Facilitator Spotlight, Mary Pat Baldauf

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Before and After Annie[11]

How did you first discover the Joe Niekro Foundation?

When I woke up in the hospital after having had a brain aneurysm, my sister Beth shared information about JNF with me. I was clueless about what had happened to me and wanted to know more.

What do you do as a volunteer for the foundation?

I facilitate a support group for other survivors and caregivers at Palmetto Health Richland.

Can you please tell us about your story?

On the evening of March 18, I noshed on some dark chocolate-covered espresso beans left over from a road trip to see a Modest Mouse show in Charleston. I ate a lot, at least ¼ of a pound. Then, later that evening, I felt a sharp, electrical-like pulse go down my hairline and then down my head. 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 common aneurysm 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 could 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 that side of the family 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 wouldn’t predict a full recovery.

After a month at my local hospital, Palmetto Health, I was transferred by ambulance to Atlanta to the Shepherd Center, one of the nation’s top ranked rehabilitation centers for brain and spinal cord injury. I was a patient in their hospital for a month, where I received extensive rehab, including learning how to walk again. I was then transferred to Shepherd Pathways, their comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation program for people recovering from brain injury. There I learned more skills to get my transition to “normal life” easier. I was there for about six weeks before I was released to go back home to Columbia, South Carolina.

I returned home, quite coincidentally, on Independence Day weekend. I stayed at my mother’s house until I’d regained my “sea legs” and felt comfortable returning to the house I share with my sister in the same community.

I returned to work a little at a time, working limited hours a few days a week. Little by little, that schedule was increased, and I went back full-time in September, 2015.

What do you enjoy most from volunteering with us?

The satisfaction of helping others who have been through the same thing that I have. I was blessed with a great recovery, and I owe it to those who helped me to help others. It’s been quite rewarding and has helped me grow as a survivor.

What do you like to do in your free time outside of volunteering?

Spend time with friends and family and fur babies; watch classic movies (the 1950’s era is my favorite); beachcomb for shells and sharks teeth; enjoy the second chance I was given.

Thank you to Mary Pat Baldauf, our Support Group Facilitator of our Columbia, SC Support Group for sharing your story!

Interested in joining a JNF Support Group? Find a location near you here.

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