Enisa shares her story of experiencing an intracerebral hemorrhage caused by a cavernoma, and the ups and downs of her recovery process.
A little bit about Enisa
My name is Enisa Hadzovic. I live in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am a lawyer and a brain injury survivor. I suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage caused by a cavernoma.
My story started in March 2018 when I was aged 32. I woke up in the morning and I still remember the beautiful, sunny weather. I had thought about going to the mountains; however, nothing went the way I had planned. As I was trying to get out of the bed, I couldn't move my right leg. Within just a few minutes, I couldn't move my right hand either. Complete right hemiplegia, without any symptoms. Instead of going to the mountains, I was taken to a hospital where I had an urgent brain MRI that diagnosed hemorrhage caused by a cavernoma which I did not even know I had had for years. An emergency surgery followed. It was successful although, I was still paralysed and had only 5% chance of ever getting up from bed again.
My hospital recovery
I spent almost two months in hospital, where I had physio and occupational therapy. I was eager to learn, to feed myself, to get dressed, to hold a pencil and to make my first steps. As I was leaving the hospital, I was able to get up from bed by myself and move with the walking canes which was an unbelievable progress.
I was genuinely happy and grateful during my stay in hospital as I was surrounded by doctors and medical staff who empowered me with safety, especially the neurosurgeon and the physiotherapist. My biggest support for which I will be forever and endlessly grateful came from my family, friends and people who were close to me.
What I wasn’t prepared for
However, my first challenges started after I left the hospital. Without any medical support or guides, I was on my own. I was left on my own to look for ways to deal with my post trauma condition. That was when I started experiencing first typical ABI consequences such as dizziness, feeling of being overwhelmed, low energy levels, loneliness, panic attacks, social anxiety, challenges in adjusting to a new life, all of which I had no idea were to be part of brain injury recovery. It was not until 2 years later and after having completed research of my own that I came across other young survivor stories having gone through similar experiences. I felt huge relief!
The biggest challenge was going back to work after a year which I found extremely difficult. That was actually the longest adjustment phase.
I worked full time, which was a big mistake. My difficulties were: poor concentration, fatigue, and inability to complete tasks as quickly as before. As I was still using walking canes, I was having regular physiotherapy, where the exercises were quite energy draining. In that phase, I was losing my motivation, focus and I was completely discouraged. I couldn't find the balance between the old and new me, between past and new ambitions, possibilities and expectations of other people and myself.
I felt lost for a long period. I was no longer the same person I had been before. Those were the real struggles with my own self. It was a tough battle for me and for the people around me.
How I started moving forward
The recovery process and finding ways of putting myself back together took a very long time and was filled with ups and downs. There was a constant prevailing sense of fear and of feeling ashamed. What I found particularly helpful during recovery was a mix of mindfulness sessions, neurofeedback, cognitive behavioural therapy, reiki and similar techniques. Truth to be told, it took about 4 years before I started feeling like myself again. Everything before that was just a ''survival mode''. Every aspect of my life had to be questioned and analyzed because nothing was the same as it used to be. I consciously made changes in certain areas whereas in the others, where I was reluctant to accept the change, life itself did it for me.
Now, more than 5 years after the surgery, I live independently and that is my greatest victory. I have a lifestyle that suits my own energy levels. Even though I still face daily challenges like balance, mobility issues of my right foot, numbness in my leg, and high sensitivity to noise and light, I would never wish to be deprived of this experience. When I look back at what I have survived and where I am right now despite all the odds, I feel humility towards God and am grateful for the new life I was gifted.
This injury closed so many doors in my life, but the most valuable and precious ones that opened were doors of self-consciousness and faith.
Word of advice to other survivors
To all survivors who just started their rehabilitation process or are still feeling lost, I would like to say give yourself time and be gentle to yourself while going through all the changes. Look for and try out all the techniques and methods that are available to you to support your recovery. Once you realize something is not working for you and you do not see any results, change it, do not force yourself into anything. You don't have to explain yourself to anyone.
In reading other survivor’s stories, I see the power of this community. This is a way to connect and mutually help each other because, as with everything else in life, the only person who truly understands is the one who experienced the same.