Lockport woman, brain aneurysm survivor, pays it forward
BY DENISE M. BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent September 4, 2013 2:12PM
Brain aneurysm survivor Maria Micheletto of Lockport is now a nurse at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet and a supporter of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, which is hosting a fundraiser Sept. 13. | Supplied photo
If you go
What: Fourth annual “Survivor in the City” Cocktail Party
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 13
Where: Maggiano’s Little Italy, 516 N. Clark St., Chicago
Etc: Cocktail party, silent auction and cookbook launch to help raise funds to increase brain aneurysm awareness and fund research to reduce the incidence of brain aneurysm ruptures. Guest speaker is former Chicago Bulls star Bob Love, who lost his close friend and teammate Bob Boozer to a brain aneurysm two years ago.
Cost: $40; includes two drinks and an appetizer.
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:09PM
Few patients in the neuro step-down unit at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet know that one of their nurses, Maria Micheletto of Lockport, once was one of them.
Nearly seven years ago, an aneurysm spontaneously burst inside Micheletto’s brain. The pain was sudden and explosive. The experience temporarily paralyzed her.
But it was the compassionate care Micheletto, a former dental hygienist, received in the intensive care unit at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System in Chicago that motivated her recovery and gave her a goal: study nursing at Joliet Junior College and dedicate her life to patients as a neuroscience nurse.
That dream is now materializing.
Micheletto, a JJC graduate, has been working as a nurse for 14 months. Six weeks ago, she left the hospital’s cardiac telemetry floor for her current position. Eventually, she’d like to become stroke-certified by the National Institute of Health and move into the hospital’s neuro intensive care unit.
“Nursing is the best job ever,” Micheletto said. “I love going to work and meeting people. I want to change their perception of being in the hospital. Because many of them have lost control of everything, I try to give their care a personal spin.”
When the aneurysm burst, Micheletto’s 18-month-old daughter was sleeping. Micheletto dragged herself to the phone to call 911 and spent several hours convincing doctors she did not suffer from migraines.
A CT scan found the rupture and a coil was inserted to block it. It took six months for Micheletto to recover physically. Mental and emotional healing progressed more slowly. Micheletto searched for logical reasons why this happened to her. She found none.
“Women suffer from brain aneurysms more than men,” Micheletto said, “and when it happens, we’re often in our late 30s and early 40s and basically healthy.”
Micheletto sought out a support group for brain aneurysm survivors. None existed nearby until the following year. Another survivor began a chapter of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation through the department of neurosurgery at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.
It was with relief that Micheletto attended those meetings, to listen, share and learn.
“I am extremely fortunate,” Micheletto said. “I have no deficits. A lot of the people at those meetings are not as lucky. I thank God every day for my second chance, and every day I try to pay it forward.”
Although working nights means Micheletto can no longer attend those meetings, she can and does support other foundation events, such as the Sept. 13 “Survivor in the City” cocktail party and book launch for its new fundraising cookbook.
Eventually, Micheletto would like to earn a bachelor of science degree and then possibly work as a nurse educator. For now, she is concentrating on giving her patients the very best care.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Micheletto said. “It’s physically demanding and mentally exhausting but so rewarding. Nurses have to double- and triple-check everything because they have someone’s life in their hands. If they make a mistake, it will impact that person forever.”