Debbie Bryant wasn’t ready to die. “I had stuff to do here,” she laughs. Though she can joke about it now, Debbie admits she had a close call in November of 2010 when her life took a remarkably unexpected turn.
After an exhausting day, she got in her car to pick up subs for her family. Seconds after she sat behind the wheel, Debbie was out cold.
Fortunately, her daughter, Erika, was getting ready to pull out of the driveway at the same time and recognized that something was not right.
“My poor daughter. I must have scared her to death,” Debbie says. “She pulled me out of the car, and I was totally non-responsive and proceeded to vomit all over her.” Debbie had a posterior aneurysm rupture, which occurs when a weak area in the wall of a blood vessel causes the blood vessel to bulge or balloon out (learn more about brain aneurysms).
Within minutes an EMT arrived at her home in Anderson Township, and she was taken to Mercy Anderson. After doctors discovered a bleed in Debbie’s brain, she was flown to University Hospital, a regional trauma partner that specializes in neurosurgical care.
Family and Peers Insist Debbie Go to TriHealth
Debbie was in University’s Intensive Care Unit for five weeks, and as time passed, her family knew something wasn’t right.
“They [University] did the last procedure they really thought they could do in early December,” Debbie recalls. “I didn’t really know my children, I didn’t know my husband. But, I thought he was cute! I got to the point where I was really not responding.”
As a long-time team member of TriHealth, Debbie’s family and co-workers insisted she be transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital’s Rehabilitation Unit.
She still remembers her first day of inpatient physical therapy. “Dr. Steven Wunder was my physiatrist. It was so cute . . . It was Christmas time – he comes in carrying this big artificial Christmas tree with lights and ornaments, and put it in my room. He’s just a good guy.”
The Road to Recovery
Debbie spent seven days in the rehab unit as an inpatient, and four more weeks in outpatient physical therapy for physical, occupational and speech therapy. She laughs when she recalls her answer when the rehab team asked what her main goal was. "I simply responded, ‘to drive.’ My children laughed out loud,” she jokes.
Since Debbie had a neurological impairment, she needed to pass a driver's evaluation in order to be cleared. “I would not leave until they gave me a driver’s license. That, to me, was my independence.” Debbie’s proud to say she passed on the first time.
Her other goal was to return to her job as a care coordinator at TriHealth. “I needed to learn my processing and recall of information. They helped me get back to where I could drive and work – and be a productive part of TriHealth,” she says. “They even simulated work settings and interactions.”
Debbie actually worked in Good Sam's rehabilitation unit before becoming a care coordinator five years ago. "And they weren't easy on me because they knew me," she laughs. "Oh my gosh! My physical therapist and her Pilates!"
After she finished rehab on an outpatient basis, Debbie’s team prepared her with an exercise program, online resources and cognitive exercises, so she could continue improving at home. She's especially grateful that her rehab team encouraged family participation. “It went beyond them teaching me, but also the family involvement and how they could help beyond that.”
Just three months after her aneurysm, Debbie returned to work. “And that’s the best thing,” she gushes. “I mean, I love the rehab unit. They got me really turned around and on the right track and got my brain clicking again.”