Dec 26, 2019 Latest post:
Oct 13, 2021
Jennifer had a really bad headache, started vomiting, and couldn’t move her neck on Christmas Eve night. She was admitted to ER in Park Rapids, who found the subarachnoid hemorrhage through a CT scan and sent her to Sanford in Fargo. A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when you have an aneurism (outpocket sac of the blood vessel) that ruptures and causes blood to flow into the brain and mix with the cerebral spinal fluid. Shortly after arriving, the same aneurism ruptured again, but larger and more serious because she fell unconscious (5% chance to live). Fortunately, the neurosurgeon was on his way and performed emergency endovascular embolization (Surgery where they use a catheter to go up a vessel in her groin to coil off the aneurism using platinum and gel) on her. The surgery went well except for a blood clot that was left (removing it was higher risk than it was to leave it). The blood clot led to a stroke on the right side of her brain, which indicated there may be weakness in her left hand. Over time, her brain kept swelling and the doctors continued giving her more and more medicine until they decided it was best to do a unilateral decompression craniectomy where they remove part of her skull in order for her brain to have room to swell up. This surgery went well also. However, when the neurosurgeon felt her brain he said it felt hard like a drum instead of jelly-like. Plus it was barely pulsating so the neurology team decided to medically induce a coma. After the surgery and being on the coma medication for a few days her brain swelling used that extra space but eventually went down. Just as the medical team were getting her swelling under control she started to have severe vasospasms in all three of her major blood vessels in her brain, which means they were very narrow and blood was flowing through them very rapidly. If these get bad enough they can cause a stroke. So they did a cerebral angiogram (basically a procedure where they see what her brain is like from the inside). During this they put medicine in her brain to relax the vessels and allow them to widen, and they were bad enough vasospasms that they used a balloon to inflate inside the blood vessels (angioplasty) to get them back to a normal size and control the spasming. They had to do this again and the second time it was so bad that they did the major vessels and multiple smaller vessels as well. They did an MRI and said the strokes affected 60-70% of her right side and 10% of her left, which is the areas that supply blood to both legs and left arm. One night, she formed a blood clot despite being on maximum blood thinners in her arm so they had the vascular surgeon do a surgery to save her arm. About 24 hours later they did another angioplasty to fix the vasospasms, which was fortunately the last time they had to do this. After a few days of being off the coma medication her heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature went up so they had to put her back on sedation and pain medications to calm her down. Over time she was able to recover and they slowly took her off medications and began doing breathing trials to wean her off the ventilator. She started opening her eyes, moving her face, and wiggling her toes. On the 16th of January, she was moved from the ICU to Intermediate care. On January 20th, she was transferred to long term acute care in the cities to recover. Here she had been opening her eyes more and slowly increasing the duration of her breathing trials every day. She battled pneumonia, so they had her on antibiotics and they were effective. She began to track with her eyes and act like she was trying to talk. They moved her to a chair for two-hour durations. She developed a uterine tract infection followed by a resistant infection called VRE and was transferred to North Memorial emergency room to determine if she would need surgery. She had a few procedures to remove the infection that came from the feeding tube. She stayed in North Memorial for some time and then was transferred back to Regency in order to receive treatment for the VRE infection. At this point in time, she was able to talk and communicate with us when both parties show a little patience. Just as she regained consciousness to the point where she would actually remember our conversations, COVID19 hit and we were unable to visit her. She stayed in Regency on the aggressive antibiotic until April 13th. On April 21st, she was able to have the bone flap put back in at Sanford in Fargo. On September 3rd, she finally had the feeding tube removed. This made her eligible to move to a less intense facility. She resided in Benedictine Care Community in Ada, where she stayed until March 18th when she finally made the return home with her family and a PCA to assist with her care. She is SO much happier to be home with her family and has two wonderful PCAs. She is doing therapy twice-a-week therapy now that she is home and has already begun to move her left leg more. Her left arm is the main part of her body that will remain fully paralyzed. We can’t say thank you enough to everyone for the continued well wishes, prayers, thoughts, love, and support through this difficult time. The hard part of Jen's journey is over, but she hopes to improve her mobility with therapy over time.