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A Life-changing Fight

by Staff Writer Sheree Hoddinett

For Annie Barnett and her family, October 10, 2021 is a date they won’t forget in a hurry. It’s the night Annie could have lost her life after an aneurysm ruptured in her brain. But there was even scarier news to come, during surgery doctors discovered another four aneurysms. Unbeknownst to them, a second aneurysm would soon burst and Annie would also experience a stroke.

Annie had worked that Sunday afternoon in the deli section of Burpengary Woolworths before heading home and having an early night after feeling tired. Little did she know what would unfold in the coming hours, let alone the days and weeks that would follow.

“I woke up in the middle of the night with the most splitting headache I’ve ever had, my head was pounding,” Annie said. “I actually had no feeling in my legs, I don’t know why but I couldn’t feel my legs. So, I crawled out to the hallway and yelled out to Matthew - my younger brother - to get mum and dad.”

Annie was taken to Caboolture Hospital by ambulance and waited for a number of hours before eventually receiving a scan which revealed bleeding in her brain. She was whisked off to hospital in Brisbane where doctors first tried a treatment which involved inserting a coil through the vein in her leg. When that failed they had no choice but to do surgery and remove a piece of her skull to relieve the pressure on her brain. She now has an impressive scar, but it doesn’t belie what she’s been through.

“I was terrified, it was pretty scary,” Annie said of the experience. “I had thoughts of what is going on? This is not something you’d wish on anyone.”

“It was a very scary night,” her father Greg adds. “When you’re watching your child go through this, you just want everything to be okay.”

Finding out there’s five aneurysms in your brain would be hard for anyone to comprehend, but Annie is just 21 years old and in the midst of establishing a social media marketing business while working towards completing her university degree. Now that’s all on hold while Annie focuses on her health and recovery.

“I’m really proud of what I have achieved,” Annie said. “I’ve been in rehab and I’ve been working really hard so I’m proud of myself for being able to push through. A lot of people who have had a brain injury, they can’t walk or talk so I’m really happy that I’ve managed to get myself better.”

Annie’s parents Greg and Carol have been by their daughter’s side throughout the whole process, from the first aneurysm rupture, surgery, the second rupture and stroke, sitting by her bedside while she was in a coma and on a ventilator. Despite hearing they could very well lose their daughter, they never gave up hope.

“What we found with neurosurgeons is they’re very blunt and pessimistic,” Greg said. “The thing I found when you’re grieving you’re really looking for hope. But for 2 weeks there was just no hope. The comments were “she’s between a rock and a hard place”, another one was “we can keep your daughter alive as long as we like but she’s probably going to be brain dead”. And then “we’ve done all we can, it’s between Annie and God”. Or even “if she were your age, she’d be dead by now”.

“They try to under promise and overdeliver,” Carol adds.

While she remembers the lead up to the aneurysm exploding, there is a lot Annie doesn’t remember given what she’s been through. But none of it has stopped this bubbly young lady from keeping her positive attitude and thinking of others. While she continues her own recovery, Annie is on a mission to create more awareness.

“I just want more people out there to be aware that it can happen to anyone,” Annie said. “To pay more attention to things like headaches, especially if something doesn’t feel right.

I just want as much awareness out there as possible. One minute I was a normal 21-year-old just going about everyday life and next minute I’m having major surgery, you just never know.”

Due to the possibility of a hereditary condition causing the aneurysms, the other immediate Barnett family members have also undergone MRI scans to see whether they are at risk.

Greg and Carol, along with Greg’s mother and his 14-year-old nephew, all returned results showing they had aneurysms. Along with Annie, they will all be undergoing surgery to clip the aneurysms.

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