“I sur­vived a brain haem­or­rhage at 31”

A year ago, Rohma No­mani’s life changed for­ever when she suf­fered a brain haem­or­rhage at her desk. Here, she shares her in­cred­i­ble story of re­cov­ery, and how the dark­est times can some­times lead to the bright­est dawns…

Grazia Middle East - - CONTENTS -

IT’S KIND OF CRAZY say­ing it out loud even now, but I had a brain haem­or­rhage ex­actly one year ago. It is an ex­pe­ri­ence that, un­til now, I have kept to my­self for nu­mer­ous rea­sons. But to­day, on the first an­niver­sary of this life-chang­ing health event, I can’t help but look back on the roller-coaster that has been my life ever since. I am proud of what I have ac­com­plished, grate­ful for hav­ing been given this sec­ond chance at life, and blessed to be sur­rounded by such in­cred­i­ble fam­ily and friends.

The 8th Novem­ber 2017 started out like any other day. Life was busy – su­per-busy, ac­tu­ally – but at 31, I didn’t ex­pect any­thing else. I was work­ing a hec­tic cor­po­rate job, plan­ning my wed­ding, work­ing out, di­et­ing (for the wed­ding, of course) and tak­ing an in­ten­sive dig­i­tal-mar­ket­ing course with Google all at once. My days started at 7am and typ­i­cally ended well past mid­night – but I didn’t mind, I was forg­ing ahead, lay­ing down the ground­work to cat­a­pult my ca­reer to the next level.

I was sit­ting at work when I sud­denly felt an ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain at the back of my head, as though I had sud­denly been hit by a base­ball bat. Hard. The sear­ing-hot pain shot down my spine and up into my head, and I was blinded by dizzi­ness and nau­sea. Afraid of be­ing sick at my desk, I bolted to the ladies’ room, where I heaved over the toi­let. As I stood up, the pain in my head in­ten­si­fied to a level where all I knew was that I needed to lie down, noth­ing more.

Grab­bing my bag, I ran from the of­fice – it gen­uinely felt like my brain was be­ing rubbed with sand­pa­per with ev­ery move­ment – I knew some­thing was wrong but I couldn’t say what, I just needed to get to a quiet place in­stantly. I called my fi­ancé, plead­ing with him to meet me at his apart­ment be­cause I was hav­ing “the worst mi­graine of my life.” At 11pm, that very same day, in the emer­gency room of Med­care Hos­pi­tal, I was told that they had found blood in my brain. At 31, I had suf­fered a sub­arach­noid brain haem­or­rhage.

The haem­or­rhage, which was lo­cated in my cere­bel­lum, was the re­sult of an un­de­tected ar­te­ri­ove­nous mal­for­ma­tion (AVM) – a tan­gle of ves­sels in the brain. Most AVMs are con­gen­i­tal, af­fect­ing less than one per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. Mine had led to an area of high blood flow, strain­ing one of the cere­bral veins to form an aneurysm, which had rup­tured. One small ves­sel, with po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects.

It took four hospi­tals, two neuro

ICUs, two surg­eries, one ra­dio­surgery, countless CT scans, MRIs and neu­ro­sur­geons to get me back to ‘nor­mal’ over a span of five months. I say ‘nor­mal’ be­cause I don’t think I will ever be the same again. I am blessed enough to have fully re­cov­ered with­out any ap­par­ent neu­ro­log­i­cal or phys­i­o­log­i­cal deficits – which in it­self is a mir­a­cle, if you look at the statis­tics. Ac­cord­ing to the Brain Aneurysm Foun­da­tion, rup­tured brain aneurysms are fa­tal in about 40 per cent of cases. Of those who sur­vive, about 66 per cent suf­fer some per­ma­nent neu­ro­log­i­cal dam­age. Ap­prox­i­mately 15 per cent of pa­tients with an aneurys­mal sub­arach­noid haem­or­rhage die be­fore reach­ing hos­pi­tal.

My re­cov­ery has been in two parts: phys­i­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal. Af­ter two months in the hos­pi­tal and on bed rest, I had to re­train my body and my mind from scratch. No neu­ro­sur­geon could tell me what my re­cov­ery would be like or what the resid­ual ef­fects would be – you have no idea what you are ca­pa­ble of any­more; even your per­son­al­ity changes be­cause of the dam­age to your brain. I gained seven ki­los, lost half my hair (from the ra­di­a­tion) and was unimag­in­ably ex­hausted, but I was de­ter­mined not to let this de­fine me as a per­son.

Two weeks af­ter my ra­dio­surgery, I was back at work; four weeks af­ter that, I landed a fan­tas­tic job back in my beloved fash­ion in­dus­try. In June 2018, I mar­ried the love of my life in beau­ti­ful Como. Things have never been bet­ter; the in­ci­dent proved to be a cat­a­lyst to jump-start the life I al­ways wanted. But it’s not easy. I took a huge hit on my con­fi­dence, which I have been work­ing to re­build ever since. I can­not de­scribe how scary it was not know­ing if I would live to see my wed­ding day, or if I would be fully able to walk, talk or see again. There was a point where I didn’t know if I would make it to the next day. I was re­sus­ci­tated once (I went Code Blue af­ter my cere­bral an­giogram) and even though I don’t re­call it, it has put so much into per­spec­tive for me.

I have be­come a far more bal­anced per­son as a re­sult of ac­tu­ally know­ing what a life-or-death sit­u­a­tion feels like. Ev­ery day that passes with­out a headache or a side ef­fect from the ra­dio­surgery is a mile­stone to cel­e­brate. I am not fully out of the woods yet;

I am still con­stantly look­ing over my shoul­der, scared of a po­ten­tially fa­tal re­bleed ev­ery sin­gle day. This is my re­al­ity for at least the next two years, un­til the AVM is fully oblit­er­ated, but for now, I will count my bless­ings and be grate­ful for each day I get to wake up and live my life do­ing what I love around the peo­ple I love the most.

Rohma feared she may not live to see her wed­ding day af­ter her brain haem­or­rhage in Novem­ber 2017

Rohma was able to make a full re­cov­ery in time for her wed­ding in June 2018

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