Born February 23, 1965 (33 years of age) as the last of six children. I grew up in Oregon, but moved to St. Louis in 1996 for a job at Webster University. I have been a photographer and videographer for 10 years, and was fortunate to be able to travel to Europe this spring for Webster. I have two cats and just enjoy life.
At age 25, I had an AVM burst in my brain causing a major life change...but not forever. At that time I was still new to my profession...a real "go-getter." No one or nothing was going to slow me down. But on June 26, 1990, an AVM did.
As the video producer for a university, I was directing a live camera shoot that morning. As I was directing the cameramen, my right arm began to go numb from my fingertips to my shoulder. I assumed it was a pinched nerve or something. But soon I knew something was really wrong when my right leg went out from under me. I called for help when this lady came to my assistance. At that moment I was mumbling and anxious. She thought I was having a nervous breakdown.
The little Oregon town I worked in didn't have a hospital so the EMT's took me to the nearby town where doctors questioned my boss, my partner, my dad and tried questioning me to see what could have caused my condition (i.e., is she on drugs?, could she be pregnant?) I just lay there not able to speak. I heard all the conversations and I just wanted to scream out things but I couldn't...no words could come.
They eventually did a CT SCAN and found the moderate bleed on the left side of my brain from the AVM. All I remember is the doctors putting my results on my stomach and wheeling me out to the ambulance as fast as they could because I had to be transferred to a neighboring city, Salem.
There I underwent emergency brain surgery. My doctors were excellent. My main neurosurgeon, Dr. John White clipped the AVM and cleaned the ruptured area. He told my family (I am the youngest of six) that because it ruptured above the speech center, that he wasn't sure whether I would be able to speak, much less walk or use my right hand.
As some of my family came into my room that night, a nurse said that they could see "Cathy" now...I heard that and automatically said, "My name is Karen." I was hard to understand, but everyone was relieved when they heard me try to speak. They knew I would be okay then...
It was a long haul...I lived in an inpatient Rehabilitation Center for a month and was out of work for months. I lost my driver's license (temporarily), I had to go back to work with a state paid Job Coach (that was tough on the ego). The school I worked for was behind meand had been throughout...visiting me, bringing food for my family and making sure I was taken care of as far as sick days.
My family was amazing...this crisis brought our already close family even closer. Two of my sisters stayed in my room for a couple nights--sleeping on uncomfortable chairs. My Dad was a great sport...when he came in, I could only handle a very little stimuli, I said "Hi... go..." (We still kid about that). My family was supportive of my partner, Tina, being a part of everything. Although she wasn't family, she was my significant other...and had been for three years.
Today, eight years later, I still have problems. I have weakness on my right side and my fine motor skills are lacking in my right hand. I have some difficulties in my thought processes and getting words out (aphasia) but overall, many people can't even tell I had this happen to me.
I am still a professional videographer and photographer for a University...but now I am in St. Louis, Missouri. I've learned to adapt to new ways of doing my job. I shoot my still photos differently now (clicking with my left hand) and I find different ways to carry all the heavy equipment I am required to haul. I'm also working on my graduate degree.
I feel so thankful for the doctors, the therapists, my friends, family and Tina. Without their support, I wouldn't have had the strength to push through so successfully during this tough time.
This page has been bookmarked on my computer for about a year and I have read so many sad and inspiring stories-- I wondered if I should even write since it was so long ago...but I decided I needed the opportunity to tell my story too. And I wanted to share publicly how much I appreciated everyone who helped me during this time.
My life may have been changed considerably back in 1990, but I have to say, it has changed for the better in many ways. Most obvious: I appreciate the little things...and try not to sweat the small stuff...