Hello, my name is Dan Neil and my family is pictured above. Brad is a freshman at Michigan State University and Melissa is a junior at Western Michigan University. I have been a high school teacher and athletic director for the past 29 years. Stephanie died on July 13, 2000 at the age of 49. Stephanie was a kindergarten teacher and the best mother and wife that any family could ask for. We miss her.
My wife, Stephanie died on July 13, 2000. I was looking up information on brain aneurysms and found this website. I believe I will feel better if I tell our story.
Stephanie was the picture of health. We married on July 17, 1976, and I buried her on our 24th anniversary, July 17, 2000. The act of loosing Stephanie was unbelievable hard on myself and our two children, Melissa and Brad. But with the help of our large families and many friends, we are moving forward.
We had returned home on a Wednesday from a 3 day vacation to Wisconsin. Took it easy on Wednesday, went out to dinner with our son Wednesday night and even took the time to go visit both of our elderly parents Wednesday evening. Stephanie never mention that she did not feel well, there were no indication that anything was wrong. Wednesday evening she went to bed at 10:00 p.m. and I went to bed around 11:00 I woke up Thursday morning and went into school (I'm a high school Athletic Director) around 7:00 a.m. I called the house around 10:00 a.m. to see if she wanted to come to town to walk or if I should come home to go for our daily walk. There was no answer, so I went home around 11:30 a.m.
When I walked into the house I did not see Stephanie, but I heard the television on in the bedroom. I went back to the bedroom and saw her on the floor. When I rolled her over I knew that she was already gone. I was stunned, how could this beautiful lady, who looked and acted as the picture of health be gone. The ambulance came and took her to the hospital. It was such a chaotic situation. My daughter was home sleeping and my son came right home as the ambulance was leaving. I was unable to tell them that I though mom was gone, I was hoping for a miracle at the hospital. When we got to the hospital the nurses and the doctors tried everything possible to bring her back. I can't say enough about how well we were treated and the compassion and concern they had for our family. But, sadly they told us that my wife and their mom was gone.
It was very important for me to have a priest give Stephanie last rites. The priest came and brought all of us back into the room along with Stephanie's mom and sister and with my parents and two of Stephanie's best friends. It was an amazing comfort to all of us to know that she was in God's care and would go to heaven. I also knew that Stephanie wanted to be a donor so I allowed the hospital to make arrangements for that to happen. As it turned out, she had been gone too long to harvest major organs but they were able to use her eyes and her bones. I have since received letters from the donor organization telling me about how other people had benefited from our loss. It may sound odd, but there is comfort in knowing that you have allowed another person to receive a benefit, even in the time that is the worst possible experience of your life.
Surviving the funeral visitation and the funeral was the most difficult thing that I have ever done. But, with the help of so many of our family and friends we did it and the funeral was truly a beautiful tribute to a lovely lady.
Stephanie was a kindergarten teacher in the local school system and literally knew hundred of people. We both grew up in the town where we teach and both come from big families. The funeral was very large and the outpouring of support did much to bring joy and comfort to us.
I wish I had a happier ending to my story. I've read so many other stories where the person survives and with much work and the grace of God they return to health. Stephanie, according to the doctors, probably was gone within minutes of collapsing. I wish I could of been with her in the final seconds of her life to tell her how much I loved her, but I wasn't. Stephanie died along. But, there is another story I would like to tell that bring comfort to my broken heart.
Stephanie came to me two days after she died. She did not talk or even appear in person, but I know she was there to help me deal with my pain. In our back yard of our country home there is a fire pit where we would gather on the evenings to talk with friends and family. The night after Stephanie died we were outside around the fire talking and remembering with friends. By the fire was a barrel of old newspaper that my son had brought back from a house that he was cleaning up for his employer to sell. Inside the barrel were newspapers that the former owner had saved. Why she saved them, I don't really know. I reached into the barrel and pulled out one newspaper to throw into the fire to burn and decided to read it first. The paper was dated June 15, 1976. When I opened it up it was the daily newspaper that had our engagement picture in it. There in that paper that I was going to burn was my beautiful wife of 24 years as the 24 year old when we got engaged. I felt her standing at my side and she told me not to worry, that everything was going to be OK. I now know and realize that she came back to me for one last time to tell me that she is in heaven with God and that I was to know and understand that all would work out. I've never been one to believe in mystical occurrences, but I now know that there is a heaven and that God takes care of his faithful servants.
My two children and I are only 7 weeks into the grieving process. I never realized how hard life could be without the one that you love, but I also know that we will make it and time is the only thing that will allow us to heal. Or I should say, time and faith in God.
Update 3 Oct 2000
I have read about so many other families and the possibility of hereditary connections that I insisted that my children be tested. Both Brad and Melisa were tested last week and the tests came back with excellent results. There were no signs of any abnormalities in either of them. I know that both of the kids were very concerned with the possibility of them having the same condition as their mom, and to finally know was a welcome relief.
As I read the other narratives and realize how many families have had the same terrible tragedy befall them I am so thankful that the technology is available to give my children the peace of mind that the so needed. I don't have any idea what we would of done if one of them would have come up with a problem. What a terrible situation that would be. To go ahead and move forward with your life knowing you had an aneurysm or to have the surgery and face the possibility of complications. Thankfully, I am not in that situation.
I thank all of the families that have shared their stories and been so kind and thoughtful to email me with such positive comments. May the peace and kindness of God continue to help all of us through our difficult times.
Return to contents
Return to Aneurysm & AVM Support