Posts Tagged ‘aneurysm’

He Ain’t Heavy

Friday, February 8th, 2008

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for sometime. I think everyone should have one even if you are the only one who reads it. In a way it’s the dairy for the new ages. I don’t think I’ll have something to say everyday, so it will be a whenever blog.

It’s a great day for my first post. (I started this on the 8th, but now it’s the 9th) One year ago my brother Mike suffered a major brain aneurysm. I was at work at the Capitol when I got the call from Inez my brother’s girlfriend. On my drive over there I was pretty calm. I had to see for myself what condition he was in. He was unconscious when I got there. The emergency doctor was an Indian dude. (Dot, not feather) He seemed really experienced with this kind of thing but I could tell by his choice of words, Mike was in a bad way. My heart sank and I felt like I was out of my body.

We waited so long for the ambulance to come from Straub Hospital where they were taking Mike to see the King of Aneurysms, Dr. Felix Song. I was getting pissed so I made a bunch of calls to them telling them to hurry it up. If a waiter forgets my order, I’m the last to complain, but this was a little different. When the ambulance finally came and they wheeled him out, shit…..something told me this was gonna be bad. The drive to Straub was in slow motion.

The team there immediately went into action, just like on tv. They did a bunch of tests and stabilized him. We met Dr. Song who told us that Mike was in real danger and in most cases when such a large amount of blood spills on the brain, the person rarely lives or at best has severe paralysis. I had visions of changing his diapers. Dr. Song told us he had 3 big battles ahead of him. A coiling procedure which stops the aneurysm from bleeding any more. A thing called vasospasms where the arteries in the brain narrow, cutting off blood to the brain, which takes place 1-2 weeks after the aneurysm ruptures. And the angioplasty that is done to combat that narrowing. These 3 things were spread out over a week or so and before each of them Dr. Song explained the procedure thoroughly and said that Mike’s odds were not good. It all goes back to how major that initial blood spill was. We were so lucky to have Dr. Song guiding us through all of this. The way he explained things was so appropriate. I can’t say how much my Mom and I appreciated him. I think about him all the time. I wish I could tell his parents how he has changed our family’s life. He has the great skills he has learned over time but he also has been blessed with such humanity.

The night before the angioplasty I sat with Mike alone in his room. I felt so lucky that we had this time together. We weren’t saying goodbye to each other but we were saying things in case we wouldn’t see each other again. My mind was racing. I was trying to reminisce about all the good times, all the crimes we got away with and most of all, things like……did he want to be buried, what do do with his belongings, did he have any porn I needed to burn and all that good stuff people have to guess about when someone suddenly dies. Mike and I joked that all the information I downloaded from Dr. Song’s website ( said that the treatment would follow a path like… get this coiling done, if it works great you may be partially paralyzed, if it doesn’t work you’ll be dead…..if the angio works….. great, but it could burst while inflating it and that always means your dead. It was almost hilarious and we laughed our asses off about it. We both knew though. We knew this could be the last time we would be together. I said good bye that night to Mike and if anyone was watching us, it was like we were wishing each other good luck before a sporting event. After my last fist pump to Mike, I remember walking past the nurses station as they all cheerfully bid me a goodnight, I tried to keep my composure, biting my lip, tears rolling down my face, I could only muster a thumbs up. Their smiles disappeared as they got a glimpse of another side of one of the knucklehead brothers they’ve recently gotten to know. Their looks gave me great comfort.

As I think back about the nurses, they were all so great. They never gave us any false hopes. They knew we were in for a rough ride. I’ve travelled a lot and have been on many flights. I’ve been in really bad turbulence maybe 3 times. The kind where stuff flies out of the overhead bins. In all those times I always looked at the flight attendants. If they were cool, I was cool too. Only one time on a trip here to Honolulu did I ever think this could be the time. Kendra and I could hear the landing gear dropping down repeatedly. One of the captains even came out, leaned across the seats in front of us and said, “We’re having trouble with the landing gear”. A few minutes later he announces over the PA that the landing gear wouldn’t stay down in a locked position. He went on to explain that given this predicament, we needed a longer runway than Honolulu has. He even said Honolulu’s is like 10,000 feet, but if we were in LA, they have one that’s 15,000 feet and we’d be good. Whaaaat??? What am I supposed to do with that? At least I’d die with my best friend Kendra at my side. We circled a few times, even did a gas dump. The flight attendants looked scared shitless and we had to assume the position, head in the knees. As I peeked out the window after we hit the ground I saw the runway lined with fire trucks. Boy did we get away with one.

The nurses were the same thing. I could tell by the way they acted, they knew Mike was a goner. They were shocked by his recovery. Even Dr. Song told Mike that he was one of the lucky ones.

There were two things that had a profound effect on me after this experience. One I’ll say might make me a great poker player. I’ll not go into detail, because it will make me seem crazy and I don’t want a written record of this to live on in perpetuity. If you ask me in person, I’ll gladly tell you though. The other is a loss of a certain inhibition. The first day I brought Mike his favorite driver and a golf ball. He was fading in and out and I thought this would make him familiar. He would come to, his eyes open but he wasn’t all there, then his eyes would roll to the back of his head. It was like in and out of a coma. It was hard to watch. Every time his eyes rolled back I thought he was going to die. I remember friends and family in the room, all of us in shock on this same roller coaster ride. I started talking to him, telling him to fight. I kept thinking “Poltergeist….Don’t go to the light!”. It must have looked more like Brian’s Song. I pleaded for him to fight. I know others in the room worried I went off the deep end. I had to do it though, I was leaving it all on the field. That changed me.

Mike is back to his usual self. It’s like nothing happened. He could have found Jesus, but he’s still scheming and looking to get his freak on……Ida Way, he’s my brother.