Essay from McKenzie Snyder

The Ticking Bomb

For my whole life, my dad was the strongest, smartest man I ever knew. He stood at an average height of 5’8″ and his hair is pin straight and thin , except for the bald, shiny spot at the top of his aging head. He wore vibrant, multicolored button down dress shirts, accompanied with old tattered navy blue jeans and steel-toed boots everyday. I can still hear his deep, scratchy voice as he walks in the room and says, “Mac, I’m home!” My dad never cried except at my grandfather’s funeral, where I promised him I would never lay a hand on a cigarette for as long as I live. His words are forever embedded in my mind like a megaphone blaring in an ear each time temptation is around me. He started working at the age of nine as a paperboy in Knoxville, Tennessee and since that day, never stopped.

He was fine. He told me that when his frail body limped up the stairs to his queen size bed. He walked at a slow pace, than descended into the bed like his limbs had decided to all break at once. That was the last time I saw my dad as my dad.

Only 6% of U.S. citizens develop a brain aneurysm in their lifetime. An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge on the vessel that swells and blows up much like a balloon. Aneurysms in the brain or brainstem are very risky to operate on, so they tend to be inoperable. Its like having a ticking bomb sitting there, taunting you, and picking at you, trying to get you riled up so it can burst and cause the final blow. It’s a death sentence without the ending date.

It came out of nowhere. One night the house is calm and ordinary, and the next sirens are booming in the distance, gradually coming closer. The stretcher is wheeled out of the frantic ambulance, quick movements, much too fast to take in the moment. They find my dad in full blown sweats, water dripping down his face as his left arm hangs numb and words come out in slurs, as if he had just finished a whole bottle of whiskey.  His mouth tries desperately to signal to his brain what he wants to say, but his brain denies him. Betrays him. The strongest man I ever knew is lying weak, damaged and disabled.

Aneurysms can cause strokes if not monitored closely. They can crush your life with a simple burst in a matter of seconds, and leave you lifeless. Along with the death sentence, they can cause severe damage to your brain. My dad lost his emotions. The caring, compassionate, empathetic father I grew up and always knew was gone. When I had a horrific day at school, tears drizzling down my puffy, rosy cheeks as I vented to my father, he sat, stone cold staring at me, not knowing how to react. If you looked at a transparent black and white brain MRI scan, you would see the bright perfectly sketched smudge where this ticking bomb robbed my dad.

The hard truth about aneurysms is they are cold, calculating robbers that strike and steal bits and pieces of your life that damage more than just the victim of the blow.  The survival rate of a person who has this unfortunate ticking bomb is 60% if it ruptures. Although this calculating, sinister, ticking bomb did not leave my dad in the 40% category, it killed parts of him that weren’t ready to go. Although my father is alive, heart beating, and vibrant as ever, he’s not the same person as before the aneurysm came knocking on his door.