• Survivor or Caregiver

TBI One Love Survivor LeaAnn Nielsen-Swinney

Hello, my name is LeaAnn.

In 2012, I went to sleep as LeaAnn Swinney and woke up a stranger.  4 years ago I suffered a stroke /TBI and brain aneurism that led to brain surgery. 6 years prior to that my husband and I had gone to Ecuador for a long awaited honeymoon.  Except for some swelling in my ankles and being a little short of breath I felt great and we had and amazing time. We flew home to Seattle on October 29th and I walked off of the plain and strait into heart failure.

Very long story short the doctors discovered that at some point in my childhood I had gotten strep throat that never been diagnosed or taken care of and coupled with my heart murmur began to work away at my heart and over the years slowly damaged my heart valves. I had open heart surgery 8 months later.

2 years I had a couple of teeth pulled and immediately began feeling extremely ill, the doctors insisted it was just the flu. This went on for over a month until I woke up one morning, sat up, and fell to my right side. I remember nothing after this point. 

The little dental surgery I had done caused an infection that spread to my mechanical heart valve and caused a bleeding stroke. This turned into a brain aneurism and led to brain surgery to relieve the pressure in my brain. 

The doctors told my family if I survived there's was only a 50% chance that would ever be the same again. I spent 2 weeks in ICU...I couldn't speak, chew, read, walk or chew and swallow. 

After 2 months of intense therapy I was sent to a nursing home to continue my therapy.  I had been on antibiotics for my heart during all of this, and just as I was about to finally go home my kidneys failed and back in the hospital I went. 

Once I finally got home it was not the happy scene I thought it would be, my days were very dark and although my daughter moved in to be my caregiver it was the loneliest time of my life. 

My short term memory was affected the most, I could and can no longer drive, my eyesight was severely damaged, I am now borderline legally blind. 

There are so many times I have wanted to give up, and sometimes I still do.

If it wasn't for my amazing family and friends, I may have. 

All I can tell you is no matter what, no matter how dark and painful it gets, don’t give up.

Lean on whatever support system you have, weather its family, friends, a pet, religion wherever your soft place to fall is...fall there as much as you need to. Above all else, be good to yourself, have patience with yourself. Change what you can...and as hard as it is sometimes...accept what you can't. 

                                      About all else, Don’t give up!

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