The morning of Sunday March 24th, 2019 was supposed to be a normal day for our family. My husband Erik was supposed to fly out for a work conference that afternoon. Our plan was to sleep in, wake up, and then have a big breakfast with the kids.
Around 5 am I woke up to the sound of Erik fumbling with an Aleve bottle. When I asked him if he was ok he said, “Something isn’t right. I have a massive headache, I’m dizzy, I’m sweating, and I’m scared.” That’s when I sat up, turned on the light and started to ask him all of the clinical questions. “Where is the head pain? Does it feel the same it does when you have headaches? Can you say your name, what’s the day, what year is this, and the list goes on.
He proceeded to stand up to walk towards the bathroom, and fell over into our laundry basket and on to the floor. That’s when I knew this was not good. I called 911 and by the time the paramedics arrived he was no longer able to speak. My professional background is in occupational therapy, so my head started spinning as I drove to the hospital. When I arrived, the ER doctor was on the phone, the flight for life pilot was in the room, and written on the board was “ruptured brain aneurysm,” airlift to Swedish neuro ICU. My husband had just had a massive brain bleed, a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
The next two weeks was a journey that played out in the form of a 4 Act play and Act 1, the exposition, where the audience learns the setting, had just happened. Act 2, the rising action led to a repair of his aneurysm that lead to some complications, and then recovery, which I knew was going to be a long haul.
The most traumatizing part of this plot was that my husband and I were suddenly absent from our children’s daily routine. Erik and I were both self-employed at the time so one of us was always involved in their routine everyday, from sunrise to sundown. By Tuesday of that week, my daughter had already written a poem about missing her Dad. That poem turned out to be a sign of what was to come.
Act 3 led to some days of peace and stability while Erik remained unconscious in the ICU. My faith carried me through those days and that is around the time the community really started reaching out. The principal at my daughter’s school asked if she could send out a letter to the staff and community informing them of our situation so they could support us. That is when Devo reached out to me, shared his story, and connected me to the Jamie Beck Family Foundation.
Within a few days, we received a very generous check from the foundation that gave me peace that the financial burden of not working was not going to be an issue while my husband was fighting for his life. I was able to be by his side that entire time and not worry about how I was going to pay bills in the upcoming months.
In addition to the financial support from the foundation, I was grateful to know that I was not alone in this journey. Devo’s willingness to share his story and coach me through all of the initial stages of this journey was a huge blessing. When I had my crazy moments, I knew it was normal because he had been through it too. This is a unique journey and if you haven’t been through it, it’s hard to know what to say or do sometimes.
Act 4 ended on April 5, 2019 when my husband Erik Troy Challeen went to heaven. He would’ve been 45 on May 15, just a couple months away, and on December 19th of this year we would’ve been married 15 years.
The stint that was placed to repair the ruptured aneurysm had clotted and caused him to have a massive stroke. I am so grateful for those two weeks that I had with him. Even though he was in a coma, he knew I was by his side the entire time. There were brief moments when he squeezed my hand and tried to communicate with me during those two weeks.
Anneka, Rho, and I have continued to rely on our strong foundation of faith, and the amazing support from family, friends, old and new, and even those we don’t know or haven’t met. Community is such an important part of this journey through life, especially when tragedy hits a family.
I remember Devin Beck explaining to me that the grief comes in the form of tsunami waves and boy, he nailed it with that description of what our journey has been. He also said, keep the kids busy and that will help you through those lonely moments. He nailed that too, but I didn’t realize how exhausting that would be. We have spent the summer taking things one day at a time and staying busy, playing, and moving forward with this new normal. We are not moving on, we are moving forward.
My husband Erik was an amazing husband, father, son, and friend. He fiercly loved God, his family, and was passionate about everything he did. We will never understand why it was time for him to leave us. My children and I have comfort knowing he is in a better place with his parents and that someday we will be with him too. Our job down here isn’t done because we have to carry out his legacy and share the love that he gave us, to everyone else who is placed in our path through the rest of our life journey,.
As we move on from today, I would like to encourage all of you to continue to support the Jamie Beck Family Foundation, as well as any needs within your own community. Since day 1 of our journey, I have heard of three other families in our community alone, affected by brain aneurysms. It is unfortunately happening everyday, and it is sudden and traumatic.
We wouldn’t see the smiles on my children’s faces that we see today if it wasn’t for not only our faith, but the support of our community, and the Jamie Beck Family Foundation. That support continues to help us find joy and peace as we treasure our time together and carry out my husband’s legacy.
Many blessings to all of you and thank you for supporting all of us.
~ Melissa Challeen