“Life is Beautiful” is one of our all-time favorite movies from director Roberto Benigni. It is an unforgettable fable that proves love, family and determination conquer all. I think the reason we love the movie so much is because it ironically reminds us of our own lives. We are the Plumridges – Geoff, Michelle, Samantha and Michael.
On October 15, 1995 we were making final plans for our wedding which was scheduled for November 4th. After driving home 500 miles from Minnesota, Geoff (then 24 years old) complained of the worst headache he ever had and subsequently loss of consciousness. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and a CT scan, followed by an angiogram provided grim news that Geoff had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, survival of this injury is rare and full recovery unlikely. At the time, statistics suggested that of 100 victims, 50 would die before reaching the hospital, 25 would die before or during surgery, 12 would die following surgery and 6 would suffer permanent disability. So in other words, odds were not in his favor. He had an operation on October 17th in an all-day surgery. A craniotomy was performed and a portion of the skull was removed. His brain was literally moved to provide access to the ruptured aneurysm and two “clothespin” like clips were applied to the artery. Following surgery he was in the ICU. While there, his intracranial pressure jumped due to brain swelling. He was given final rites of the Church and we began to try to deal with the likelihood of preparing for a funeral instead of a wedding.
It was determined that due to the surgery, Geoff now had epilepsy. Anti-seizure medications were initiated and he began to wake up and his brain swelling diminished. He had months of rehabilitation, learning simple things like walking and counting change. You can only imagine how difficult this change was for a vibrant 24 year old. Over the years Geoff has had episodes of “auras” or “simple partial seizures” despite being on oppressively expensive anti-seizure regimen. In 2008 Geoff underwent a cerebral angiogram which unfortunately showed he had 2 additional aneurysms in his brain. The location of the aneurysms was labeled as “fascinating” by the neurointerventionist at Froedtert because he had never seen one in this particular location. While they are not an immediate risk due to their size, they must be monitored regularly to track any changes.
Samantha will be 7 this year and Michael will be 6. While I was pregnant with Michael, my water broke at 21 weeks. I was hospitalized for 3 months and Michael was born a month early. He had serious breathing issues, including a collapsed lung that occurred during resuscitation efforts. He spent 60 days in the Children’s Hospital NICU learning how to breathe and eat on his own. He still has breathing difficulties when the weather is extremely hot or cold, or when the air quality is poor and he has learned that his playtime is sometimes compromised because of this. He still loves playing with his Hot Wheels (and fighting) with his sister like any normal 6 year old boy.
In June 2008, our little Samantha was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She is a trooper taking 4 to 5 insulin shots a day and receiving four finger pricks per day to check her sugar. It turned out to be a blessing of sorts that Geoff also has Type 1 diabetes (he was diagnosed at age 2). This way, Samantha was used to seeing Daddy take shots and check his blood sugars. It will be a purely magical day when they discover a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Most people think, “Oh well, they can just take insulin to control blood sugars” – but it’s so much more than that. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death, the number one cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74, the primary cause of kidney failure and is responsible for 60% of non-traumatic amputations. It creates a need for a whole way of living, including monitoring foods and exercise. Samantha will be starting 2nd grade this fall and she is so good when it comes to eating “snacks” that her fellow classmates bring in for their birthday treats. Sometimes she amazes us with her maturity level, deciding to only eat half of the 3 inch thick sugar coated cookie with sprinkles instead of the eating entire thing, or even better, having her teacher check her blood sugar before biting into it.
In addition to these extraordinary challenges, we’ve had many ups and downs just like any other family. We have an incredible support system with loving family and friends and our faith in God. We don’t know what’s in our future but we do know that medical bills including co-pays for diabetic maintenance drugs and Geoff’s regular CT scans will continue to mount. We cannot do this alone and would appreciate your help. One day, they WILL find a cure for Type 1 diabetes and Samantha will be able to eat that entire cookie without worry; wouldn’t it be great to say that you were part of this cure? Our family is very thankful for your time in reading our story and any donation, great or small is greatly appreciated!