Against the odds, Leola Foon is recovering from a ruptured aneurysm that could have taken her life.
Did you know?
of adults have an aneurysm present.
On November 5, 2010, I was in the bathroom at work when I felt a sharp pain in my head. Before I knew what was happening I heard a loud noise, then lost my hearing. I remember falling, but don’t recall hitting the ground.
I lay unconscious on the floor until someone found me. I woke to find people hovering around me, wiping me down as I was sweating profusely. They were asking me questions, and although I could hear them I was unable to respond.
I was told that an ambulance was on the way, but I thought it was completely unnecessary and that I would be fine in a few minutes.
The ambulance arrived and took me to hospital and all the initial tests were clear. My partner arrived and I said to him that I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Luckily a doctor ordered a brain scan, which is when they found bleeding in my brain.
From that moment on I felt like I was floating near the ceiling, looking down at myself, watching everyone rush around me. I was taken to another hospital, where I had neurosurgeons waiting for me. Everything changed then and there.
I was in theatre from 4pm until 11.30pm. When I came out of the surgery my doctor informed my family that I had suffered from a ruptured aneurysm. Although I had experienced regular headaches and migraines I had put them down to tiredness, stress and computer-related tension. I was a social smoker, but I was also a fit 28-year-old vegetarian, with no family history of strokes or aneurysms.
The next day I had the artery coiled in an attempt to stop the bleeding, which is much less invasive than brain surgery. The procedure seemed to work and the next day I was talking.
Two days later I went downhill quickly. A neurosurgeon advised my family and partner that the coiling had not been successful and that I would need to have brain surgery. The risks of this surgery were stroke, induced coma, memory loss and death. My father had to sign the consent form to proceed, which is the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
On Tuesday November 8, I underwent brain surgery to clip the artery. Before the surgery, my partner and family said their goodbyes not knowing if they would see me alive again.
After five long hours of surgery, the doctor informed everyone that I was awake and fine. The five days following the initial bleed are critical as the brain has an increased risk of “spasming”, which can lead to stroke and death. I underwent multiple tests to monitor my progress, and I lived with a tremendous amount of pain. I pleaded with my partner to take the pain away, and told him that I would have rather died. He just kept telling me that each day would get better, and that I just had to keep fighting.
The artery in my brain that ruptured affects the ear, nose and throat region, and as a result I wasn’t able to swallow solids so I needed to have a feeding tube. The tube was inserted through my nose and ended up in my throat, where they pumped liquid foods through. The insertion of the tube was the most traumatic and uncomfortable experience of the whole ordeal. It felt like someone was extracting my brain through my nose, which was obviously very uncomfortable.
After the worst was over, my slow recovery began. I was in intensive care for three weeks, in the wards for one week and a rehabilitation hospital for another week. I cried almost every day; the feeling of helplessness was awful. For the first three weeks I couldn’t stand so I lost all muscle definition. For the first few weeks after that it felt like my body had forgotten how to walk and I was dizzy all the time and very heavy headed.
When it was finally time to go home, I was so excited and scared. But when I arrived home it was difficult. I was sad, suffered terrible headaches and was completely dependent on everyone. Without my partner, family and friends I don’t know if I would have survived.
But as the weeks passed, I realised I could only keep getting better. I still have down days, I still cry over nothing and I’ll forever be asking “Why?”, but then I remember that three months ago I was almost dead, and today I’m almost back to normal. I still get tired easily and don’t sleep well, which are common symptoms of a brain trauma injury. I also get headaches every day. Unfortunately the brain injury has left me permanently deaf in my right ear and my walking and balance still deteriorates as I get tired.
But I am one of the lucky ones. I survived. Three months later I am driving again and I will be returning to work in a few weeks at reduced hours. My brain is still recovering; I’ve been advised it could take years to completely recover. But now I’ve quit smoking and I stress less. Life is too short and unpredictable.