Susan W

Photo of Susan W

I am … a Caregiver or Family Member.

Susan…My Stroke Hero, Angel!

So, it starts, with a phone call, one of those calls you hope never to receive.  As it turned out my good friend and colleague was in charge in the Emergency Department that dreadful day.  It was Joelle that made that call.  I remember that she delivered the disheartening news with a professional yet casual insistence that I get there just as soon as I could manage.  My nephew, Doug had asked her to call me to let me know that his wife Susan was there and “it was not good.”  I was then employed in the ED but off for that day. Currently I am employed at BMC as the Stroke Coordinator.   I don’t believe that Joelle or I will ever forget that phone call.

Susan, married to my nephew Doug, one of the sweetest, most loving, with the greatest sense of humor, and knock out smile you have ever seen in your life.  Speaking of life she loved it and her family, most particularly Morgan her daughter.  Morgan was nine at the time and very close to her mom as well as her dad.  They were the center of a network of family members that cared about each other ….a lot, believing if a family squabble did erupt is was very quickly forgiven and forgotten.  Fortunately, those times were not frequent; indeed very rare we are a loving bunch!   More frequent in our minds, much fun driving the laughter that cocoons our family in a closely knit relationship.

My niece, Susan had a Brain Aneurysm, from the Greek ἀνεύρυσμα, aneurysma,   meaning “to dilate.”  It was like a blood filled balloon in her brain that causes a weakening in the wall of the vessel in the brain.  The aneurysm can grow in size increasing that weakened wall of the vessel threatening rupture causing the brain to bleed, leading to hypovolemic shock,  a very serious condition if not reversible will cause death.  The rupture is often preceded by a very severe headache “the worst headache of my life” as anyone in the medical field will tell you can be great cause for concern.

Susan, not only a pretty face, also very smart and well aware of her condition, aware of how important it is to keep on top of medical attention and to report any vision disturbances, loss of balance or  perception, and/or speech problems.  As a family they also knew that the consequences of a brain rupture can be devastating so were able to prepare their daughter (as well as a nine year old can be) of what the outcome of such an event could possibly bring.

The first stroke Susan had occurred in 1997, this made her a Stroke Survivor, very determined not to let it interfere with her role as a mother and wife.  She like many stroke survivors had to re learn how to write, and make use of her non dominant side as the weakness on the affected side did not return to full capacity.  I am sure that caused many feelings of frustration for her but it was visible only to herself and perhaps those that were extra close to her. It, for sure did not wipe out that knock out smile!  Susan remained a survivor for the next 7 years.

That is where the phone call comes in; that one you pray never comes.  Please come, “it is bad”

This time it was bad so bad that Susan was unable to even speak, having to be intubated and sedated so that saying “goodbyes” and “love you’s” left you feeling incomplete, maybe unfinished. I am sure there were many thoughts on her mind that she wanted to express to Doug, her spouse, and her precious family members most particularly her daughter you know instructions for life events, watch out for boys, do well in school, and remember I will always be with you!  Susan made it to the ICU for several hours but did not survive the day; she remained in a coma until God sent his messenger, an angel to claim his prize.  ‘Cause when you think of it in that way knowing who Susan was and how beautiful she was maybe he needed an angel to watch over his little ones (or tend the blackeyedsusan patch)!

Her “Celebration of Life” I prefer to call it was remarkable and amazing packed with friends and family members offering support and claiming a loss that is to be shared in the hearts of many, until a reuniting takes place each in their own time. I remember my son was able to capture a beautiful ensemble of thoughts he wrote down that described in every way the real person she was how she loved life and her family.  As for Doug, my nephew he knew he had to gather himself up and be a guardian for their daughter {you really did not want Sue angry even from far off} so that is what he did.  As for Morgan she had her friends that remained with her to help her cope, to move on and I know the person she is today has been in some way coached by “Susan the Angel”  She is so proud, I know for  what her daughter has accomplished.  I can safely say that Morgan would not have traded any of those 9 years she had for any other Mom with a lifetime guarantee attached.

So, to sum up some of the things Susan must have liked were balloons and Black Eyed Susan’s.  So with every year on the day of her passing a bouquet of balloons descend up into the heavens with a parade of magnificent colors touching the clouds, I wonder couldn’t you just paint a picture of all those little  ones she might be tending scrambling for a balloon? As for me I cannot go by a field of Black Eyed Susan’s and not think of the dynamic person Susan was and that smile that I am very sure lights up the heavens! I am also sure there is a star up there with Susan’s name on it.

Note to Susan’s Mom, you were far away that day very unsuspecting, did not get to say Goodbye I Love You but trust me she hears you clearer from where she is sitting today  in her former glory without the limp, or idle left arm and her full smile has returned.  The reason that makes me so sure, whenever I pass a field exploding with those pretty bright yellow blossoms, Susan gives me a little tap on the shoulder (with that friskier smile she had) “go ahead grab a bunch”! Someday I just might!