From Emergency Brain Surgery To Family-Wide COVID And Back Again

Clare Anderson
13th May 2021
 < 1 min read

Everything changed for us when my sibling had a very serious fall and had to be rushed to hospital for emergency brain surgery. As though this weren’t bad enough, both he and my Mom tested positive for COVID on arrival at the hospital - and subsequently all the other members of our household did as well! There aren’t adequate words for the ordeal the last month has been.

A CT scan revealed blot clots in my sibling’s brain and he needed immediate emergency surgery. Due to the pandemic, nearly all hospitals were full - plus he had COVID - so we battled to find a hospital that would take him. Thankfully we have a relative who’s a doctor and he pulled some strings to get my brother into an institution for the life-saving treatment he so urgently needed. With difficulty, my Mom managed to spend the first night at my sibling’s bedside - isolated in the COVID-positive ward of course. However, the sleep deprivation and stress pushed her over the edge and she became too sick to stay with him. I took over his bedside vigil. 

Thus far we’d all only experienced mild symptoms of the virus - and had put them down to allergies. Once testing positive though, the symptoms started to worsen for all of us. I think fear of the unknown and expecting the worst played a part in this. Thankfully I was still just battling a mild cough so felt able to take over supporting my sibling in the ICU. I watched over him like a hawk for the first week. He woke for only a few minutes at a time. He could barely talk. He couldn’t feed himself or take himself to the bathroom. The fall and subsequent surgery had affected his entire nervous system. I felt like he wasn’t going to be leaving the hospital for a long time to come. Desperate as I was for him and all our family, I dug deep and did everything I could to encourage him to fight. Fight to eat. Fight to talk. Fight for his life. I didn’t know how much he was hearing or understanding me or not. I just knew that we couldn’t lose him. That it was up to me to be strong for all of us. Somehow it seemed to work - a week after his surgery he was transferred out of the ICU into a regular ward. 

The sudden turn for the better he took after being in such a critical condition was truly remarkable. His appetite started to return - he even started to ask us to bring him his favourite foods. From only being able to give a weak ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ sign, he slowly began talking again. He started moving his arms and legs - and - only two and a half weeks after nearly losing his life - he asked when he could go home again. I’m not sure quite how this miracle happened but I do believe that your mental health most definitely impacts your physical health. If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right. Right? I never lost hope during the ten days I kept vigil at  his bedside that my sibling would pull through. And made damn sure he knew this too. 

What kept me going whilst I watched him fighting for his life, my entire family battling COVID and trying to shake off the virus myself? My genuine love for my work. Whilst I couldn’t be sure that I could fix my sibling, I could be very sure that I wouldn’t renege on my responsibilities leading my team. They needed me and I wasn’t going to let them down. I managed to work during the ten days I was at my sibling’s hospital bedside. It wasn’t easy to concentrate with all the comings and goings of the medical staff. But my work gave me purpose. And focus. And a sense of some control. My COVID symptoms did get worse whilst I was in hospital but my work gave me a hold on my normal life and stopped me from spiralling downwards into a very dark place. In the midst of the madness and pain I still felt like I could achieve something. I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t had my work - and the support of our incredible People Manager - to save me.

It’s not over yet. My sibling is doing his best to recover as fast as possible but we still need to find a physiotherapist for him. And, despite financial assistance from relatives, I’m sure my parents haven’t fully disclosed just how hard the hospital bills have hit us. My lesson from all of this? You never know when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you and your loved ones. Having something meaningful to hold on to - in my case my work - in the darkest of times is essential for survival. Being given the freedom to choose my own career path and therefore fully embrace and love all the responsibilities that entails literally saved me. Achieving the goals I set for myself and feeling truly valued brings me a sense of fulfilment that I am unable to really describe. There’s always a silver lining, no matter how dark the times. Every day my sibling, myself and my whole household grow stronger and better. Never forget how your mental health directly impacts your physical health - and that the power of positive thinking can literally create miracles.



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