My 2012 A to Z Challenge words — Created by

Welcome Blogging from A to Z Challenge April 2012 friends — new and old.

My game plan for the month is to use this challenge to work on my essay and short memoir skills. I’ve noted my posts get much shorter later in the alphabet.

I wrote my first memoir in the second grade A Book About Me. Years later as a journalist, I shared other people’s stories in newspapers and shared some of my own in a weekly column. This month, I’ll share an A to Z story including bits and pieces of my life — some light and some a little heavy.

A is for aneurysm

In another life …

I’ve used this phrase a lot over the last six years. It’s my short-hand to say, “Something happened. Now it’s different.”

When the neurologist sketched those first black and white lines on a piece of paper to describe the cause of Jimmy’s headaches, I didn’t understand how a quarter-sized balloon in an artery would change my life and especially his.

The defect — the weakened wall — in the artery caused the blood to swirl around creating headaches and high blood pressure. The balloon and another artery defect created a difficult situation to address, but the doctors were hopeful.

My sister worked as a photographer at a state crime lab. The dead doctors, as she called them, said Jimmy was lucky. “Most people don’t know they have an aneurysm at all,” a doctor said. “It’s discovered in the autopsy.”

The doctors successfully added a stent and titanium coils to stabilize Jimmy’s aneurysm, but he never returned home. He never spoke another word out loud, ate a Burger King meal or walked another step. The procedure caused a brain stem stroke, which left him mute and completely paralyzed.

Months later, Jimmy moved his right, middle finger. Some people use that finger to shoot birds at people in anger. He couldn’t. I barely saw his finger move. A flat, switch Velcroed to a plastic brace strapped to his arm detected his light touch and triggered the nurse’s call light in ICUs, hospitals and nursing homes. This slight movement saved his life on multiple occasions.

People prayed for Jimmy’s healing — specifically that he would walk and talk again. I hated to see their disappointment as years passed, but tried to explain that his ability to move his finger, blink and smile were the answer to their prayers. Some couldn’t see this answer.

Four years later on the anniversary of his stroke, I stood next to Jimmy’s flag-draped coffin greeting friends, relatives and strangers.

Jimmy and me before a special event at the nursing home.