on command. By day 14 she was off the ventilator and moved to HDU. By day 18 she was moved to a standard ward, talking but dysphasic (jumbled up words).
By day 21 she was walking to her toilet, on a standard diet and talking normally. By day 25 I took all the kids to see her. That was a special moment. She hadn’t remembered we had had twins, so at least we found something to laugh about. In the space of 2 weeks it seemed like all my prayers had been answered. I was so thankful to everyone, her carers, family, friends, to her especially.
I don’t think I’ll ever be the same person. My family and friends have been great but outside that circle the support has been non-existent. I’ve gone from being a husband, to being a carer and now trying to get back to being a husband again - this isn’t good for relationships or state of mind. Life doesn’t get easier. Home is difficult and so complicated and noisy. It’s hectic all the time. As a result she is always tired. Struggling to manage fatigue in a household with 4 young children, it’s not easy.
She feels like she has lost so much - her identity, her purpose in life. She is depressed and lonely. I am lonely. She doesn’t feel like she can cope and after an extended period off work I’ve got to get back to work. She needs support which I can’t always give her. She needs reassurance from somebody who has been through this and come out the other side. It’s hard for me so I can’t imagine how hard everything must be for her.
Despite this I do feel that there are positive things we can take away. I am ashamed to say its only now that I have a thorough appreciation of how difficult it is looking after 4 children. We have had nearly 6 months together now, we would never have had that time otherwise. It’s been difficult, but I think it’s made us closer. I’ve had time looking after the babies that I didn’t get with the other two, it’s been special.
They said it would be a rollercoaster at the start. It was and it still is. I know it’s all relatively early days. I know how lucky we are to have such an amazingly strong women for a wife/mother , she really is amazing. I’ve always had hope but after all the progress and everything she has grasped back from the brink it feels like that’s the one thing my wife is still searching for and I’m not sure there is anything I can do to help.
Thanks for reading.