Atlanta, GA,
09:30 AM

Woman Who Survived Aneurysm Enjoys Life with a New Sense of Urgency

Mary Pat Baldauf, 49, of Columbia, S.C., says she's better than ever after rehabilitation.

In November 2015, Mary Pat Baldauf, 49, of Columbia, S.C., drove to the coast for a conference in Myrtle Beach. As president of the American Public Works Association of South Carolina, she spoke to a gathering of more than 200 of her fellow association members. Then, she walked on the beach without getting dizzy.

Think that isn’t remarkable? Consider that Mary Pat did all this less than eight months after a brain aneurysm nearly killed her.

On the night of March 18, 2015, Mary Pat had gone to bed with a headache that felt like cold lightning running down the part of her hair. She attributed it to eating too many caffeinated espresso beans. By morning, Mary Pat’s sister found her unconscious on her bedroom floor.

Doctors initially painted a grim prognosis. Mary Pat attributes her successful recovery to health-related changes she made in the years leading up to the aneurysm. She had turned to a plant-based diet, started working out and lost 100 pounds.

“It’s weird to say, but my lifestyle change prepared me for the aneurysm,” Mary Pat says. “I don’t think I would have made it otherwise.”

At Shepherd Center, she spent a month as an inpatient, a time that included vocal cord surgery and physical therapy to help her relearn to walk. Mary Pat then spent six weeks at Shepherd Pathways, the hospital’s post-acute brain injury rehabilitation program in Decatur, Ga., regaining brain power in anticipation of returning to her job as a sustainability facilitator for the city of Columbia.

“I’m very close to normal again, except for the fact that now I have a real sense of urgency to enjoy life,” Mary Pat says. “It’s like I’m a version 2.0. Shepherd Center helped work all the bugs out!”

On March 18, 2016, Mary Pat’s sister plans to host a celebration on the one-year anniversary of the aneurysm. Mary Pat says she’ll do it – if, instead of gifts, guests bring donations for Shepherd Center.

“Shepherd Center changed me in the best way possible,” Mary Pat says. “It’s like I’ve got family over there now. I’d like to give something back to those who gave my life back to me.”

By Phillip Jordan

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.