Peter Broderick remembers more than his wife, Maureen McCool, does about those moments. They both remember Maureen’s faint call of “Hello?” and then “Help.”
“I did all that I could to yell, and it seemed like a whisper,” Maureen said. “I did catch his attention, and he came up and got me. And then I don’t remember anything.”
That was eight years ago, and Maureen had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. Now 56, she’ll be competing this Sunday in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., as one of the Medtronic Global Heroes.
“The prognosis was gruesome,” Peter said, “and she’s just beaten all the odds — which doesn’t surprise me, because that’s what impressed me about her. I’ve seen her in some rough spots, and if there’s anybody who’s not going to quit, it’ll be Maureen.”
According to the Global Heroes website, “The Global Heroes program recognizes runners from around the world who have a medical device to treat conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain and spinal and neurological disorders.”
Maureen never qualified for this or even ran long distances. She loved to hike and still does. She and Peter would go bushwhacking, and for a while during their courtship, the only photo Peter had of Maureen was one where she had a black eye, from a branch flying back into her face.
Maureen moved to Farmington in 1999, working in database development. The only warning sign was a piece of paper she had in a drawer, charting her headaches over two weeks.
On Sept. 10, 2005, both Peter and Maureen were working at their home in Farmington. Peter was in the shop and Maureen was doing yardwork when she realized something was wrong. Suddenly unable to walk or shout, she had to figure out how to get Peter’s attention.
“I was weeding,” she said. “There’s a retaining wall and then a garage door down below. I remember doing that crab walk you learned in third-grade gym across the yard. That’s the only way I could get across.”
“So ran I up there,” Peter said, “and she had crawled from there down to where I could hear her. I started asking her questions and I think she vomited. I could see things were just — her eyes were crossed. I said, ‘I’ll get you in the car.’ “
On the drive, Maureen vomited again and began having a seizure. Peter pulled over at a gas station and asked for help and for someone to call 911. Peter remembers rescue arriving and taking Maureen to the hospital. After a few hours, he said, they decided to LifeFlight her to Portland.
Peter wasn’t allowed on the helicopter, so he drove there himself. Because Maureen had to land at the Jetport first — and because Peter was driving so frantically — he arrived at the hospital before they did.
“I didn’t get a speeding ticket,” Peter said, “but if they were there, they would have given me one.”
Maureen knows the numbers now — that one in 50 people have an aneurysm, and that of the people who have a ruptured aneurysm, only 6.5 percent recover enough to live independently.
Yet at that time, the focus was on survival. Maureen was on and off a respirator, Peter said, because there were complications whenever doctors tried to take her off the respirator.
“I was one of those people, ‘Should you take them off life support?’ ” Maureen said.
“I um… I thought she was gone,” Peter said, his voice breaking and eyes watering at the memory. “We hadn’t been dating that long, but I was married in the past, and that didn’t work out. I thought I found the woman I want to be with, and it looked like I was going to lose her, right off the bat.”
“Your cerebral fluid travels through your spine, but mine couldn’t,” Maureen said. “They kept trying to get it to do it normally, so after week five or six, they put a shunt into my head. Then I started to remember. I had water on the brain.”
Given the ending to this story, Peter and Maureen can joke about the lighter moments in this nightmare. When Peter originally rushed Maureen into his car, he hadn’t thought to grab his wallet. So he bargained with a gas station to let him fill his tank on the condition he return and pay later. Of course, Peter ended up in the hospital with Maureen, and a person at the station called him after many days and threatened to call the police.
Then there was Maureen’s state when she was able to talk and remember again. Not realizing she was in a hospital, Maureen kept seeing nurses walk by. In an effort to convince everyone and herself that she was fine, Maureen would claim that she recognized the nurse — who was of course a stranger — as an acquaintance from somewhere.
But there was still a long road for Maureen. She was disheartened by how little she could do, and at one point, just wanting to do something, anything, she climbed a flight of stairs with great effort. She vividly remembers getting a 23-minute lecture about that afterward from a worker at the rehab center.
“In that rehab place, my roommate was a vegetable,” Maureen said. “I don’t know if she had an aneurysm, but something (happened) at childbirth. Her husband would bring the child in. I just didn’t know if I was destined to be there. I was just really determined that I wasn’t going to be where she was.”
Maureen was back working by the end of the year, and in 2006 a co-worker named Beth Allen asked her if she wanted to try running the Jingle Bell Run in Freeport.
“She’s an experienced marathon runner,” Maureen said, “I thought ‘Freeport?ea level?ust be flat?K.’ And it was hilly. I had to pull my leg across the finish. I had gained a lot of mobility, but I still had some paralysis. In training for that 5K, I had seen how much I progressed.”
Maureen felt good enough to enter a half marathon in Bar Harbor in 2008, just three years after her ruptured aneurysm.
“I don’t remember the course one bit, but I do remember Peter was on a bicycle and popping in and out of the woods, cheering me on,” Maureen said. “That’s all I remember — and that I finished. I was pleased with that. I was THRILLED with that.”
Maureen still has some reminders of her aneurysm. She has trouble with logistics, which was never the case before. She’s also less inhibited, less judgmental. Her main goals this weekend are that she beat her time in her previous marathon and that her running partner has a good time.
“She’s working very hard for it, and it’s not easy,” Peter said. “But like I said, she’s not going to stop. She may not run the whole thing, but she’ll be at the finish line.”
Maureen heard this and corrected her husband, very softly, “I’m going to run the whole thing.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243