Just a quick thanks to all who have offered up prayers and sent words of support over the past few months. I am now in that class of people who have walked away from a medical train wreck. Literally I am one in ten.
On November 10, 2015, I had a seizure at home which lead to a CT-scan at the local emergency room which lead to a 150-mile flight in a medical helicopter to a regional medical center in Santa Barbara (no, I did not have a window seat). At Cottage Hospital, the world-renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Alois Zauner, and his team injected me with radioactive dye and then drove a catheter from my groin into the center of my brain to seal a leaking aneurysm (a bubble on the side of an artery). Effectively, I underwent brain surgery without losing any of my trademark crazy, red locks.
Specifically, I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage; which is a type of stroke. I spent two weeks at Cottage, mostly in the neuro-ICU. As is typical after brain events, my body chemistry was whacked. My pituitary gland persistently instructed my kidneys to hold onto lethal amounts of sodium. My blood pressure, in response, stayed at stratospheric levels that causes strokes. Eventually the doctors and dedicated NICU nurses at Cottage helped me find a path to recovery.
Although I did not learn the stats until I returned home, it was obvious during my mandated, daily walks that I was in far better shape than most of my neighbors in the stroke unit. Those stats continue to come back every day—my type of stroke kills half of its victims outright and leaves 80% of the survivors with lifelong disabilities. I am among the amazingly-lucky 10% who get back to their daily lives without significant, longterm deficits. Yes, through this experience, I now see life as a gift to be protected, treasured, and used wisely. That sentiment used to sound schmaltzy. Now I know its truth.
My advice to all, like the former me, who lead over-paced, stress-filled lives is to access what truly is important and then shift your priorities. Also, if you are told that you have high blood pressure, heed the warning. The meds that I now take for my blood pressure cost about $8.00/month (less than two trips to Starbucks). While the docs think that I was born with the aneurysm, a spike in my blood pressure likely caused the bleeding in my brain.
My view on the need for medical insurance has evolved. In two weeks at the hospital, my medical bills topped $400,000. My out-of-pocket expense was $250 thanks to the medical insurance that I have through my day job (teaching high school art + photography). A few years ago, when I was a globe-trotting workshop instructor, I did not have medical insurance. If you are still ducking out on medical insurance (despite Obamacare), at lease get a high-deductible policy in place. Most people can somehow survive a $5,000 or $10,000 hit (the amount expended before I was loaded onto the helicopter). Beyond that lies financial devastation.
I will be back out on the road soon. If you’re in the NYC-area, I’ll give a free (thanks Canon!) seminar in the B&H Event Space on Thursday, April 14. Check out the details here on B&H’s site. Mid-summer, I have a week-long workshop on flash photography at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. Check out those details here on RMSP’s site.
Again, thanks to all who offered up prayers and sent words of support. Your energy truly made a difference. Onward!