Husband and wife duo, Andy and Donna Fierlit, are enthusiastic world travelers.  But they have different perspectives: Donna sees the world entirely from her wheelchair, while devoted husband Andy stands tall by her side.  Donna suffered a brain aneurysm 27 years ago and is now paralyzed on one side of her body.  Andy, acting on a promise that the two “would go on to work out as best life as possible” (1), was determined to show his wife, Donna the world.

Following the aneurysm, doctors urged that Donna be placed in a nursing home.  Andy refused to even consider that idea, saying, “Not gonna happen”(1).  Despite the challenges, the two are determined to live a full and normal life, which of course includes traveling the world over.

Off To See The World: Traveling After a Brain Aneurysm

Husband and wife-sights of the world-statue of liberty-Eiffel tower-Leaning tower of Pisa-around the globe

On their maiden voyage, the husband and wife set sail on a cruise to Bermuda.  This expedition started a wave of journeys, filled with adventure and lifelong memories.  Since Bermuda, Donna and Andy’s travels have spanned all 7 continents and 20 countries, all while showing no signs of slowing down!

Traveling the world comes with worldly obstacles, of course.  In Europe, trains didn’t always accommodate Donna’s wheelchair.  No problem, Donna was happy to ride in the cargo area.  How to deplane at an Australian airport with no ramps?  Forklift!

Andy and Donna’s Special Love Story

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58 years ago, at a church dance, Andy asked Donna for a stick of gum and Donna told him to “Get lost” (1).  How’s that for tugging at your heartstrings?  Andy, before long, won Donna over and the teenagers became high-school sweethearts.  Donna and Andy wed in 1966, they would go on to have 4 children and 12 grandchildren.

The two have faced their fair share of challenges over the years.  To get by, they rely on each other and a combined sense of levity.  A prime example is the name given to Donna’s wheelchair, “Proud Mary” (1).  Why Proud Mary?  “Because she keeps on rolling, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part” (1).

Their Secret To Love

There is no shortage of love between Donna and Andy.  So, what’s their secret?  According to Andy, “love is something you have to work at,…it has to be part of you, you don’t spray it on you like a cologne”.  Apparently, this also includes that extra spray for good luck.

What The Husband And Wife Are Up To Now

Today, Donna struggles with short-term memory loss, while Andy aids with daily tasks.  Still remaining on their to-do list?  A little trip to Scandinavia.  Despite already dipping into their savings, the couple believes through generosity and “taking one day at a time”, (1) they can cross Scandinavia off the list, among other things.

Truly an inspiring story of love, human will and defying adversity.  When life hits with unforeseen hurdles, do as Andy says, “live on and enjoy life”.

Understanding Donna’s Condition: What is a Brain Aneurysm?

A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain.  An aneurysm can look like a berry hanging on a stem. A brain aneurysm can leak or rupture, causing bleeding into the brain, known as a hemorrhagic stroke. A ruptured aneurysm quickly becomes life-threatening and requires immediate medical treatment.

Most brain aneurysms don’t rupture, in which case no symptoms or health problems are present.  Treatment for unruptured brain aneurysms does occur, and may be necessary to prevent future aneurysms.  Aneurysms are often detected during tests for other conditions (2).

Ruptured Aneurysms

Severe headaches are a key symptom in ruptured brain aneurysms.  Additional signs and symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include the following (2),

  • Sudden, extremely severe headache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • A drooping eyelid.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Unruptured Aneurysms

An unruptured brain aneurysm may produce no symptoms.  However, a large unruptured aneurysm may press on brain tissues and nerves, potentially causing the following symptoms (2),

  • Pain above and behind one eye.
  • A dilated pupil.
  • Change in vision or double vision.
  • Numbness of one side of the face.

If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to raise your concerns with your medical care provider.

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