When Alexa was 11 years old, she was diagnosed with a rupture aneurysm. Here, she shares the story of her successful recovery.
In the fall of 2007, I was 11 years old and going into sixth grade when I had the most traumatic experience of my entire life. When I woke up that morning, how was I supposed to know that this day would not be like any other?
It started off like any normal day, the same school routine that I had been following for the past seven years: get up, get dressed and eat breakfast, brush teeth, and then pack up to leave for school.
Soccer game, then hospital
That year, I had been selected to be one of only two sixth graders on the varsity soccer team at the Montgomery School. On this particular day, we were getting out early from school to travel from Montgomery to the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr to play a soccer game.
Within the first few minutes of the game, I started to feel very light-headed and dizzy and couldn’t walk straight. I told my coach that I didn’t feel right and she took me out of the game.
They laid me down on the sideline and tried to give me liquids, but when my dad got there, he knew something wasn’t right. He carried me to the car and drove me to Bryn Mawr Hospital, where soon after, I passed out in the waiting room.
I was transferred in an ambulance to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where I was diagnosed with a ruptured aneurysm.
Surgery and intensive care
The next day was a full day of procedures, including an operation to “clip” the aneurysm.
I do not remember much from the first few days after my operation. My parents later told me that when I first woke up I had a breathing tube and couldn’t talk, so I used a little white board to write down the various questions I had.
They also told me that while my ruptured aneurysm was being repaired, I had experienced a stroke. Because of the stroke, I developed left-side paralysis.
So, following a month in CHOP's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), I spent a month in the CHOP rehab hospital (the Seashore House) for inpatient therapy. After the time in the Seashore House, I developed hydrocephalus and had another operation to implant a shunt in my brain to help drain the excess fluid.
Positive experiences at CHOP
Many different experiences and the wonderful people at CHOP helped me stay entertained and have a good time while I was recuperating. Not only were the staff, nurses and doctors so nice and helpful, they were always willing to do whatever they could to help me fully recover.
Some of the great experiences that helped me recover and pass the time included swimming in the pool for physical therapy, playing bingo, winning prizes on my TV, meeting a few famous sports players, playing Dance Dance Revolution in physical therapy, baking brownies in occupational therapy, and much more. The great staff at CHOP played a major role in helping me return to a regular life.
That and getting a brand-new puppy when I was finally discharged!
Back to school, friends and fun
Over the past few years I have pretty much gotten back into my regular routine, even though I have had to make a few changes. Although I have had to return to CHOP to have my shunt replaced six times, luckily, I have not had to have it replaced for two years.
Currently, I am a junior and an honors student at Villa Maria Academy High School. I have played on the tennis team since my freshman year and I played varsity starting in my sophomore year. I am also on the yearbook committee, working on the academics section. I love to “extreme coupon” and use the savings to purchase items for a local food bank.
I never let my injury slow me down. For instance, I love to do exciting things like ride roller coasters, and this year I zip-lined in California with my dad! Recently, I took a trip to CHOP with my mom’s work colleagues to deliver blankets for the children in the Hospital.
Overall, I believe that this experience has influenced my life in a positive way and has helped me understand just how lucky I am so that I can try to help other children who are less fortunate than me.