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My SAH at 44


Guest csandlund
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Guest csandlund

I've just done a quick glance through the site and it looks like I share a date for my SAH with at least one other member: July 17.

Unlike a lot of people here, my SAH was traumatic -- not related to an aneurysm. On that Tuesday, I'd just returned from a lovely two week vacation to the U.S. West Coast with my wife and kids. Back in New York, I went to play softball with my company's team. Being NY, we play on asphalt. I tripped going to catch a ball and next thing I know it's 4 hours later and I'm in the hospital. When I regained memory, I'd already had one CT scan and was going to undergo another. (Supposedly, I lost consciousness for <2 minutes. But I kept asking a colleague who accompanied me to the hospital what happened -- repeatedly asking him over four hours until my brain started holding onto memory, even if it still has a blank spot for those first four hours.)

Wasn't until days later that I read the diagnosis on the release papers, Wikipedia'd SAH, eh, voila! I got a whole lot more concerned than I had been in the hospital. The rating on the Glasgow Coma Scale was just 14 -- so it was pretty mild. But I had no notion what an SAH was and how serious it could be.

Obviously, I've come off very, very fortunate. From what I've read, and contrary to some of the info on this site, traumatic SAHs are more common than those from aneurysms. (Would appreciate steering me correct if I'm off base here.) They're also decidedly deadly/disabling (45-75%) -- but I suspect that's from car accidents and such. My tripping and head-smashing on the pavement was bad (almost as bad for my teammates to watch from what I hear!) but not nearly as forceful as a car crash at 50 miles per hour plus.

I've generally felt better for the past few months with few if any physical after effects. Still, some things linger.

I tried to have a beer a month later (past when my doctor asked me to hold off). I was out with my wife celebrating our anniversary. Half a pint in, I felt like I'd finished my third pint. Incredibly woozy. So much for alcohol. No great loss as I probably averaged no more than a couple of beers a month before the accident. Work, kids. I don't have much time for being hungover.

I'm also avoiding aspirin and ibuprofen, again through doctor's orders. That was supposed to end in October, but I'm also wary of adding that back in -- as I am alcohol. Need to ask her about that.

Worse, and why I'm showing up here now, I've been dealing with some pretty nasty depression/orneriness. I've noted a few postings around here including mention of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Any assistance/directions along those lines much appreciated.

Oh, and if you're interested, I'll post the entire story of what happened that day if I can dig up the email describing it to my family and friends.

- Chris

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Hey Chris

Welcome to the site and to the family.

I felt like I was going crazy when I had my SAH, depression, anxiety and panic attacks - felt like I was in a big deep black hole and there was no light and no way of getting out. My Doc has known me for years and referred me to a counsellor immediately he was that worried. The counsellor was great and after about five sessions I was cool again. Don't get me wrong, I still felt depressed (and still do occasionally), but it made me realise that I had nothing to feel guilty about etc and also told me that it's rare to see anyone with a head/brain injury within the first three months due to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Your brain has been severly insulted and is still recovering and hurting - it's grieiving I suppose and needs time to work through emotions and thoughts. There was a letter on here (think it's still here) called A Letter From Your Brain - if you haven't read it, I urge you to - it sounds weird but it helped.

Feel free to ask any of us on here anything - we're a friendly bunch - and some are slightly mad :wink: but I think they may always have been :wink:

Take care hun

Sami xxx

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Guest csandlund

Thanks, Sami! Just recognizing how normal it is to be down is helping already -- I guess I'm reaching back to forgotten lessons after a funk when my brother-in-law was living with us for a stretch. :lol:

My boss actually asked me if everything was going OK on Monday. I reacted, "Sure, fine" -- which has become my standard response and is accurate if you only take into account physical symptoms. On reflection, I'm realizing that I've got a ways to go here.

Your SAH was in 2006, right? Any word from long-timers how long it takes to get symptom free?

Would love to find the Letter that you mention. Did a quick search to no avail. I'll keep looking around this weekend. If anyone has a link, please post it!

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Guest csandlund

Perfect. Thanks!

I needed that.

I'll poke around here some more. Looking for stuff now on what constitutes going slow and what constitutes jumping back in too fast. (I suspect that I've gone the latter route.)

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Hey there

Only you can know whether you're going too fast hun. i was back at work three weeks after - but I'm lucky enough to run a business and I had a bed in my office until just recently. Just listen to your body - that'll tell you when you're doing too much too soon.

Keep in touch

Sami xxx

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Guest csandlund

Sheesh, no game plan for how to move forward from here? Oh, what fun is that? :lol:

Thanks, Sami. I've been browsing during lunch over on the other parts of the site. Very helpful.

Did I get it right that you're in Devon (I saw the Barnstaple/Plymouth references)?

- Chris

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Hey there

No, I live in Nottingham but we were on holiday in Devon when the SAH happened - Plymouth hospital was not top of my to do list :D

And no, there is no game plan for this I'm afraid, other than try to stay as positive as you can and each day tell yourself that you got through yesterday and will get through today and tomorrow.

Sami xxx

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Hi Chris - Welcome to the site.

Sami's right - there is no one who knows how you are doing more than you. Everyone's SAH and recovery is different, although we all have an awful lot in common, and can certainly empathise!

Best advice I can give you is to start with baby steps rather than thinking about how to be "symptom-free". Try to be positive about going forwards - and don't beat yourself up if you go backwards a bit - it happens ;)

Set yourself small targets, and take it easy when you need to. When you feel down is a good time to come here and have a rant or a moan or a cry - we'll always understand!

Very best of luck to you.

Blondie

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Hi Chris and welcome.

One thing I've found from all the great people on this site is that there is no "game plan" , everyone is different. Sometimes the doctors will try to put a timescale on things, but they are rarely right. I am symptom free most of the time, but still get the odd reminder that things cannot ever be the same.

Regards

Keith

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Hi Chris and welcome,

I can remember somebody recently quoting, that after a SAH or any other brain injury, that "one size doesn't fit all" .... those are very wise words.

A persons brain injury is very unique and even though we have quite a lot in common with our recovery, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration .... such as how large the bleed was, what part of the brain it affected, age etc and how quickly it was diagnosed/treated and what sort of condition you were in, on your arrival at hospital. A lot of us with aneurysmal SAH, were mis-diagnosed and that initial delay more than likely caused us more damage. When I was admitted I was having seizures, I had paralysis down my left hand side and my eye suffered a nerve palsy .....

My only advice is to take one day at a time, don't look too far forward, it does get better. Time is a great healer, but nobody will be able to give you an answer as to how long it's going to take .... try to stay as positive as possible, it's not always that easy I know, but it will help see you through this.

I wish you well.... :)

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Guest csandlund

Thanks for all the kind posts and encouragement.

Possibly because mine was not from an aneurysm, my doctors were a little less concerned. The after-effects have been relatively mild compared to some of your amazing stories (I am so lucky in comparison) -- but as you all wisely counsel, we're each unique in how this injury effects us. Just because I came through the initial trauma relatively unscathed, does not mean that I shouldn't be on the look out for depression/irritability/etc.

The reference to A Letter from Your Brain was particularly helpful.

I feel like I've been running around since week three with an "I am Superman!" mentality. I felt a need to embrace life to its fullest -- back to the office, back to working on the house, back to church activities, etc., etc. I still like that reaction on my part -- it's good to realize how brief our life is -- but tempering it a bit is even better.

Thanks for the encouragement.

I'm going to post a write up I did shortly after my accident over in the my stories section. (I'm a journalist -- writing is what I do.) Reading through it now, I can see that there are a lot of specifics about SAHs that I am only now learning.

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Guest csandlund

Well, heck, I might as well post it here! Karen, feel free to move if there's another location on the site where it fits better.

This was originally written as a submission to be published somewhere -- but I never got around to getting it placed. Much better to share here in case it gives someone with a traumatic SAH some sense of what happened to someone else:

------------------------------

Forty-eight hours after landing back in New York from a refreshing vacation on the West Coast, I found myself playing softball for my company in Manhattan. How better to celebrate the conclusion of a great two weeks off than to play my favorite sport?

Our league doesn't play on Central Park’s grass. We play on the asphalt of St. Vartan's Park by the Midtown Tunnel. It toughens you up.

Our games commence immediately after work at 6:00. We were getting killed 7-0 by our business competitor – the publisher Institutional Investor. As I went out to left field for the fourth inning, it was about 6:30.

The next thing I know, I'm in Bellevue Hospital and it's 10:30. At first I'm clueless as to where I am. San Francisco? Seattle? New York?

Then I realize my colleague is at my bedside. He tells me that I tripped while trying to catch a fly ball and planted my skull in the asphalt. I have no memory of the play. I have no memory of the team gathering around me, or the police showing up, or the ambulance ride, or the move from the stretcher to the hospital bed. (Or, for that matter, asking my colleague about these events over and over.)

I made scattered calls to my cousin (who lives in the city) and my wife (who'd already put our kids to bed at home in the Hudson Valley), trying to get myself out of the hospital. But I finally realized that I wasn’t going home.

I learned that I had been unconscious for about two minutes, suffered a concussion, and that I'd likely be at Bellevue for the night in the staff's good hands. With me to a state of semi-coherency, my colleague took a well-deserved departure to his wife and kids on Long Island.

The nurse – Nate – told me that they'd be taking another CAT scan at around 2:00 a.m. (there evidently had been an earlier one). If I can keep breakfast down in the morning they'll release me. Then, my wife can come get me. But she can't bring the kids – and their germs – into the emergency room.

Nate woke me for the scan. Then I slept intermittently. My neck, back, and shoulders were stiff from the shock.

The next morning, I'm part of the rounds for interns. I crack some jokes with the attending. Then, getting impatient, I ask Nate's successors for breakfast – the intravenous tube isn't sufficient. The staff is cautious and reminds me that if I can hold down the meal, they'll discharge me by 3:00 p.m. So much for Wednesday's full slate of meetings.

They held off on breakfast until 11. I managed the apple juice, hard boiled egg, most of the bran muffin and coffee. (It was luke-warm, but I wasn't complaining!)

They kept asking whether I'd had any headaches, which I hadn't. They began the discharge work as my wife, Jennifer, called to say she'd dropped the kids with my brother and was on her way in. No problem, say the staff. You can stay in the bed until she shows up.

When Jennifer arrived, I changed into the clothes she's brought. We go over my prescription and directions with the staff. We look for my valuables – wedding ring, watch, wallet, and cross are OK. My keys got thrown out when they cut the clothes off my body. We head out for the car, which Jennifer drives up First Avenue until we find a Duane Reade in the 60s where we fill the prescription. We spy the bizarre sight of a plume of steam billowing up Lexington Avenue as high as the Chrysler Building. It's a little too surreal as my head is still a little wobbly.

We dive back into rush hour traffic and the stop-and-go makes me sick for the only time that day. At home, I crawl in bed. The kids wake me after my brother drives them home. “Is your boo-boo OK, daddy?â€

I take two more days off work and rest over the weekend. I head back to work the next Monday, pacing myself: no more 10-hour days in the office. I contact my regular doctor to fill her in. She is concerned and asks that I forward the records – which I request from Bellevue.

I try to settle into a normal routine. Evenings find me reading to the kids. My daughter and I cover the story of Joseph from Genesis in a children’s Bible. It intrigues her, as I try my best to explain its oddities. I'm struck by this ancient tale that I haven't read in years. How amazing is Joseph to suffer slavery at his brothers’ hands and still see God's purpose in his misfortune?

Then on Thursday I have a follow up appointment at Bellevue. In preparing for it the night before, I find my discharge papers and stuff them in my briefcase. They have the necessary appointment slip and a sheet that I finally read on the train. It says: "Diagnosis: Subarachnoid Hemorrhage". Hmm. I'd read up on concussions over the weekend. But not SAHs.

I Google the term from my BlackBerry and freeze as the train stops to take on more passengers. An SAH is bleeding in the brain. It is much more serious than just a contusion. I use an article on Wikipedia to prep questions for the doctor I'll be seeing soon.

Most SAHs are caused by aneurysms and have just a 50% chance of survival. That freezing fact had me nervous – and much more appreciative of everyone’s concern. But in the follow up appointment the doctor tells me my scan turned up no aneurysm. And the second scan told them that the bleeding wasn't getting worse. My SAH was mild.

I am thankful for the excellent care at Bellevue – one of the nation's top trauma centers. My colleague recalled 12 doctors standing around me during the first scan. I also doubt that a less serious condition would have warranted an extra hour in an emergency room bed waiting for a spouse. And I suspect that gaggle of interns was excited to see a rare case.

As I realize the severity of the injury, I'm waiting for the Joseph-like revelation of its purpose in my life. For now, I am on watch for headaches, nausea or dizziness. No aspirin. No ibuprofen. No alcohol for a few weeks. But I'm thankful to be on my feet and – so far so good – healthy.

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Hi Chris

And welcome to the site, what you're going through I think is very normal the brain takes so long to recover from such an impact no matter how it has happened, it takes time to adjust.

In one way I was lucky in the fact I was so ill I had to go into a rehab hospital to basically learn to do things all over again, anyway there I spoke to physcologists every day which helped me no end but what was said as those sessions I haven't got a clue, rehab was nearly 8 years ago now.

Hear from you again soon

Louise.

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