Survivor Around the Globe, Markelle Harden

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MarkelleHardenSurvivorJust a few months shy of my 40th birthday, I was feeling really good about things as the “over the hill” day was approaching. I successfully navigated a big career change in my mid-thirties, and my family and I were starting to feel settled after a cross-country move. In slow motion, everything changed. I woke up for work and yelped from the sharp pain in my head. I felt stunned; I was no stranger to headaches but something didn’t feel quite right. My husband took one look at me and told me to get ready for the hospital. He got our daughter ready while I got dressed and ready to go. In the back of my mind the word aneurysm lingered; but how could I be conscious? My Dad suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm in the 1970’s, not long after his 30th birthday and collapsed. I was not only conscious, but the pain was starting to subside.

My husband parked the car and we walked into the emergency room (we still laugh about that; normal people would have stopped at the emergency entrance and asked for help). Luckily, the emergency room doctor was no stranger to my symptoms and ordered a CT scan, where they found a SAH, or a subarachnoid hemorrhage. I was in shock; I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I tried to hold in my tears as my husband made arrangements for a friend to pick up my daughter and call family members to give them the news.

Next, they were preparing me for a life flight into Charlotte, NC for immediate surgery. My aneurysm was not a candidate for coiling, so I have several titanium clips holding everything together. I’m blessed that my husband was home; I might not have recognized the symptoms as worthy of an emergency room visit and shrugged them off. Many people delay the emergency room visit and don’t make it, or they suffer permanent disabilities.

Since my long-term effects are completely different from my Dad’s, it feels strange to share the same diagnosis. My Dad was physically handicapped and permanently disabled; I turned a cartwheel on my one year anniversary and today I try to keep up with my daughter on bike rides. In my free time I like outdoor adventures, beach time, reading, and yoga.

For other survivors, it’s OK to mourn the loss of your former self and the relationships that were part of your past. Just don’t stay down too long; there are new beginnings along the way and people who are willing to love an accept the new you, just as you are. Don’t ignore the psycho-social effects and symptoms. Seek out a neurologist who specializes in recovery and renewal.

Aneurysm awareness, diagnosis and surgical procedures have come a long way since the 1970’s thanks to organizations like the Joe Niekro Foundation.

The Joe Niekro Foundation would like to thank Markelle for sharing her story. Her message to other survivors is spot on!

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