Marisa's Battle Against Brain Injury

"Un passo alla volta"

In Italian that means one step at a time. That is the doctrine of which my family and I have been living under for the past 6 months.
My mother, Marisa immigrated to America when she was a child alongside her two sisters and parents. In a foreign country with a new language she blossomed into a beautiful, indescribably strong and dignified woman who against the odds of difficult pregnancies and premature birth raised a family of her own. Every ounce of her energy and passion was outpoured into the life she selflessly provided my brother and me. Her compassion and generosity knew no limits. She would cross through any hardship on this planet to make certain  that her children and her family were safe. Her friends and coworkers know her as a tireless role model who met any adversity with class and a smile.  It is with utter disbelief that anything could happen to someone so indomitable.

On April 1, 2019, during the funeral procession for my grandmother Josephine, her mother, Marisa suffered a crippling headache, vomiting, and extreme lethargy. With the help of family, my girlfriend and I rushed her to the nearest ER, assuming she had a grief related episode of high blood pressure. The doctors performed a CT scan and proceeded to tell me my mother had a brain hemorrhage. She was immediately transported via helicopter to Capital Health Regional Medical center in Trenton, where she was intubated and revealed to have a brain aneurysm. Due to the aneurysm's size and dysmorphic shape, it was hypothesized to have been there for the better part of 20 years. She underwent emergency surgery to coil the aneurysm that night, and remained in the Neuro ICU for 3 weeks.  Without complications, it was theorized she could possibly walk home from this event. In that time, she did successfully began to recover, slowly talking, walking and following commands. During the last week of April, a follow up diagnostic was performed, and it revealed a smaller millimeter size aneurysm, as a well as a general compromise of the blood vessels in the are of the first one. It was recommended for another coiling and placement of a stent in her brain so another episode may not occur in the possible near future.

The second surgery took place April 26, 2019 - at the moment, the last time I had a properly coherent conversation with my mother. During the surgery, she suffered a massive, debilitating brain bleed most likely due to the blood thinners required for the stent. This bleed was given no official origin and caused her to go back into the Neuro ICU for 2 months, unable to breathe on her own or follow commands. After she was medically stabilized yet borderline comatose, she entered Kessler in West Orange over the summer for brain injury rehabilitation. Though initially waking up and beginning to show major signs of improvement, she slowly began to decline. As a result, the insurance kicked her out of Kessler, and we were forced to admit her into a less stringent sub-acute facility usually reserved for people who have progressed much farther than she has. During her stay in the sub-acute facility this September, she has suffered a seizure, and most recently, a heart attack. Due to her brain bleed history, surgical intervention for the heart attack is incredibly risky, and she is just above the threshold to be treated for it medically. She is currently due back to the Sub-Acute rehab this week.

The physical, psychological, and financial toll of these events is incomprehensible in the context of daily life. The pain of witnessing these horrors happen to one's mother, sister, or friend is immeasurable. We, as a family, are doing everything we can to make sure her life stays intact when she comes back home. The medical bills alone are easily approaching the million dollar mark and rising, which will inevitably carry an out-of-pocket expense. The lawyer fees needed for guardianship and necessary voluntary medicaid are currently estimated around twenty thousand. These do not include the cost of paying the mortgage and bills on her house once her income ceases, which will be happening within the next two weeks. As uncomfortable as we are creating this campaign and reaching out to the world for financial assistance, we realize we are not above asking for help if it may make a difference in my mother's life. 

Any amount donated will be solely and transparently used to help cover the expenses this nightmare has created for her. If you are not in a place to comfortably consider donating, sharing this campaign is equally as impactful and appreciated. 

From my family to you, 

Thank you for helping my mother in her most crucial moment.


One step at a time.

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  • Olivia Santarsiero 
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Organizer

Joseph Dicamillo 
Organizer
Freehold, NJ
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