Portrait: Sake

At the age of 15, I experienced a life-threatening aneurysm while go-karting.

A little bit about Sake

Sake_op_bed_op_de_IC_3_(1).jpegAt the age of 15, I experienced a life-threatening aneurysm while go-karting. As a result, I was rushed to the hospital and required immediate surgery to clip the aneurysm. Following the surgery, I suffered severe vascular spasms, which left my left side paralyzed and affected my ability to speak. After spending six weeks in the hospital, I was finally allowed to return home. 

Outpatient rehabilitation

Once back home, the rehabilitation process began. I was picked up daily by a taxi and entered the rehabilitation program. Various tests were conducted, and a plan was devised based on the results. This initial rehabilitation phase was relatively short-lived. However, I soon realized that I wasn't feeling well and wanted to continue my rehabilitation. This extended from 2006 until February 2011, during which I went on and off the rehabilitation path. 

I felt unsupported and faced a great deal of confusion, including difficulties with the insurance company regarding taxi expenses.

What was missing from my recovery 

Experts told me that after six months, no further improvements would occur, and I would have to learn to live with the residual effects and limitations. During the rehabilitation, there was a lack of clarity and what seemed to be a vague plan. I remember being asked to fry an egg to assess my multitasking abilities, which I managed relatively well, marking the completion of that part of the rehabilitation process.

I also had sessions with a psychologist who, after a few meetings, suggested I could become a bank director, even though I had been fully disabled at the age of 18. Tests had also indicated a low IQ, but we never worked on improving it. Additionally, I missed having a proper nutrition and training regimen during rehabilitation, which is crucial for both physical and mental well-being.

Becoming my own advocate 

In February 2011, after several unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I joined a local gym where a very friendly fitness instructor helped me become physically stronger. Ultimately, I found myself spending 4 to 5 days a week in the gym and following a diet to improve both my fitness and strength. In 2014, I felt strong enough to return to school. I started studying marketing & communications and had to complete a year-long full-time internship at the football club SC Cambuur in Leeuwarden. This went well, and it was the first time I could work full-time without needing an afternoon nap.

After obtaining my diploma in Marketing & Communications in 2018, I yearned for more, so I started the HBO Bachelor's program in Commercial Economics in 2019. I even completed this program in just three years, and in September 2023, I started the Master of Science in Econometrics & Operations Research at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. I only experience residual symptoms, when I am getting tired. Those typically are speech difficulties, memory loss, and paralysis.

I try to prevent this as much as possible by continually developing myself both physically and mentally.

IMG_7165_(1).jpegI achieve this through Crossfit and reading books, which is essential for my studies. I also enjoy reading books in my free time. Books like "Limitless" by Jim Kwik, "Think like a monk" by Jay Shetty, and "Greenlights" by Matthew McConaughey, for example, have been incredibly helpful in my personal development.

My advice to other survivors 

There wasn't really a specific aspect that helped me during the time of my brain aneurysm, as I was only 15. However, looking back on my rehabilitation period, I realize that it was very helpful for me to strive to become a better version of myself every day and celebrate every small milestone/ achievement. So I guess my advice is for you to take time to celebrate all your small wins as they add up to bigger milestones.

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