Among the primary desires of any human being is a comfortable, worry-free life. None of us wants to have a share of life’s heartaches, the anxieties of inadequate finances, the humiliation of a career failure, the pain of sickness or death of a loved one. But life is not always kind. Every once in a while fate puts us in a situation that is an extreme opposite of what we desire. A position where one has to endure extreme agony and mental torture. An incident that appears humanly impossible to control. The loss of a loved one, a business failure, an illness or an accident can lead us to plunge into a dark, distasteful, tormenting emotional state of anguish. Many of us survive but, sadly, many likewise succumb mentally and physically to the torturous pressure.
A Parallel Ordeal
On March 3, 2009, my wife, Cindy, had a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. The rupture caused massive bleeding and accumulation of fluids inside her skull and the doctors gave her a mere 20% chance of survival. But a surgery was not undertaken until 21 days after the rupture – as if we were just waiting for her to succumb to death. The thought of losing my wife and mother of our 3 kids, and the long, agonizing wait for the problem to go away were in themselves enough to have driven me crazy but these were not the only torturous things I had to face. While Cindy was fighting for her life; I was battling life or death decisions, huge financial obligations and a mounting pressure to protect the well-being of the kids.
“If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas…” — The Holy Bible
The two most difficult decisions I had to make in my whole life were grossly unfair. There were very limited choices and none of them presented an assurance of life. All of them seemed to favor death. They were mental torture in the truest sense of the word, tasks I thought could only come from hell.
The first decision involved deciding on whether to move Cindy from one hospital which had limited treatment capability to another which was more competent but was 2 hour’s drive away. If we did move her, stress from travel can cause another massive bleeding and she could succumb to comatose or death; if we did not, she can just deteriorate further and die while waiting for the condition that was within the present hospital’s treatment capability.
The second difficult decision was regarding the choice of treatment. There were only two options: surgical clipping which involves opening a portion of the skull and closing the ruptured aneurysm by clipping its base and endovascular coiling where a catheter is passed through a major artery from the groin to the aneurysm then platinum coils are fed into the aneurysm to “plug” the leak. None of these two procedures can assure complete recovery. Both can result to comatose or death.
While I was spending sleepless, agonizing nights thinking and praying for the right choice among equally morbid, death-prone options; hospital bills enormously heightened the pressure. The minute a ruptured aneurysm was diagnosed; bills shot through the roof then soared to astronomical proportions as days passed. At one point, the daily requirement for medicines alone was almost twice our monthly household budget. My bank account was rapidly getting drained, assets had to be monetized, and financial assistance had to be urgently sought.
Gagged to Protect
“There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of murder; robberies that leave man or woman for ever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer /committed to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen in no writing except that made on the face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into no human ear.” – George Eliot
The kids (22, 19 and 16) were a serious concern. While they were not so young anymore, they have never faced a traumatic situation of similar intensity before. How they were taking the traumatic situation was a real worry. They had to be comforted and encouraged. Two of them needed to continue their studies and maintain their grades while wanting to be by their mom’s side all the time. The situation was at the very least miserable but I didn’t want the kids to lose hope. So I tried my best not to show it even when I felt hopeless, totally helpless and almost in paralysis, wanting to talk of my pain but was gagged to protect my loved ones; aching to do something more to improve the situation but seemingly chained to the ground by helplessness. I was buried deep and getting suffocated by my anguish.
About to Explode
“So great was the extremity of his pain and anguish, that he did not only sigh but roar.” – Matthew Henry
On several occasions, I felt like I was about to explode and wanted to release the tension by screaming to the top of my lungs. The minute I heard the doctors’ diagnosis, my mind spun and I felt nauseous just thinking of the possible implications of the doctors’ findings. I managed to maintain composure while in public or in front of my kids but on the first opportunity I got to be alone in a room, I let out a long, agonizing groan, fell to my knees by my bed and cried my heart out instead, furiously asking God why He allowed this to happen but then meekly begging Him for mercy and immediate relief from this misery. And when I got out to the world, I had to be a calm and confident husband and father once again.
Invitation to Violence
“For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.” – Patrick Henry
I realize now that many senseless crimes have been committed by many a tormented soul unable to contain cooped up pain and finding misplaced blame either on themselves or the innocent people around them. Random shootings, workplace violence, unprovoked massacre of family members, and suicide are just some of the shocking things we find in the papers every now and then.
Having been in that dark state of anguish, I’ve seen how easy and almost psychologically acceptable it was to run amok and inflict harm to persons thought to be causing the pain or contributing to the misery. At some point for example, my patience almost snapped and I felt a momentary compulsion to attack a hospital guard who refused entry to a visiting young family member who might just help bring back my wife’s consciousness and memory. The poor guy was just enforcing a hospital policy not to allow entry to children below 7 to protect them from potential contamination but that’s an explanation a desperate man wouldn’t listen to. Fortunately, I was able to control this urge, remain responsible and maintain my focus towards understanding the situation encircling the family.
In Search of a Refuge
“Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?”
I did however find a need for diversion, some respite from the constantly brewing pain inside my head. I did look for relief from alcohol on occasion and drunkenness had caused temporary amnesia but the resulting hangover only made life more miserable the next day and a blurred judgement was something I didn’t need. On those long, dull moments however, when nothing of essence to solving the situation could be accomplished, I did spend hours and hours murdering whole armies of rampaging monsters from hell. With my son’s computer game volume set at maximum; the crisp crack of rifles and roaring boom of cannons temporarily transported me to imaginary worlds in dire situations where I had better control of my destiny and the best part was I can go back to previous scenes and rectify a wrong move at any time. But “temporary” was a word I did not want to forget because I knew I cannot continue denying the situation by blurring it with alcohol or seeking refuge in virtual reality.
Help from Heaven
“Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal” – Thomas More
Twenty-one days after the rupture, my wife’s aneurysm was finally treated through a surgical procedure. Another 26 days later, she was discharged from the hospital. Now, three years later, she is enjoying life with minimal deficits in memory and motor skills but in a tremendously improved condition compared to the 20% chance of survival she was once given or to the majority of ruptured aneurysm patients who were not as fortunate to make it.
Looking back, the sequence of events that unfolded, the timing of corrective actions, and the amount of help received were just perfect and couldn’t have been better. The most difficult decisions I claim to have made were not really mine because clear signs leading to the right choice were always there. Resources had to be sought but they were placed in caring hands or in places where we can find or receive them just at the right time. Strength of mind and body on the part of Cindy, myself and the kids almost always rapidly got drained but they were just as always renewed when we were about to give up. This impeccable order of things was not by any human design but can only come from the ultimate Healer, Provider, and Source of Infinite Wisdom. Indeed, earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.
– o O o –
Author’s Note: The previous article published in this site, How Cindy Survived a Ruptured Aneurysm, tells the story of Cindy’s ordeal in detail. This article tells my part of the ordeal.
Image Credits: All images used in this article were from Wikia.com.
- How Cindy Survived a Ruptured Brain Aneurysm (jessieponce.wordpress.com)
- Bringing Hope to Brain Aneurysm with Interventional Neurology (enbloommedia.com)
- Ruptured aneurysm has lasting impact on quality of life (eurekalert.org)