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Pam Tschida: Transformed by Six Little Words

Posted: April 05, 2017

By Pam Tschida

Pam Tschida.jpg

My phone rang. It was my physician. It was 9 o’clock PM. “This can’t be good” ran through my mind. After answering and exchanging pleasantries, I heard just six little words: “I think I see an aneurysm.” These six words would begin a new transformation of my faith.

I am the Program Coordinator at Shepherd of the Valley for children in preschool and kindergarten. I have the great joy to be one of the first people to teach these little ones about Jesus. I had been asked to be a part of the Transform Leadership Team along with several SOTV members, a council member, and a few other staff members. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to contribute to this new venture. I didn’t know I would soon have a transformation experience of my own.  

I had gone to the doctor for something I considered a nuisance, but wanted an answer for. When nothing could be found to explain my nuisance, I was sent for an MRI of my brain. “No big deal,” I thought. I’ll get through this and finally have an answer.

Off I went to St. Paul Radiology. I laid down on a table for a couple of hours while loud banging noises went on all around me. Once the procedure was finished, I put it out of my mind for a while. Then I heard those six little words.

There were more tests with loud banging noises. This time they injected some sort of dye into me so they could see things better. I wondered if it made me glow in the dark.

As “Luck” Would Have It…

Two weeks later, I went for my follow up appointment.

“There it is,” stated my physician. I honestly couldn’t see anything so I had to take his word for it. “You are very lucky. This was found by accident and can be treated.” The word “lucky” was not currently running through my mind. This was scary, not lucky. You see, my father, my grandfather, and the mother of my daughter had all died young from ruptured brain aneurysms. I knew what happened when they ruptured.

“I want you to see a brain surgeon,” the doctor said. “A brain surgeon?” I thought, “Why do I need to see a surgeon? You just said it was small…”

Two weeks later I met with the surgeon. I was convinced he would tell me exactly what I should do in my situation. I was wrong.

The surgeon went through all the facts and logistics including risks of surgery and chances of rupture if surgery did not take place. Once he finished, I sat there and blankly stared at him. Wasn’t he supposed to tell me what to do? Isn’t that why I was here? My husband broke the silence by asking the surgeon how he would determine if surgery was the right option.

 “First we look at the family history,” he said. Strike one.

“Second, we look at the age and health of the patient.” Strike two. (I’m young and healthy).

“If you are considering surgery, the first thing you’d have to do is have an angiogram.” More tests.

“Fine,” I told the surgeon and my husband. I would do the angiogram and then decide what to do.

Weighing My Options

While I awaited my angiogram, I continued to research my options. Who was I kidding? I had already done my research and knew my options. First, I could wait and “see if it changes.” Second, I could have brain surgery to clip off the aneurysm. Third, I could have a less invasive coiling procedure. I continued to read everything I could find about my situation until the day of the angiogram. I’d scheduled it for Maundy Thursday so I would have a few days of recovery time without telling anyone. I am a very private person and didn’t want to share my information if I didn’t have to.

I arrived for my procedure. I was brought into a private pre-op room where I was poked and prodded for a while. Then it was go time. I was brought down to a radiology suite where I was given a cute blue “lunch lady” hat. I lay on a table where I was given relaxing medication and an hour later, my procedure was done. The radiologist went out to see my family. My lunch lady hat was removed and my nurse started moving my bed out for the next phase of my test—rest and lots of it.

“Wait!” I said, startling everyone. “First you take my lunch lady hat and now I don’t even get to see the pictures you took?” There was complete silence in the room.

My nurse looked at a coworker and said “I think we need to find those pictures!” I waited a few minutes, and lo and behold there it was. Live on the big screen there was a bubble sticking out from 3D versions of my arteries. “Interesting,” I thought. “Now what do I do?”

The radiologist talked with my family and told them that he’d recommend open surgery. In other words, cut open my head and fix it. This news freaked out my family while I lay flat on a hospital bed for the next six hours. As I was being discharged, I finally asked if anyone was going to talk to me, the patient, about the results. I was told I wouldn’t be able to completely comprehend the information while I still had the medication in my system (They don’t know me very well). So I went home and further researched why an open procedure would be recommended over the less invasive coiling procedure. After a couple of hours, I had my answer. Now I had a very tough decision to make.

A Gift from God

My husband and I talked at length about my impending decision. If I waited and “watched it,” not only would I wonder if it was my time, but my husband would be constantly stressed out as well. We discussed the fact that, with my family history, I had been given a gift. A gift others in my family had not been given. My father, my grandfather, and the mother of my daughter were not given the chance to know about their aneurysm, let alone do anything about it.

I decided that God wanted me to know about this. He must have plans for me.

After asking a bazillion questions of my surgeon, I was given a date. April 25, 2016. That would be the date where I either met God or continued on to teach his Word to our youngest GodZone students.

I informed SOTV that I needed a leave of absence and I got to work. I had to plan the rest of the GodZone year and a mini-camp. I worked and worked to have everything in place before my leave. If all went as planned, I would only miss work for a little while. Finally, everything was planned, the automatic replies were turned on my e-mail, and my outgoing voice messages had been changed. It was time.

I had been speaking with God incessantly for weeks and felt an incredible peace with my decision. It was an overwhelming sense of peace that I had never experienced before in my life. Other people in my life were having a hard time, and some of them cried when they saw me one last time before surgery. Others sent me text messages during the night before I was to have surgery, explaining that “since I probably wasn’t sleeping,” they would send positive vibes my way. (I was sound asleep by the way). I explained to my friends that I was given a gift and I wanted everyone to feel the same way. Again, I felt so peaceful about my decision. I had told God that even though I wasn’t ready to meet him, I would understand if he felt it was my time. All I asked God was that he would take care of my family.

I entered the hospital at 9:30 am on the 25th of April. Two and a half hours later, I was wheeled down to the operating room. I scooted onto the operating table, and that’s the last thing I remember.

The Way Back Home

Five hours later, I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit. It seemed as if the room was full of people all talking at once. My right ear was experiencing some temporary hearing loss so everything was muffled. My right eye was black and blue, and swollen shut. There was so much talking. Were they talking to me?

“She’s waking up. How do you feel? Look at these beautiful flowers. Are you okay?”The last statement was because of the look of horror in which I am sure was on my face. I was nauseous. I was scared. The nausea kicked in, and as my husband was helping me, I looked at him with all seriousness and said, “I’ve changed my mind. I want to go home.”

I spent two and a half days in the ICU. Some of the meds I was given had awful side effects, which were luckily only temporary. On day five, they sent me home. Was I ready? Probably not, but I figured at least I could get some sleep (something you don’t get enough of in a hospital).

The recovery had begun and I was well on my way back to normal (whatever that is). I was getting stronger every day and I could finally open my right eye and see. I had a crown of staples on my head that so far could be covered with my remaining hair. I was having trouble eating because my surgeon cut the muscles to the right side of my jaw and I couldn’t open it very far, let alone chew anything. I was gumming everything…good practice for when I got older.

Eight weeks after my procedure, a former co-worker of mine found himself in the emergency room with his wife who had just suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. His wife and I are the same age. I had been given a gift.

Transformation in Your Life

God took care of me and I know now that he always will. I thank him every day that I am still here. Please know that you too can be transformed by the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you’ve made it this far in my story, thank you for sharing this journey with me. It wasn’t easy to put this experience into words, especially since I did not want people to feel sorry for me.

Instead, I hope by reading my story, you will find some peace and comfort for your own journey, wherever it leads. My wish is that you or your loved ones will never have to go through an ordeal like mine. Luckily, you don’t need to have brain surgery for God to enter in and change your life for the better. It can happen any day, and at any time. It could start with just six little words.