One year ago today. I can’t believe it’s been a year. It seems like just yesterday. I was in a meeting at work. My phone began vibrating. My Mom was calling. Jessica must have been finished with her surgery. Great! I messaged back, “In a meeting, everything ok?”. I must have known subconsciously. Text message, “Things didn’t go as planned. Come over as soon as you can”. My heart sank. I left the meeting immediately, feeling as though my legs were heavy and couldn’t carry me fast enough. I walked into the Family Meeting Room, off to the side of the main waiting room. Remembering what everyone’s faces looked like. There were tears. Red faces. Tissues and sobs. My 23-year-old sister’s world turned upside down. Our family tested more than I ever thought possible. Jessica had suffered a stroke during a procedure to embolize the AVM in her brain.
So where are we a year later? Much better than we were before! From a critically ill young woman, lying in the hospital bed intubated with a feeding tube to a vibrant 24-year-old that just completed a 5k, Jessica’s recovery has been nothing short of amazing. She has returned to functioning independently a majority of the time. She has returned to work full-time. Her social life has returned. She is more of the Jessica that we knew, except she’s different now. She’s stronger. Much stronger.
Her strength was glaringly apparent during her recent 5k. When asked if she wanted to stop along the race course, she firmly replied No…she was doing this…she wanted to do this. There were multiple points she could have quit. Clearly in pain and struggling to walk/jog such a distance, there were multiple times throughout the race that she could have quit. I wanted to be the support she needed to finish, yet I didn’t want her to hurt herself. It was a struggle throughout the race for her and it was a struggle for me to see her trying so hard.
We watched the slowest of people pass us. I was determined that she was not going to be the last to finish. As we were nearing the finish line, there was just one person behind us. We walked faster. She cried that she was in pain. We pushed harder.
We crossed the finish line at exactly the one hour mark. We weren’t the last to finish the race. Upon crossing the finish line, we hugged and sobbed together. It is a moment that I will never forget. People looked at us for celebrating…an almost dead last finish. If they only knew. Our finish time was irrelevant. A year ago, I almost lost my sister. The emotions of the past year came flooding out. She will never know how proud I am of her and how honored I am to be her sister.
There are still a few obstacles left to overcome. The biggest will be to undergo the radiation required to deaden the remainder of the AVM. After that, she is looking forward to moving out of my Mom’s house. To driving again. To settling down and getting her life back. She is looking forward to the things that any normal almost 25-year-old wants. And she deserves it.
So what’s new a year later…we’re stronger than ever – as individuals and as a family.
I can tell you this…A year later, there is no greater love and bond between that of my sister and I.
Congratulations Jessica for working so hard and coming so far! I love you!
Side-note: For those of you who don’t know Jessica’s story, you can click here to read all about her road to recovery and hard work!