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Back from the Brink

On the evening of November 8, 2018, Arlene Lorenz thought she was having the worst headache of her life. She’d had a stressful day taking her dad to the Ben & Carmela Du Emergency Pavilion at Hoag Hospital Irvine and then running errands late into the night with her two daughters.

“I’ve been having a headache all day long,” she remembers telling her husband, Chris. As she tried to explain, her head hurt so bad that she slumped into a crouch. He encouraged her to go to the emergency room. She tried to relax, but the searing pain brought her to her knees. “It felt like fireworks would explode and travel from one part of my head to the other,” she says.

Chris rushed her to Hoag. Although they lived closer to another hospital, Arlene insisted they go to the Du Emergency Pavilion at Hoag Hospital Irvine. Her CT scan showed that she suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm. She was transported to Hoag Hospital Newport Beach, where a neurosurgical team performed the endovascular coiling procedure that saved her life.

But Arlene wasn’t out of the woods just yet.

Family and friends came to her aid, visiting, delivering meals to her home and helping to care for her daughters, Chloe and Camille.

Her brain was showing moderate to severe vasospasms, an indicator of stroke. She spent 18 days in the intensive care unit under the close watch of her care team.

“Cognitively, I was doing fine, and I was able to answer the neuro-check questions,” she says. But the vasospasms were not going away, and she underwent a second procedure.

Arlene remembers one doctor visited and said she was an enigma. Although she was still demonstrating vasospasms, her motor and cognitive functions were normal.

Back to Life

Arlene gives a great deal of credit for her miraculous recovery to her ICU and brain & spine nurses. “I really felt positive in the ICU,” she says. “The people had good energy, so it made me feel that I’d be okay.”

After her discharge, she underwent months of occupational therapy.

Arlene and Chris recently threw a gratitude party for family, friends and colleagues. “They were my village, and were  so supportive of my husband and kids,” she says. “They really made the transition much easier.”

Her guest of honor was Anne Cummings, RN, BSN, a Hoag nurse who got Arlene through some tough times with her great attitude and support.

“It is an honor, to be alive and sit before you today, to share my story,” she says. “I am eternally grateful for the effective surgical skills of Dr. Christopher Baker, the attentiveness of my neuro ICU team, my rehab therapists and my loving ‘village.’ Without them, I would not have experienced a remarkable recovery rate that has allowed me this second chance at life.”

 

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