What my Mom has taught me about living big, love and overcoming fear


I haven’t said this quite so explicitly on my blog before, but one of the reasons I believe in a life that is all about ‘living big’ is because in 2011 I almost lost one of the most important people in my life – my mom. We have all heard the ‘cliches’ that life is short, live like you were dying, it could all be over in a second, but the reality is that all of these ‘cliches’ are actually true.  My mom, my family and my mom’s wide circle of friends almost learned this lesson the hard way when she came so close to death.

While the summer of 2011 was the scariest time in my life I came out of it not only with my Mom but the greatest lessons on life: live big. Life is too short, and it can all be gone in a second, to not live the life of your dreams.

There is no rhyme or reason to my moms brain aneurysm. None of it was in her control. But everything afterwards has been in her court and she doesn’t waste a minute. She is the epitome of living – and loving – BIG.

Mom, thank you for your courage to share this story. I know it was very difficult to write and relive, but hopefully your words and the personal account of your experience will encourage readers to discover what it means to live big in their own life.

I love you!


Take it away Momma Sue……

Being a guest blogger on my daughter Mary’s blog, LivingBig.org is so much fun! I admire her so much for using her beautiful voice to make us think about our own bucket list and encourage us to live big along with her.

I asked myself the following questions while deciding the topic of my 2nd guest post:
Click here to read my first guest post which is the recipe for Mary’s favorite chicken pot pie!

  • Who do I feel offers me comfort and love unconditionally, and can I speak to that relationship without question?
  • What do I have to offer of interest and substance?
  • Where have I been that is unique or out of the ordinary?

Ponder… ponder… ponder…

As scary and disjointed as this post might seem its my hope that by the end you will know the fear I have experienced and what I’ve learned from my personal experience of being on the brink of death.

“Why, why Momma Sue do you want us to know this?” You may be asking…

Well, my loves, I want you to know that the impossible is possible.
That love and prayer win out over fear and doubt every single time.

I survived a massive brain aneurism in June 2011 and came out on the other side with a deeper appreciation for everything. A deeper love of life. A stronger connection with my  family and friends that is ever greater than it was before this time in my life that I refer to as ‘crazy town.’ This nickname will come to make sense to you later. This post summarizes what I know about without question: the who, the what and the where of my experience on the brink of death.

One day I hope to have a lollipop and rainbow blog post and when I do it will be AWESOME! Stay tuned for that.

But today this my story…

June 21st, 2011

  • My husband Jim and I had spent the afternoon at a funeral service for my friends Mother. I remember the day was very warm and humid. We had traveled back home to change out of funeral attire and dress down for the wake of this lovely lady.
  • When you get a little ‘long in the tooth’ you will attend a lot of stuff like this. Always remember that funerals are for the living and you should always show up. Trust me on this one.
  • It was nice gathering but I was super hot and had been dealing with a nagging headache for a few days. I thought it was allergies and would soon pass, but when it wouldn’t go away I asked Jim to take us home.
  • I showered and slipped into bed at 5pm. Now for those of you that know me, ya’ll know that I don’t miss a party nor do I check out on a beautiful day! But this headache…
  • The night was full of restless sleeping, lots of tossing and turning and nightmares. Was it the food or wine I had at the wake? Was it the 6 Advil I had taken? Was it the heat of the day?
  • The headache would not go away. I didn’t know what a headache was until I was 30 years old. So I was sort of confused by the sheer pain. For all my for friends that have suffered from migraines and the side effects, I never knew exactly what that must be like for you, but baby I feel ya now!

June 22, 2011

4:00AM: my home in SE Portland

  • Final toss of the night. I jumped out of bed and ran for our bathroom. My head was pounding and I was running. Well I tried to run the 15 feet to my bathroom at full speed but I didn’t make it. I slammed into the door frame and threw myself back onto the carpet. Jim, who hadn’t slept a wink, was at my side in an instant. I do remember the sensation of pain from the slam but worse was the sensation that my face was covered with ants. It was completely bizarre!
  • I remember only a few details after that. I remember waking up in the car and seeing red lights. I remember Jim holding my hand and crying. I remember my deceased Mother telling me that as much as she missed me she wasn’t ready for me. I remember my children’s faces and how I wanted to see the rest of their stories firsthand. I was starting the battle of my life and I knew it.

10:00AM: Providence Hospital Emergency Room

Crazy town was knocking away and I had to answer. Nurses were running around me and  IV’s were threading into my body. There were hundreds of questions…

  • What is your name?
  • Where do you live?
  • Who brought you here?
  • Do you know what happened  to you?
  • What did you eat last?
  • What did you drink last?
  • Are you allergic to any medications?

From all directions I could hear people reassuring me.

  • Sue, don’t worry about cooking for your friends in Sunriver this weekend. They will be fine.
  • Jeff and Elaina are here.
  • Mary has been contacted and she is on her way.
  • Jim is good, he is here.
  • The dogs are OK.

5:00PM: ambulance ride to St.Vincents Hospital ICU

More questions…

  • Can you hear me?
  • Do you know why you’re here?
  • Your family is close, don’t worry
  • We will take care of you Mrs.DeMarco
  • Your OK.

I later learned that while in the ambulance my body started showing signs of a heart attack that caused more complications and a delay in the next stage of my treatment.

8PM: St. Vincents Hospital ICU

Why won’t these ants get off me? They are making me cray cray. I just need a shower and then I will be OK to go home. Right? Right? Right?

“Wrong. You won’t be going home Mrs. DeMarco.”

I was told that I had a ruptured brain artery and the blood was filling my cranium. It needed to be drained ASAP if I wanted a chance to live. They were going to insert a coil through my groin into my left brain stem to stop the bleeding. In short, blood was suffocating my brain.

“But first you MUST calm down and let us do our job.”

Oh yea? Than make these hallucinations stop!

“What hallucinations Mrs. DeMarco?”

The crazy midgets I see having sex.

“We don’t see any midgets Mrs. DeMarco.”

What the what !?!?! I’m really afraid. NO, I’m scared out of my mind. I need to let the doctors figure out what is happening. Calm down, Sue. Stop fighting. You’re scarring everyone! But they can’t figure it out and decide to bring in the regional expert, Dr. Deshmukh. Surely he will know what  to do.

June 23-24, 2011

  • Brain surgery ✔
  • Scare the crap out of loved ones ✔
  • Repeatedly tell your care givers how worthless they are ✔
  • Scream obscenities at everyone in range ✔
  • Beg your friends to let you die. Somewhere, anywhere but here, and preferably with a better view ✔

“Get her off the morphine immediately! She appears to be highly allergic and this psychosis could have long term effects.”

During these next few days following my surgery I was in the capital of ‘crazy town.’ The morphine made me go crazy. I was having hallucinations, reacted violently to nurses, said mean things to my family, had my ams and legs strapped to the bed and saw the end of my life before me. Dr. Deshmukh was concerned that my erratic behavior was raising my blood pressure which could make my brain swell.

To calm me down I was put into an induced coma.

Goodnight moon.

June 27, 2011

  • After being in an induced coma and on a feeding tube for four days I could finally eat real food.
  • Find a dinner plate that makes her happy? My son is the only one that got this request.
  • Brush her teeth and wash her hair. My daughter learned how to request (more like demand) these simply luxuries for her mother.

June 30, 2011

  • Physiatrist evaluations every 3 hours
  • More questions. Dumb questions, but I’m learning to play this game because I WANT to go home.
    • I will eat what I’m told to eat.
    • I will answers the same questions constantly.
    • I will count my fingers and toes.
    • I will recite my name and where I am, 10x a day.
    • I will play along, just as long as I get out of this hell.

July 3, 2011

  • My reality is back.
  • I hear my family speaking. And better yet, I understand  them!
  • My friends are able to start visiting inside my hospital room and I am so grateful for all the love and prayers coming at me 🙂
  • But…I can’t see anything. What is that? I thought I was good to go once I recovered from the brain surgery?

July 6, 2011

  • I’ve learned that I had a vitreous hemorrhage.
  • I learn that blood that has collected from my brain aneurism is flooding behind my eyes and caused me to lose my vision in both eyes.

“But your lucky to be alive.”

Ummmm OK. That is what everyone keeps saying to me. But now what? I can’t see?

July 9, 2011

  • Learn to walk again girl!
  • Easy  does it! I’ve been in bed a long time. Patience is required to get through this part.

July 10, 2011

  • The therapist is amazed at my mobility progress! By now I’m walking with a cane quite well. Sure, I got this. Not a problem. Piece of cake. Look out world!

July 11, 2011

I am heading home! My husband, my own bed, my own hot shower, my beloved furherd and my garden.

It’s no coincidence that this was my Mothers birthday.

Well, there you have it! I have had several surgeries to remove the blood from my eyes. All have been successful and with my new bionic eyes I can see BETTER than before and life in “Momma Sue Land” is back to normal. I’m ready to rock this MoFo! Just as soon as I get this dog off my lap ❤

Finally, I leave you with a quote from the brilliant Dr. Maya Angelou:

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope.”

Love Big everyday everybody!

Momma Sue






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