The Journey of Eryn Martin

SAH is not singular. It’s multifarious with different sub-types. One of these subtypes is spontaneous perimesencephalic subarachnoid hemorrhage. This sub-type was discovered in 1985 after several case studies according to the AHA Journal. Medscape cites that only 10% of the population suffer from this. 

Eryn Martin is part of this small percentage, and she has graciously allowed me to share her story.

Getting to Know Eryn:

My name is Eryn Martin. I am a wife, dog mom, sister, friend, auntie, daughter and registered nurse. On May 11, 2020 I had the opportunity to travel into my mind, understanding truths about myself I never knew. This was the day that I experienced a spontaneous perimesencephalic subarachnoid hemorrhage. I have an excellent prognosis but experience cognitive changes in attention and cognitive fatigue. Through my experience with brain injury, I have been working on self-compassion--a process of self-exploration, acknowledgement and acceptance of my story. I have always had a heart for others but rarely a heart for myself. I have been blessed with an opportunity to address my inner struggles and deal with them in a healthy, affirmative way. I continue to seek ways to improve and grow. I am inspired and honored to be able to join you in my journey and share resources. My brain injury has been transformative. If I can have a long-lasting impact on just one person (including myself), it will have been all worth it.

How it happened:

On May 11, I came home from work and started a virtual kickboxing class.  In the middle of punching the air, I had a severe headache.  Nothing I did made it retreat, in fact it just got stronger and more debilitating.  The pain and vomiting were so severe that Troy, my husband, had to call 9-1-1.  The ambulance crew scooped me off the floor and took me to Wentworth Douglass Hospital where I was quickly diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage.  The staff there were excellent, quickly arranging emergency transport to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

At MGH, I had a series of imaging and angiograms.  The bleed occurred on the right side of my lower brain down into the cervical spine; it was near my brain stem. The doctors believed that I had a venous bleed known as a perimesencephalic subarachnoid hemorrhage; best case scenario for these types of bleeds but still very serious.  I spent four nights in the neuro-ICU and four nights in the neuro step down unit.  

I was discharged home on May 19th.  Little did I know, my recovery was just beginning. I battled severe pain in my head, neck, and down my spine into my sacrum for about a month.  It limited my ability to walk at a normal pace; very difficult for someone who likes to be on the move all the time.  

Turns out the physical recovery was the easiest.  Because of the pain, I was on an extended course of steroids.   I had every negative side effect of these.  It left me a manic, insomniac for about a month.  Mixed with the cognitive effects of the brain injury itself, this was the hardest time on me, my husband, my family and friends.  I had little impulse control.  The barriers in my brain came down.  Anyone that knows me knows I am private, thoughtful, and introverted.  Suddenly I found myself telling anyone who would listen exactly what I thought in a “diarrhea of the mouth” fashion.  While this allowed me to explore and address some hidden areas of my brain, it also led to saying things that hurt people (I continue to be sorry).  The talking got so bad that I would try to tape my mouth shut just so I could be free of hearing my own voice.  I was so scared I was going to be stuck in this manic state.  Thank you for not giving up on me Troy!!

Once I was able to start sleeping again, a little over a month after coming home, I started to really see improvement.  The mania went away, and impulse control improved.  My walking speed improved.  I was left with trouble focusing and reading, memory deficits, and eye pain with screen time.  Home speech therapy started for cognitive retraining.  

Eryn’s Crusade:

I continue to work with outpatient speech to improve my cognition. I’ve needed to learn new coping mechanisms to be able to perform at my usual level.  I continue to work on these skills and hope to be back to work soon.  

I work with a counselor to address the emotional aspects of having a brain injury.  For me, and I bet others as well, going from being independent to dependent and dealing with a near death experience really rocked me.  You begin to question the path you were on and realize you have power to change the course.  Through counseling and a stellar support system, I continue to grow, and course correct as needed (not easy for an overthinking, control freak like myself.)  Counseling has been an integral part of my recovery; I encourage anyone in a similar situation to find a good counselor as soon into your recovery as possible.  

I also encourage all who know me to hold me accountable.  Living for the moment without anxiety for the future while maintaining work life balance and keeping relationships, generosity, empathy, and kindness as the priority is no easy task. The more I learn about self-compassion and mindfulness, the more I realize that it is okay to not know it all; no one does.  Maintaining confidence whilst trying to lead and create my position at work has been a major stressor for me.  I pretended that I knew it all, but really, I was struggling and anxious about my every move.  I need feedback to continue to grow.  Encourage me to give myself a break.  Let me know if I’m doing a good job.  Let me know if I’m not.  I pledge to be human and imperfect (no more pretending).  I will seek out my resources and course correct while remaining true to myself and my values.  No one should try to exist alone.  I’ve spent too long hiding and trying to hold it all together.  We are so much better when we work together.  Let’s help each other.  

While I still have a road ahead of me, I am grateful for all the good that has come out of my situation.  I am grateful for the love and support from all the amazing people I have in my life.  I commit to become the best version of myself and to continue growing.  Sometimes bad things happen; it is overcoming these bad things that makes us better.  

Eryn’s Campaign:

I’m preaching to the choir when I say that 2020 has been a rough one.  Our families, friends, and co-workers have faced unfathomable changes.  The control and routine we thought we had is gone.  Just when we think we’ve adjusted to the “new normal”, the rules change, and we are forced to stretch more.  

So...“Duck” it! Duck 2020 means giving up control, giving up on planning.  You can only control your own attitude.  Live for the moment, value the present.  If 2020 has taught us anything it is that relationships, gratitude, love, kindness, happiness, and generosity towards others are what really matter.  Ducks appear calm when floating on the water.  If you were to look underneath, you’d see their feet working frantically to stay afloat.  We can’t begin to understand all that others are going through; when you throw in that it is 2020, it’s even harder.  Let’s support each other!  

Let’s help those in need with brain injuries.  The Duck 2020 campaigns’ t-shirt proceeds and donations go directly to the grant fund at the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire (BIANH).  The fund helps those in need with brain injuries.  

Why support brain injuries?

For those that I have not had the privilege to speak with personally, I experienced a non-aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage on May 11, 2020.   I have been fortunate to have a strong support system with adequate finances. I could not imagine how my recovery would have been possible without them.  I have learned that recovering from a brain injury takes a substantial amount of care post hospitalization.  The care you receive post-hospital is what truly brings you back to life.  I realize many do not have the resources they need to recover fully.  I hope to support others who are on this uphill climb back to a “new normal” through increasing the grant fund at BIANH. 

What can you do to help?...

Please consider purchasing a T-shirt at:  All shirt proceeds and donations will support the less fortunate through a grant fund at the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire. If a T-shirt or donation is not for you, please pass this along to someone who may want one.  

I challenge everyone to share my story with at least one other person.  Together we can make the best of this crappy year; let’s help others in need!! 

The story of Eryn’s journey is authentic, and essential for other survivors to hear. Too often we feel alone emotionally after a medical trauma. While Eryn admits it was a struggle, she did what survivors should consider by turning a tragedy into a campaign to bring awareness and support for people with brain injuries. The physical aspect of getting back on track is equally taxing, but Eryn didn’t give up. 

Reading Eryn’s story gave me some solace, that I’m not the only that felt unhinged at moments. We are similar that after this tragedy something triggered within us to be as vocal as possible about what happened for anyone to hear. 

Overall, we are a community, a rare one. Any support for one another is the best way to get through and understand this. Please check out Eryn’s link for Duck 2020:

I believe the Eryn is going to move mountains as she continues to fight for awareness. 

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