The first week of December 2014 was a hectic one. My 7-month old son had been sick on and off for weeks, and between taking care of him and working full time, I wasn’t getting much sleep. This was precisely the reason why I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that I had been having a headache for 4 days straight. I figured lack of sleep and stress were the reasons why the Advils I was taking weren’t working. Little did I know, something much more serious was brewing.
On Friday morning, I threw a quick load of laundry in the machine in the basement and ran back upstairs to grab my things and head out to work. With the baby in the stroller, I turned towards the open door. Before I was even able to take a few steps, I felt a massive pain in my head and got really dizzy. I felt like I was going to faint, so I laid down on the floor so that I wouldn’t fall and hit my head. I don’t remember much of what happened after that, except somehow having the strength to scream for help. Passers by came to my aid. I thank G-d that it happened right at that moment. Five minutes earlier, I would have been behind a closed door, and no one would have heard me. Five minutes later, I would have been in the car with the baby driving to work, and who knows what could have happened. I have vague recollections of paramedics and neighbors going in and out of the house. Most of the ambulance ride is a blur. I do, however, remember having an out of body experience; feeling like I was hovering over the ambulance and looking down on everyone. Someone got in touch with my husband, who was at work, and he pulled up to the hospital at the same time as the ambulance. He says that he asked me what was wrong, and I just kept saying that my head was hurting. I don’t remember the conversation at all.
The next few days are a complete blank to me. According to my family, the hospital staff rushed me into the CT scan and saw that there was a bleed in the brain. I had a very serious brain aneurysm; a stage 4, with 5 being the worst. The aneurysm had also caused a stroke, which led to paralysis on my left side. The doctors informed my husband that it was on a very tiny blood vessel, in a very hard to reach place. The most they could do was insert a drain to relieve the pressure and blood, but not much else. The chances of my survival were pretty slim.
It’s customary among Orthodox Jews that when someone is sick, we say Tehillim (psalms) and pray for their recovery. My name spread like wildfire, and all around the world (from Israel to Iran and even Australia) there were hundreds of people praying for me. One of the doctors recommended to my husband that I be transferred to NY Presbyterian Hospital. Friday night, I was transferred and Saturday morning my husband met with the Neurosurgeons. The first surgeon was going to go in through a main artery in the leg all the way up to the brain, to shoot a special type of glue in that would hopefully close off the aneurysm. If that didn’t work, the other surgeon would have to open up and remove part of the brain to get to it. G-d only knows what type of side effects would result from this; paralysis, remaining a vegetable, etc. My husband shook the doctor’s hand and said, “May G-d guide your hands in the right direction.”
Less than two hours after I was wheeled away, the doctor came back out to the waiting room where my husband and our families were waiting. At first my husband thought the worst, since the doctor had told him it would take eight hours for the whole procedure. The doctor took a deep breath and said he had gone in to view the aneurysm, only to find out that a blood clot had formed over it, causing the bleeding to stop. I was saved. My husband shook his hand and asked him if he believed in miracles. The doctor smiled and said, “I know you guys pray a lot and have very strong faith. In my 30 plus years of being a doctor I have never seen anything like this, and there is no other way of explaining what had happened.”
The doctors thought I would be in the ICU for at least 6 months, then in a step-down unit for another 6 months and then rehab for a year, relearning everything. It would be at least two years before I could go back home. Needless to say, less than a month later I walked out of the hospital, on my own two feet, and went straight home. The day I was discharged, the doctors all wanted to talk to me, because they had never met someone who had survived a stage 4 brain aneurysm before. All the nurses and hospital staff gave me a standing ovation as I left. I celebrated my 31st birthday (which is on the 3rd day of Chanukah) in the hospital, just a few days before.
I truly believe that it was the power of everyone’s prayers that gave me a second chance at life. I had about six months of outpatient physical therapy, as well as some issues with my peripheral vision, but I’m happy to say that I am completely back to myself with no lingering side affects. Now every year when we celebrate Chanukah and my birthday, we also celebrate my second lease on life.