Brush Up on the Basics During National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Every year over 30,000 US families lose someone from a ruptured brain aneurysm. About 40% of those experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm will die. Those that survive often face significant challenges, greatly impacting their lives and the lives of their families. Today, at the beginning of National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, I re-tell my story to raise awareness of brain aneurysms.

On the evening of March 18, I noshed on some dark chocolate covered espresso beans left over from a road trip to see Modest Mouse in Charleston. I ate a lot, at least ¼ of a pound. Then later that evening, I felt a sharp electrical-like impulse go down my part line, and then down my head. Then it felt like ice cold water running down the sides of my head. I felt really weird, like I was outside of my body; I even told my sister that I thought I was dying.

She said that I threw up and felt better; I don’t remember that, but I do remember refusing her suggestion that we call Mom or go to the ER; I said, “No, I just ate too many espresso beans,” and went to bed. She found me unconscious by my bed the next morning.

Aside from being a woman over the age of 40, I had few of the risk factors. I’d lost and maintained an 80 lb. weight loss. I had LOW blood pressure, so much so that I had taken meds to prevent me from having constant vertigo. I never smoked except for one or two cigarettes in college. So I had no idea I may be having an aneurysm. (Unaware to me until after the event, which could’ve been far too late, I did have a family history. My father’s sister, Rose, had one and survived, and they lost two cousins to aneurysms.)

The doctors say that my aneurysm was about as bad as they get, and my family didn’t know if I would survive for three long weeks. Even then, the doctors couldn’t predict a full recovery. I was fortunate to have wonderful care and to go to a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta for follow-up care. My story ended well. I’m still alive, and while I do have some very mild deficits, I’m a living, breathing success story.

From someone who’s been there, I urge you to use this month to learn more about aneurysms, including the risk factors and symptoms. If you have a history of aneurysms in your family, make it a point to talk to your doctor this month.

There is plenty of information available about brain aneurysms. You can talk to your doctor or consult the internet; my favorite site is the Joe Niekro Foundation. I’m not a doctor, but I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have or speak with you or your small group about my experience.

5K With a Little Help From My Friends

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

In November of last year, I blogged about walking the Get to the Green 5k to celebrate the second anniversary of my survival from a near fatal brain aneurysm rupture. Today I’m proud to announce that I did it: I walked 3.1 miles. I didn’t run, as I’ve always hoped to do, but that doesn’t downplay my walking on the very day I had the rupture.

Those of you who are familiar with the story of my brain aneurysm rupture may remember that I had to “re-lean” how to walk during my rehabilitation. I wasn’t paralyzed, per se, but my muscles had atrophied after being in bed for a month. The whole time I thought it would be a cinch and would all come naturally. I even had thoughts of walking in downtown Atlanta while at Shepherd. But it wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of assistance and patience.

The process was complicated somewhat by a breathing impairment created during intubation. My vocal cords were damaged, and I had two surgeries and a trach tube while in rehab. The result is an impaired airway that impacts my voice and my breathing to this day.

One of the reasons I decided to do the 5k was 1) because I could; and 2) to keep me engaged in my strength training and balance work. Even up until the day before the walk, I was a little anxious, mostly about my breathing limitations. Any concerns I had were put to rest the day of the race, when my sweet friends and family gathered at Maxcy Gregg Park to walk with me.

I’ve been so fortunate to have such a great support system during my recovery, and they did not disappoint on the anniversary either. About 12 special friends joined me for the 5K, including one who is dealing with MS and another who walks with a cane due to issues from an AVM. One of my nurses showed up, who is recovering from back surgery. My cousin came from Charlotte with a sign of support that she carried throughout the race. And my sweet sister had created t-shirts for our team, so we looked the part. It truly was a team effort.

I know I walked the 3.1 miles – I had a sore hip and full Fitbit to show for it – but I almost felt carried by my loving friends. We laughed and talked and looked at houses along the way, and we were at the finish line before I knew it.

Next up, I want to add “hanging abs” back to my strength training program. I know you can’t rush these things, but it’s on my 50 in 50 list. So I’m hoping to be able to do one again by September 24.

God’s Other Plans

By: Mary Pat Baldauf 

I skipped church Sunday morning to take care of a few time-sensitive tasks. I hate to play hookey from church because God never played hookey on me during my recovery (except maybe on that day I contracted c. Diff.) but I was starting to feel some severe pressure to get a few things done.

My rehab hospital in Atlanta is doing a “Where Are They Now” feature on me for their next magazine, and I have to get them a photo. I started out looking through my Facebook photos and got lost in the journey of the last eight months.

My new motto is to enjoy the present and everything in it. Thankfully, my present is being documented by a personal photographer, my sweet sister Beth, who is still amazed at every thing I do. (Because, she explains, the initial prognosis was that I would never do some of this stuff again.)

I remember when I was in my first days at Shepherd Center, someone commented that God must have big plans for me for bringing me through the aneurysm rupture. I still have a lot of questions for and about God, but today, I think he is okay with me skipping church. After all, if I hadn’t stayed home, I would’ve missed the goodness and warmth of those couple of hours.

#MPBStrong

For today’s post, I thought I’d share a handful of the greatness that has happened since I’ve been back in Columbia. There were many other great moments, but these were the clearest shots (aka best for the magazine.) I made it into a collage for the blog, but sent the magazine these photos individually. (They only need one, so I’m going to make them do the choosing.)

As we move into Thanksgiving week, I thank everyone who made the past eight months possible. Whether you prayed for me, sent a card, welcomed me back with a great hug or helped me celebrate, you are all such an important part of my life. Together we are #MPBStrong.

#MPBStrong

Last week we shared that our friend and Every Woman Blogger, Mary Pat Baldauf, suffered a serious brain aneurysm. We wanted to share our support for Mary Pat during her road to recovery.

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Katie Austin – #MPBStrong

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Leah Prescott – #MPBStrong

A note of encouragement from Brady Evans and her son, Benjamen!

A note of encouragement from Brady Evans and her son, Benjamin! #MPBStrong

MPB Strong

Chaunte McClure – #MPBStrong

Crissie Kirby and her sons - #MPBStrong

Crissie Kirby and family – #MPBStrong

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Shannon Shull – #MPBStrong

Would you like to send a message of encouragement to Mary Pat? Simply write down your message, snap a photo or a selfie with it, and tag it with the hashtag, #MPBStrong. It be wonderful to let Mary Pat know that her Every Woman Blog family is rooting her on through recovery!

#MPBStrong

Two weeks ago, our friend and Every Woman Blogger, Mary Pat Baldauf suffered a serious brain aneurysm. Mary Pat is a beloved member of both the Every Woman Blog and our community. We ask that you keep Mary Pat and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

Mary Pat is facing a long road to recovery. Please share your positive thoughts and well wishes for her in the comments below!

#Pray4MPB #MPBStrong