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Meet Irene: Double Brain Aneurysm Survivor Who Never Gave Up

Iora Primary Care is celebrating Older Americans Month with senior Stories of Strength. We are sharing these stories from our patients to offer hope, share their wisdom, and connect one another virtually.

Follow #StoriesofStrength on Facebook and Instagram to see all of the featured senior stories.

In healthcare, we know very well that not everyone gets a second chance, not everyone is so lucky. Fortunately for Irene, she got that second chance, and she has not let it go to waste. She’s a brain aneurysm survivor and has been determined since the moment she woke up in the hospital and hasn’t paused since. Maybe it wasn’t chance after all, maybe it was her determination all along. 

“Back in July of 2018, I had a double brain aneurysm. I was in a coma for 35 days. I knew nothing and had no memory of those 35 days. Then I realized that my whole family was around me and my husband told me what had happened.

After the first five days of my coma, the doctor started to ask my husband about next steps and a plan for me. After 30 days:

Doctor: It’s been a month now, what are we going to do?

My husband: Wait another week and see what happens.

Doctor: Okay, we’ll wait another week. 

And within that week is when I woke up!

I could not talk, they had taken my vocal cords out and my voice box so when I woke up I had no voice. I couldn’t talk to my family, and could not ask questions since I was wondering what happened to me. My family members brought me a piece of paper and pencil so I could write down what I was trying to tell them. 

I remember trying to move my legs, but they felt so heavy I could not move my legs. “What’s going on with my legs?!” I asked my husband. He explained that because I had been in bed for 35 days, my muscles were deteriorating. Because of this, I then had to be in a wheelchair since I had no use of my legs. 

Through all of the various doctor’s appointments, here was how we would talk:

Doctor: So where do you want to go from here? 

Irene: I told him I want to be where I was before. I don’t see myself in a wheelchair. 

Doctor: So your plan is to get back to the way you were?

Irene: Yes, I have a lot to do. I am involved in a lot of things and cannot be in a wheelchair.

My doctor called again and confirmed with me:

Doctor: Are you ready to go through intensive therapy? This will be very difficult. 

Irene: I’m ready; let’s do whatever needs to be done. Bring it on! 

Doctor: Okay! 

From there he referred me to physical therapy and I started that following week. 

Staff at the residential treatment center: You were very determined! 

Irene: I have things to do! I am involved with an association from my grammar school and I have plans. 

The grammar school association started in 2004 and is still growing. It has 500 members now, and plenty of newcomers.

I would tell them [someone going through recovery from an aneurysm or something just as challenging], don’t give up. That’s my thing, it’s always been my thing, never give up. Always go for the sky. The memory loss and my memory are still there but working a little slower. But I work on my memory, play games on my computer, keep my brain going.” 

– Irene

To read more inspiring senior stories, visit our Stories of Strength.

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