My name is Theresa Wilmot and I live in Snellville, Georgia. In April, my sister Frances Payne, age 29, endured a most life altering operation, to clip and by-pass a giant aneursym on the basliar artery. Although this procedure was performed in order to save her life, it also changed her life... drastically.
10 July 1998
On April 14, 1998, my sister Frances had surgery on a giant aneurysm, 5cm. In 1995, she had surgery on a 3cm berry aneurysm behind her right eye. That surgery was successful and she recovered near 100%, but at that time she was told of two smaller aneurysms located at the base of her brain. The doctors told her at that time that they were inoperative, it was best to wait them out. I believe she was told to come back in 5 years or so for a recheck.
It didn't take 5 years, I think that she knew but wished that the aneurysms would vanish. I am not quite sure when she found out but I remember that it was about one year after the first surgery that she went back for a CT scan and they found out that it was continuing to grow. But because of the location the doctors were unsure what to do. This was a fusiform aneursym in the basilar artery at the base of the brain stem. It was like carrying a time bomb, not knowing when, or if, it would rupture. A lot of aneurysms just rupture and some never knew that they had anything wrong. I don't know which would be worse, knowing or not.
Sissie is extremely smart, graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky. She dedicated her life to teaching children and adults. She would help the needy and homeless. I remember my family telling me that she went and put together a box of clothes and food and left it where a homeless man lived. She is that type of person, kind and gentle. The next year she seemed to try and do as much as she could. She and her husband took a long trip to Maine, she loved the coast and said that her dream would be to to move there and have a bed & breakfast of her own. Not only did she work full time she took courses to get her masters degree and was to the point of completing her thesis when she knew that she could wait no longer...she was beginning to show signs of illness.
When she went back to the doctor again, the aneursym was doubled in size. The doctors knew that elective surgery was her only hope of survival. The doctors took almost a month to schedule the surgery, because she said she needed a couple of weeks to put things in order and the team of surgeons had to meet to discuss the best way to attack the aneurysms.
My Sissie, so dedicated to her job that she worked hard to finish projects for her school, she told me that me that she had to complete forms so the children who needed special funding would be able to return to class for next year. All these things she did as she became ill with headaches, problems with swallowing food, and being dizzy.
Because I live 400 miles from her I didn't see her much during that time. At Easter, my husband and I and our three sons drove to Florida to see her. She was not feeling well during our long weekend there. She and her husband came over to my mothers house to visit on Easter Sunday, she was quite ill but tried to hide it. She dyed eggs with the children and we all had dinner which was terribly difficult for her to eat. She was scheduled to go to the hospital on Monday for another angiogram and the family discuss this among of topics of conversation. She was very cold,(symptoms of an aneursym pressing on the brain stem), she had lost her gag reflex and she staggered when she walked.
We arrived back in Georgia on Monday, when I spoke to her on the telephone that evening she said that they were not going to do another angiogram that the aneursym was even larger and because she was having trouble with her swallowing the doctors were going to do surgery Tuesday morning! She told me that one thing she wanted all of us to do for her was to make sure that when she awoke she had plenty of air and pain medication, (on her first aneurysm surgery when she awoke she felt like she was smothering and was really afraid of that feeling again). She also told the family that she wanted to see a newspaper with the date so she would know what year it was just in case she was in a coma.
She was in surgery for over 20 hours! My mother, father and her husband waited, my other sisters called me with updates. They said that the surgery was successful, however, a few hours after the main surgery another CT scan reveal a leaking artery on theright side of her brain. They took her in immediately for another 5-6 hours! The doctors said that they caught it in time and repaired the small rupture probably due to excessive stress of the surgery. She was already in a drug induced coma from the first surgery when they went back in the second time and gave her more drugs. She lay in a coma for 6 days, no response at all. We did not know if she would awake.
I arrived late Saturday night, they were allowing the family to see her. Sunday about 11:00 a.m. the intern spoke with me, our mom and her husband to tell us that he was not optimistic and that if she did not awake soon that we may need to call all of the family in to make decisions. None in our family was ready to give up. We knew that some people could remain in a coma for a long time and that it didn't mean that she would never recover.
We were all so down, we continued to go in her room and speak to her loudly telling her to wake up, fight off the heavy drugs and come back to us. She did! She started to moved and open her eyes. That was just the beginning of her now long recovery.... Several days went by with thisas her only sign to us that she was there, she had no reflexes, could not be stimulated by pain, and the term "locked in syndrome" was discussed among interns and nurses. She lay in this state for more than a week. Every weekend for several weeks we drove to Florida to support the family and my sissies.
She developed hydrocephaly and had a shunt put in. She was trying to communicate with us by blinking her eye. They did an EEG and the result was normal, but she still cannot move, she is now in a rehab hospital and is on a ventilator trying to be weaned which is one of our fears, that she cannot breathe on her own. She is able to communicate when we read her lips,(she has her mind!), she is slowly gaining muscle tone and has reflexes, but no voluntary movement.
We are not going to give up on her recovering, we know it may take 2 years or longer but we hope and pray that with the continuing blessings from christ that she will recover. I am very proud of my sister, her bravery, her hope and strength, I love you Sissie!
I will continue to update, as she progresses.
Update 9 Sep 98
I want to thank everyone for their continued support and prayers for my sister. Since I wrote the narrative a lot has developed. Frances is going home September 14th. Five months in the hospital and rehab centers have come to a close. Most of the doctors feel like her improving has leveled off and that there's not much more they can do right now. She has suffered so much, while going through the medication routine. The doctors feel that they have her stabilized medically. Unfortunately, she is now a quadriplegic, she cannot breath without the assistance of a ventilator and is on a feeding tube. She has a little short term memory loss but seems to have had no damage to past memory. Although it has not been confirmed by the MRI, the doctors feel that she may have suffered a brain stem stroke at some point before, during or after the surgery accounting for the paralysis. She will now be using a wheelchair that she operates with her mouth by breathing, and because she cannot speak, she will have to communicate with an eyegaze system computer. She does have movement in her face and lips and has become very patient communicating with people reading her lips. They are talking about sending her to Yale to have a breathing pacemaker put in her diaphragm. This would help her to become a little more independent.
The doctors and nurses at her last rehabilitation center have been so good to her, especially the kind respiratory therapists and nurses. They all want so much for her to regain movement. But only time will tell if that will happen.
She cannot cry tears, but her facial expression tells all. My sister, is truly amazing. She is happy to be alive! You may ask why, but if you met her you'd know. Her smile lifts up your heavy heart and brings back your faith that God is beside her, comforting her through her life journey.
Update: 11 July 2004
This morning (April 27, 2004) my Sissie passed away, no more pain, no more operations to endure.
Frances has lived as a quadriplegic since her operation in 1998. In December of 1998 she was sent to the Yale University Hospital where she was implanted with a breathing pacemaker. Frances was able to breathe with the assistance of a small monitor box about the size of a CD player. This was wonderful for her as now she was able to be more mobile in her wheel chair. She lived in her own home with her wonderful husband Greg, and her caretaker Janice and remained in good health under the circumstances.
Although Frances was unable to speak, we could read her lips and speak to her on the telephone as she was able to make a little noise with her lips to indicate yes or no, and would sound out the syllables for " I love you", every time I closed a telephone conversation with her.
On October 13, 2003, our dear Father passed away from lung cancer and February 17, 2004 we lost our beloved Aunt, who was like a grandmother to us. It was during that time that Sissie developed pneumonia and was hospitalized for a couple of weeks. She was able to recover, but in March started having problems breathing again. Unsure what the problem was she was hospitalized again. Sissie had to be put on a ventilator again, as they thought that the pacemaker was failing. After many tests, it was determined that her shunt in her head was failing and fluid was beginning to build up. They took her into surgery and replaced the shunt, within 24 hours the shunt failed and she was told that a second operation was needed, again this shunt failed and a third operation was performed but this operation also failed and the doctors said that they could try again but the CT scan showed that she had had a hemorrhage and had suffered brain damage. In addition to this traumatic news we also learned that they had found another aneurysm behind her eye.
My Sissie would not want to continue her life like this...she had made that clear to her husband that if anything went wrong she did not want to remain on life support. It was time to say our goodbyes and let her go away from the suffering and pain. At approximately 8:00 AM, she passed silently.
Sissie, your journey may be over here on earth but in
heaven a wonderful life awaits you. Your life touched so many lives
and these lives were changed because of you. You will always be my
inspiration in life, your bravery, courage and love of life will
stay in my heart forever.
In love and peace always,
Your loving sister, Theresa
© Copyright 1998 Theresa Wilmot
All Rights Reserved - Fair Use acknowledged
Return to Contents
Return to Aneurysm & AVM Support