I Almost Died, And It Turned My Family's World Upside Down

by Cynthia Martinez
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Cynthia Martinez

From what I remember, there wasn’t anything special about Friday, November 9, 2018, except a game night that I almost didn’t go to after work. I barely remember my work day, or even making it home from work. But from my text messages to my best friend, I know I told her that I wasn’t going to go to my other friend’s game night. I don’t remember anything that followed.

But I did go, with my son. And thank God I did.

My friend told me I had barely taken off my coat when I suddenly collapsed.

911 was called immediately and the ambulance quickly arrived. By the time I arrived at the emergency room, I was apparently screaming of an unbearable headache. After a CT scan, the doctors realized I had a ruptured aneurysm on the right side of my brain. They quickly took me to surgery, only the first of many to come.

Things were okay, for a little bit. But as if matters weren’t bad enough, I then had a stroke on the left side of my brain, which began to swell. I needed another emergency surgery to remove part of my skull.

Courtesy of Cynthia Martinez

At this point, the doctors took my family into a private room and told them they didn’t know if I’d make it through surgery.

But what the doctors didn’t know was how strong my love for my son was.

It was during this surgery, I believe, that I saw my good friend who had passed away a couple months earlier. She told me it wasn’t my time, and I told her, “I’m not ready to go, I have to stay for Bryce, my son.”

My need to be with him not only got me through that surgery, but it got me through the other surgeries and complications that followed.

You can imagine how much all this affected my son. At the tender age of five, he saw his mom collapse, and then she was gone for about a month and a half. And when I came home, I wasn’t the same. He sensed my pain, my anxiety, my fear, and my depression – to the point that he didn’t want to go to school because he was afraid I wouldn’t be home when he got home. And honestly, I also had that fear. I was petrified to not be able to watch him grow up.

Since the aneurysm, one of the complications was an infection of my original skull flap that they put back in before leaving the hospital. This past February I had to get it removed. I now wear a helmet, and a bandage underneath, but one day I didn’t have either of those on when Bryce came home from school. I mistakenly forgot. When he saw me, he turned white with fright. How he stepped away from me with tears building in his eyes as he said, “Mommy, what happened to your head?” Is something that still breaks my heart when I think about it. And I’ve made sure he never sees me without a bandage since.

At five years old, he knows things that most kids his age don’t have to know. Like that Mommy has to check her “bod pesure” (blood pressure), and he knows that Mommy used a PICC line for her medicine. He also knows that Mommy can’t leave the house without her helmet, “Mommy, don’t forget your helmet!” And he knows that Mommy goes to do her “esercies” (therapy).

Courtesy of Cynthia Martinez

What he doesn’t know is how close Mommy came to not being able to put him to bed at night. To not being able to see him ride his bike for the first time, not being able to read him his bedtime stories or smother him with kisses and hugs.

But I know.

Just recently, Bryce had his pre-K graduation and I was there, helmet and all, crying with pride behind my phone screen as I recorded him walking across that stage. And this September, I will be there when he has his first day of kindergarten, and you better believe I’ll be a blubbering mess.

Now, as for my health, I have one pending surgery to get a synthetic bone put in where they had to remove my bone that got infected. But it doesn’t end there; I still have another small aneurysm for the doctors to fix. I know I’ll be more than okay, though, because I have determination and strength.

And because five years ago, I gave my son life, now he’s returning the favor.

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