Sending an email saved his life
It was March 6, the second day that Mark and Carol Anderson were in Arizona on a three week vacation.
The Blue Earth couple was staying in Mark’s brother’s home in Mesa. His brother was away but would be home later in the week.
Mark decided to surprise his brother by fixing a leaky kitchen sink.
Carol decided to go for a morning walk, while Mark was fixing the sink.
But, just before she went out the door, she decided at the last minute to send an email to her family letting them know that they had made it there safely and everything was fine.
Then she hit the ‘send’ button, little realizing that everything was not fine.
“It’s funny how life can change in an instant,” she recalls. “I decided to tell Mark I was leaving before heading out the door.”
She hadn’t planned on sending the email. She hadn’t planned on saying anything more to Mark before she left on the walk. After all, she had already told him she was going out.
“It was a miracle,” she says. “What if I didn’t spend time writing the email? What if I hadn’t walked back to the kitchen?”
When she saw Mark under the kitchen sink he wasn’t moving and he didn’t answer her.
“His eyes were open but he was just staring at the ceiling,” she says. “And he couldn’t talk, couldn’t verbalize anything.”
She says she checked his head to see if he had bumped it. After just 30 seconds, she decided to dial 911.
Mark says what he remembers was a sharp headache, that went from temple to temple.
It took the emergency crew just five minutes to arrive. They started treating him for a possible stroke.
But, it wasn’t a stroke. It was a brain aneurysm. He was bleeding into his brain.
Now comes miracle number two.
After he was taken to the nearest hospital, St. Joseph’s, Mark was sent by helicopter ambulance across town to Barren’s Medical Center a well known neuro-surgery center.
And, Mark was able to have a famous neurosurgeon treat him. His name was Dr. Zabrowski. He has treated celebrities and has been on Oprah.
Carol asked the doctor how severe Mark’s brain bleed was.
“He said on a scale of one to four, Mark was definitely a four,” she recalls. “It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Ignorance had been bliss.”
First the doctors drilled a hole in Mark’s head, just to drain the blood.
Next they tried to go up through the groin with a coil, to the brain, and fix the aneurysm that way.
It didn’t work.
“Dr. “Z” told us that Mark’s aneurysm was too large to fix that way,” Carol says. “So, the next option was surgery.”
The next day they cut Mark’s skull open wide and went in and fixed the aneurysm with a titanium clip.
“He looked pretty bad for the next five days,” Carol recalls. “He was in the intensive care unit for two weeks. It was a rough time.”
Finally, on March 22, he was able to leave the hospital. He was ready to come home by the end of March, but he needed something else.
There was fluid and pressure building up in his brain, so Mark had to go back into the hospital and have a shunt put in, from his head down to his abdomen.
It is still there, draining about three ounces a day.
“I feel pretty good now,” Mark says. “I might be a little slower than I was, with not as much energy and I need a nap more often now.”
He isn’t quite back to working full time, but he is able to put in some hours every day.
After a variety of careers which included teaching, selling insurance and computer network engineering, Mark now does what he truly loves: carpentry work. And, he has been doing so since 2002.
Having an aneurysm has changed his life in many ways, Mark says.
Call it miracle number three.
“I now cherish every minute of life,” the 62-year-old says. “I don’t worry about a lot of the small stuff. I realize that the Vikings winning or losing is not the biggest thing in the world.”
But, getting a new grandchild while he was in the hospital was a big thing.
And a miracle that he is still around to hold this new grandchild.
The Andersons are headed back to Arizona this coming March.
They are hoping for a lot less eventful trip this time.