Each year, approximately 30,000 people suffer a brain aneurysm rupture. For survivors, the biggest fear is the unknown. Aside from the physical and cognitive damage that can occur, the psychological and emotional pitfalls of suffering a brain aneurysm — mood swings, anger, depression — can be just as debilitating as the physical recovery.
Recovery is a lifelong process, one for which there are no firm deadlines for re-learning that which had become natural. And while hard work and patience is preached, dreary thoughts and emotional breakdowns are commonplace.
Maria Ross understands those hardships. After her undiagnosed brain aneurysm ruptured in 2008, the now-39-year-old Seattle woman battled many of those issues. Her recovery has admittedly gone much better than others; she is back at work full-time, she can drive again, and she even volunteers at University of Washington Medical Center as a patient adviser and speaker.
Besides the dedicated care of her surgeons, therapists and physicians, Ross also has an extra ally in her ongoing recovery — humor. It was her upbeat attitude, as well as a desire to tell her story to others, that prompted her to write “Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Framed My Life.”
In it, she details with candor “what it was like being blind for six weeks, how a TV crime drama and a brain-games website played key roles in her recovery, and why a handmade necklace helped her regain her sense of self.” Sitting down with ABC’s Good Morning America, Ross says that “a sense of humor and acceptance were the key to her survival”:
We humans need to use humor to get us through the tough times. It lightens the load and clears our heads from the stress. There was some gallows humor in the ICU … A lot of people are afraid to laugh or smile in a dire situation, but you should embrace that …
I found a way to adapt around the deficits — accepting rather than keep fighting it. I was trying to get back the old me. Now, I deal with the new me and work around it and my recover got faster. I was my own worst enemy.
Ross’ doctor, Dr. Raj Ghodke, co-director of the Brain Aneurysm Center and an neurointerventional surgeon, recommends all his aneurysm patients read it:
It’s the first time I got so much on what someone goes through. This is so important that people know about it. We have a rare insight into this condition from someone who writes so well and made this phenomenal recovery.