On October 30th, 2014 my life as a carefree 19-year-old changed.
At the time, I was a Division I collegiate golfer and always up for a good time. My team called me “Sunshine,” and I probably smiled more than anything.
Yet, on that day, I woke up in my dorm room at Sacred Heart University with a neck so swollen that I looked like a bullfrog. My suitemates were confused and concerned. My voice octaves were so high when I spoke and it was impossible to swallow water. I was in a complete panic. I didn’t know what to do, so I got into my car and drove 3 hours home to my Dad who is an emergency room physician.
My father has been an E.R. doctor for 31 years now, so not many things surprise him. But my immensely swollen neck opened his eyes.
I had many doctors examine my neck that day, but nobody had an answer for what is was. My dad decided to order a CT scan, and the techs did my entire head. That CT scan discovered nothing in my neck, BUT it did discover what was about to change the next 5 years of my life.
That CT scan discovered that I had a front left temporal lobe brain aneurysm. That tech who happened to scan more than just my neck inadvertently saved my life and so did that random neck infection.
During Christmas break in 2014, I met my neurosurgeon for the first time. The following week I had my first procedure, an angiogram, to see how serious this AVM was.
AVM stands for arteriovenous malformation, which means it’s an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain.
An angiogram is a diagnostic test that uses x-rays to take pictures of your blood vessels. A long catheter is inserted through the bloodstream to deliver dye into the arteries, making them visible on the x-ray.
After my angiogram, my neurosurgeon came back to me in the recovery area and spoke to my mom, dad, sister, and myself. He informed me that this AVM couldn’t be ignored, yet told me how lucky I was to have found it at such a young age. So, I had three options:
Option 1: ignore it and do nothing.
Option 2: Linear accelerator (LINAC) radiation which I would only need one treatment of but it would be an all day process and isn’t 100% guaranteed to get rid of the AVM.
Option 3: full on brain surgery.