Wendy L.

One night, in 2013, I awoke with a massive headache. When I got out of bed I had no balance and I kept hearing voices say, “get up, get up!” I kinda snapped awake like somebody shocked me and it scared me a little. For a moment I thought I had been in an accident.

All I could say was, “something’s wrong with me.” I couldn’t walk right I was unstable. For some reason, I went to my neighbor’s house, hoping they could help me. I sat on their couch and quickly became extremely sick. I couldn’t stop vomiting.

I’m so happy my husband, Alex, was there with me. The next thing I recall is that I blacked out. At the time this happened I had been working on learning my lines for 2 movies and working out to get that body every girl wants. My lifetime dream was coming true.

I wasn’t doing anything hard or stressful at all, although I did have everyday stress like everyone else. Everyone knows those headaches that come with that stress. I also had allergies, and that day I took 3 over the counter allergy pills at 7-8pm so it wasn’t the medicine. The emergency crew that showed up thought I was overdosing.

They took me to the closest emergency room. They told Alex, my husband, that they had to care-flight me to another hospital because I was having an AVM. My lifetime dreams just died. Alex went home, got our children from our neighbor’s house, and told them the news.

He was so worried he also beat the care-flight to the hospital. An AVM is a very rare brain aneurysm. They told Alex to call our family. I was not expected to live. The doctors performed emergency surgery on me, and now I am called a miracle. At that time 4 others came in with aneurysms, but sadly, did not survive.

My brain aneurysm is so unique, by all accounts, I was not supposed to live. They shaved my bangs and the hair above the back of my neck. They placed a tube in the front of my head in my bang area. I was unconscious for a few days. I don’t remember any of this.

All of this was told to me or I read it in the daily journal my family kept while they kept vigil in the hospital. I eventually became conscious, giving signs like when they said move my toe. Eventually, they removed that tube because I kept trying to pull at it. I didn’t like it obviously.

They even tied my wrists to the sides of the bed, like I was in an asylum. I was excited when they decided to not do that anymore. I suppose I learned my lesson. So many people came to visit me while I was still in the hospital: my high school best friend, my sister and my step-sister, my model friends, some Dr.’s, and the care flight crew.

One question I’m asked often is did I see or experience anything while I was unconscious. Well I did! My grandma and uncle who have passed a while ago visited me. They would walk around the corner into the room, and my grandma would hold my hand while my uncle messed with the machine I was hooked up to.

My grandma would put her fingers to her lips and tell me, “Shhh.” Then my uncle would put his hand on my grandma’s shoulder, and as quietly as they came in, they walked out. I’m told the alarms on that machine would go off often and the nurses came in to check on me and that machine.

So I’m thinking my grandma and uncle were making that machine go off on purpose. I remember my family would stay over nights with me, having to sleep on that cold hard floor. I feel so bad till this day they did that. I also remember the hospital had me on way too much medicine. They were overdosing me so bad I couldn’t keep anything down. I expelled everything I ate because of all the meds they had me on.

Finally, my family noticed that they had me on way too much medication, so they said something to them. As soon as they took some meds away, I became better. Let me tell you, I do not like chocolate pudding or apple sauce anymore! The pills they gave me were so big, my family had to crush them and put them into the pudding or apple sauce, so now I can’t stand those anymore.

I spent the 4th of July in the hospital and got to hear the fireworks show that Houston put on. I called them “boom booms”! They didn’t waste any time starting therapy. The physical therapist put a large belt on me that looked like it belonged on a straightjacket, and huge yellow socks that had nonslip grips on the bottom on them (not stylish), and put my hands on a walker.

No words can explain how hard it was to just take one step. A voice inside kept saying “you’ve come this far don’t give up now.” So I wobbled like a penguin, not far but as far as I could, then I headed back to my bed. That would wear me out. The endurance I once had was no longer with me. I was given a wheel chair that I could not wheel around because I just wasn’t strong enough.

The first thing my occupationist had me remember and do every day until I got back into a routine was brush my teeth! I remember crying over the sink in the hospital room and she comforted me by telling me a poem I’ll never forget, the famous poem, “Footsteps”. The famous poem about Jesus walking on the beach. I don’t know why she chose that poem but it comforted me. Next, she taught me to put on my shoes.

She gave me special laces that were curly and I didn’t have to tie them like normal laces. My speech therapist had me repeating words and finishing sentences, singing little rhymes. Sounds weird but singing is the best therapy. Till this day I now sing in the shower.

A song my grandma would sing to me. All of that is what my day, each day, at the hospital consisted of. I was there for 3 months. It was long, and still my journey continues while I’m home. I got to go home with the wheel chair and walker. I also had a catheter, no fun what so ever! My mom bought me a cute stylish bag that the catheter could go in and we could tie the bag to the walker so it wouldn’t be such an eye sore.

Being so young and having a walker and a Catheter is overwhelming and embarrassing. People look at you with judging glances, young people asking their parents what happened to get that, then more stares from the parents, the whispers. They think i can’t hear them. I can and i might not show it but it hurts. I just kept my smile on and kept moving on. Cry on the inside, smile on the outside.

When I was discharged, my parents suggested that I stay there until we get stable again and are able to find a home/ apartment down here in south Texas again. This effected our living situation enormously. We went from 2 working to just 1, a family that included 2 girls, a cat, 2 dogs, and, of course, me and my husband. Now only one income.

So, while myself and our 2 girls went to my parent’s house, my husband has to sell all our belongings so we have money. A whole house full of furniture and memories. He packed what he believed were most memorable to us and the girls. After that, he sold everything including washer, dryer, bedroom furniture all for $500, not much.

Dogs went to my neighbors and he brought the cat since she is very old. $500 couldn’t even buy a couch these days. He didn’t have a choice, he was determined to be with us at my parents and it was driving us both crazy being apart. He came to my parent’s house and we lived on the farm with them in a small cabin like home. There was barely enough room for everybody.

I continued therapy while I was there, I was determined to get better. It paid off. I did have to go to the ER often for the UTI’s due of the catheter. I finally found an urologist and he got me off the catheter! Eventually, Alex had to leave to back down south to get his job back and find us an apartment. This was hard, he was, and still is my shoulder and my strength.

While he was gone, my mom cooked everything she could to put weight back on me. I was down into the 80’s, not good. I slowly gained and I was urinating on my own! I liked to go outside and watch the horses, cows, and donkey. They were like therapy. I just enjoyed watching them while they were in the field. I would take my walker outside and practice walking with it. I would walk tree to tree, dodging cow patties, and that was a huge therapy.

I got good at moving the walker around. Sometimes, I got brave and put my walker to the side and try to walk without it, finding the closest tree possible. Not realizing how far I would get going tree to tree, I would look back and say, “Oh crap” I would turn around and head back to my safety net, the walker. I got good enough to where my grandpa noticed, and he made me a cane.

He got one of his old golf putters and put a rubber bottom on it, and I used that as a cane. It meant so much to me, his care and dedication while he was thinking of me and making me that. I had to get used to it. It was hard, but it was therapy! Eventually, Alex got his job back and got us a 2 bedroom apartment in League City, TX! We moved into it having to start all over without having a couch, or even beds.

My parents had bought us beds while we lived with them, and we had a recliner that my sister had given us. Christmas was easy for me to tell everyone what I wanted. I wanted everything for our apartment, of course! Under one income, my oldest daughter had to work to help out. This was not an easy decision. She got a job working at Little Caesars Pizza.

With her working while in school, responsibility took away her fun times: no hanging out with friends, no movies, no activities, not anything teenagers enjoy. It tore my husband and I up. Then, my youngest was not doing well in school, her grades fell and soon she was failing classes. Soon after that, our oldest daughter’s grades followed. Her dyslexia was getting better, but her grades were not. She worked more hours pushing herself to the point where she couldn’t make up her grades.

My youngest went to the dark side, I guess you can say, her clothes were black all the time and long sleeves no matter if it was hot or cold. As the year ended we found out my youngest was harming herself. My oldest was being harassed by her boss in inappropriate ways.

Not what any parent wants for their children, horrible first year back on our own. I think the only good thing is being back in League City, close to Galveston, which I love dearly. We made our oldest quit her first job, and my youngest decided to stay with my parents and be with her horses. We are hoping they will cure whatever she maybe going through. I blame my AVM for all this. I blame myself.

So now it’s 2 years since my AVM. I’m doing as well as can be expected. Alex is now supervisor! He takes me where i want to go, if we can afford to spend a few dollars, i go to Galveston to walk on the beach often, and I love this feeling. I like to visit the hospital and walk down the hall that we call “sky bridge” because I used to not be able to walk it all.

Now I can! Loud noises bother me, like motorcycles and sirens. I experience flash backs of my recovery and I ask Alex if they happened or not. He’s my “go to” guy for answers. Since my AVM, we’ve had deaths in the family. Alex’s uncle and cousin have passed away, and it’s hard for me to handle. I cry a lot now, I can’t help it. Also my grandpa has passed away. My cowboy, my side kick, the one that silently watched me.

His death still gets to me. It’s a part of life, I understand that more now. I understand death so much more than what I did before. I was blessed to get many possessions that were my grandpa’s, so our house is now a home. We no longer live in a 2 bedroom apartment.

We are now living in a 3 bedroom home, looking to buy a home in the coming year. Saving every dollar we can. The journey I have had, and I’m still traveling, is a long road. I realize I may have had the AVM but it’s also affected my family. It is said that those who have AVM’s are born with them, and it’s just like a time bomb, you don’t know when it will go off. Mine just happened to be in the middle of night.

AVM/Aneurysms are hereditary, so we are getting our daughters checked. This is a life changing event for sure. I had to learn to walk again. I’m still wobbly, and I will always be, and I will always have a cane. Balance issues, my taste buds, endurance, sleepiness, headaches I pay attention to them all now, because I know it can happen again.