Survivor Around the Globe, Carol Carlson

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Carol CarlsonIt was a beautiful early fall day in October 2002.  My wife, Carol, and I had both taken a day off from work that Friday to do mundane things in the yard and house.  We had recently experienced a comfortable change in our lives, being no longer responsible for the day to day parenting of our two sons.  They were now somewhat independent and both in Texas and in college (spending all the money that we sent them).  We were 900 miles away in southern Ohio enjoying our new found freedom from parenting and reconnecting as husband and wife with many weekend trips into nearby Kentucky, a state we came to love.

Having completed our household tasks, we decided to go out to dinner and about to leave the house when Carol complained about an intense and unusual headache, which was bothersome enough for her to decide to call her primary doctor.  After hearing the symptoms, the doctor ordered her to get to a hospital as soon as possible.  Carol walked to the car, got into the seat and passed out.  I immediately called 911, and the ambulance arrived within ten minutes.  She was immediately transferred to the ambulance, but she aspirated, which delayed her departure for the hospital for about twenty minutes while the EMT personnel stabilized her.  It was a short trip to the nearest hospital.

Not long after my arrival, perhaps no more than twenty minutes, the emergency room doctor came to see me.  He said they knew exactly what happened, but they were unable to treat her there and she was already on her way to Good Shepherd Hospital in downtown Cincinnati.  He did not say what happened to her and I was so numb I did not even think to ask.  All I wanted was to get to the hospital some twenty five miles away to be with her.  Even if the emergency room doctor had said she had a brain aneurysm hemorrhage, I would not have known what he/she was talking about.

It was a very frustrating weekend for me at Good Sheperd, and knowing nothing about brain aneurysms, I, of course, didn’t know what questions to ask. I was allowed to see her twice over the weekend in the ICU, a very scary place.  She was in a coma and in critical condition.

Carol was comatose and ventilator dependent for >1 month. She had an angiogram and underwent a coil embolization. She then had a craniotomy to clip her aneurysm and had a VP shunt placed a month later.

Following release from the ICU, all of her functions were nearly non existent. She was unable to sit up in bed, let alone stand, and fully dependent on the wheel chair. Her cognitive and memory capabilities were impaired and limited to recognizing family members.  She was barely able to speak. Double vision was a serious problem.  The next seven years brought constant in and out patient therapy at Drake Rehabilitation Hospital in Cincinnati, The Rehabilitation Institute in St. Louis and Baylor Rehabilitation in Dallas. During this time period she also had a number of surgeries to help correct vocal cord paralysis and double vision.

Carol now uses a walker most of the time. She is willing to and does walk around the house without any mobility device. She loves to talk about current events, but she forgets to use key words and phrases that would allow the listener to identify what she is talking about. I deem this to be a “scattered” ability.

Carol had many interests prior to the aneurysm:  gardening, decorative sewing, collecting decorative pieces.  She no longer does any of these, but she now attends numerous Senior Center activities playing games, cards and socializing. She was a very social animal prior to the aneurysm and remains so today.

The Joe Niekro Foundation would like to thank Carol’s husband, Michael, for sharing the survivor story of his wife. We wish continued health to the both of you!

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