As I write this, the calendar says July 5, 2013, but my mind is pulled back to July 5, 1998. That’s because my husband Alan suffered the massive heart attack and cardiac arrest that led to his severe anoxic brain injury fifteen years ago today. Today my mind goes back to Alan’s sudden cardiac arrest on an airplane in Chicago, the hour of resuscitation, the life and death decisions, and the month we spent in an ICU before Alan was stable enough to board an air ambulance home to Boston and months of rehabilitation.
Cardiac arrest is a major cause of serious brain damage due to the loss of oxygen to the brain. Many do not survive. It is a devastating time for families as it often strikes without warning. Many families face wrenching decisions about continuing life supports and the uncertainty of quality of life for the future. These blog articles discuss these issues, often from direct experience with family members.
This week I had the pleasure of being a guest of Kim Justus, host of the Recovery Now show, on Brain Injury Radio. Kim is a brain injury survivor and very knowledgeable about the issues affecting survivors, family members, and professionals. We talked about my experiences as a spousal caregiver for my husband Alan and my book Professor Cromer Learns to Read: A Couple’s New Life after Brain Injury.
Every year when I flip the calendar page to September, an urge to go back to school overtakes me. Crisp notebooks and twelve-packs of pens call to me from the shelves of Staples. I’m proud of being a lifelong learner, as so many of us are now. In addition to going back to college a few times, I’ve loved taking adult education classes in my community since 1970!
We’ve all heard the warning that brain cells start to die within three, four, or five minutes without oxygen. What happens when the brain doesn’t receive oxygen for forty-five minutes? A severe anoxic brain injury.
My husband Alan suffered a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest. This happened on an airplane as we awaited take-off in 1998, just before it became mandatory to have automated external defibrillators (AEDS) on all flights. A few things went right, and a few things went wrong in the crisis that ensued. It took over forty-five minutes of CPR before Alan’s heart leapt back to life. He was left with a severe brain injury that defined our lives for years to come.
Have you noticed that living with brain injury sometimes involves contradictions and inconsistencies? My husband Alan had a severe anoxic brain injury following a cardiac arrest. When friends asked how Alan was doing in his recovery my answers often started with,” Well on one hand…”