Everything was shaping up for a perfect holiday. It was the day before Christmas Eve and we’d just brought our newborn daughter home, fresh out of the NICU, and her heart was stable. My parents were staying with us and my sister and her family would join us Christmas day.
But then it hit me – the most horrific neck pain and headache I’d ever experienced in my life. (Well, up until that point anyway.) I thought it was a migraine. However, it would later be labeled as a “pre-bleed.”
Since I was on a lot of pain meds from my C-section, I functioned okay the next day and tried to enjoy Christmas Eve with my newly expanded family. We all watched the Steelers win and secure a spot in the playoffs. Life was good. That evening, Mark stayed with the girls while my parents and I went to Christmas Eve church services. I remember popping some Motrin because the headache started to return.
I went to bed when we got home as the pain intensified. I told Mark that something was wrong and I called my doctor. The doctor said, “Get to the hospital right now. I don’t want to scare you, but you could drop over and die – that’s how serious this is.”
So I woke my parents, taught them how to work my video camera in case we missed Christmas morning, and my husband drove over 100 miles per hour toward the hospital. But, the cops stopped us. They called an ambulance for me and we were then forced to go to the smaller hospital close by instead of Fairfax Hospital where my doctors waited.
I couldn’t even recall what year it was at this point and thankfully morphine began to kick in. After a scan, I remember how people started rushing around me and I knew something was wrong. My brain was hemorrhaging. The doctors told my husband that they were unsure what to do with me, because the other hospitals who treat brain trauma would not accept me because I was now – with the diagnosis – a liability. Most likely I would die.
No, the Steelers made the playoffs. I was not going to die yet! Luckily, Georgetown Hospital is a neuro teaching hospital and agreed to take me, so I rode in a helicopter – alongside Santa’s sleigh – into DC.
Although I missed Riley’s first Christmas and Sydney’s fourth, I was granted a miracle and the bleeding stopped without intervention. Typically a second bleed occurs and would have been deadly. So, they monitored me for a week in the ICU, administered large doses of morphine, and ran a gazillion tests. I was sent home and finally got to celebrate Christmas with my family (a week late). It took months to fully recover, while adjusting to a new baby and a 3 year old, and the ramifications of my autoimmune disease flaring up.
But I was alive!
Also, I’d been on Percocet for 6 weeks due to head pain, so the chances of getting addicted weighed on my mind. More than 4 days on Percocet is bad.
33 had always been my lucky number. I learned that with subarachnoid brain hemorrhages – 33.3% die, 33.3% are left impaired, and the other 33% recover fully.
I do not take this miracle for granted. I was given a decade with my children, my family, an unimpaired brain that allowed me to write four novels & lead a chapter of the Children’s Heart Foundation, an unimpaired body that allowed me to run in more than ten 5ks, and … I got to see the Steelers win the Super Bowl that year (and another in 2009)!
I learned that miracles are possible and God will either give you a miracle or walk beside you until it is your time to receive one. Tonight as I reflect on the miracle of Jesus’ birth, I reflect on the overwhelming gifts and miracles He’s given me.
Five days before the hemorrhage, right before they wheeled me into the OR for Riley’s birth, unsure of what her broken heart would do, my doctor looked at me and said, “She’s going to be my Christmas miracle.” Her low heart rate stabilized after birth and no intervention was needed for a year.
Who knew our family would be given two miracles in one week. Although these were two huge ones, I believe miracles and blessings surround us daily. We just need to open our eyes and look. You may not feel like you’re receiving a miracle right now, but He’s walking beside you, guiding you to your next blessing. Merry Christmas everyone!