The longer I live, the more I believe that to know at least a bit about how our bodies work, the better chance we have of helping ourselves to at least stay aware of changes that may ultimately affect our quality of life. So when I ran smack into a block wall for support and guidance about my aneurysm, I took the plunge and began surfing. The internet, that is.
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Okay. The letter of referral from my GP to the hospital said I had an "8mm saccular aneurysm arising from M1 component of the left middle cerebral artery". So, what is a saccular aneurysm, why did my GP consider 8mm to be "small", and what is the M1 blah blah? The most helpful site I found at this time was an American site, The Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
I knew what an aneurysm was, I just didn't realise there were two main types, saccular and fusiform. A saccular aneurysm is otherwise known as a "berry" aneurysm - because that's what it looks like - and is the most common type of cerebral aneurysm. My GP called my aneurysm "small" because there are only really two descriptions: small is anything under 2cm, giant is over that. So while she called it small, that didn't mean it was any less potentially life threatening. Some of the statistics on the BAF website were just plain scary, but they are factual.
- Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 40% of cases. Of those who survive, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit.
- 4 out of 7 people who recover from a ruptured brain aneurysm will have disabilities.
- Brain aneurysms are most prevalent in people ages 35 - 60, but can occur in children as well. The median age when aneurysmal hemorrhagic stroke occurs is 50 years old and there are typically no warning signs. Most aneurysms develop after the age of 40.
- Women, more than men, suffer from brain aneurysms at a ratio of 3:2.
- 10 – 15% of patients diagnosed with a brain aneurysm will harbor more than one aneurysm.
- Ruptured brain aneurysms account for 3 – 5% of all new strokes.
The American Association of Neurological surgeons was another resource.
Unfortunately, the one Australian support site I found at this time on the general internet seemed to be a closed group, with "Coming soon" on their info page. Not much help! I did find a support page on Facebook, which has been of help to me from the perspective of sharing and caring.
On a personal level, I received a great amount of empathy and support from family, friends and work colleagues. I had been devastated on first diagnosis, but about a week later, after many sleepless hours, countless tears and feeling very sorry for myself, I had what could only be described as an epiphany and a great calm washed over me. This was a situation about which I could do absolutely nothing, so acceptance was essential for my emotional wellbeing.
I received notification from PA Hospital that I was scheduled to see the Department of Neurosurgery on 6 August. Accept it and carry on, nothing further to be done at this stage.