Neighbor Highlight: Hampton grad’s guide chronicles journey via mind surgical procedure and restoration

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Editor’s Note: Neighbor Spotlight is a monthly feature designed to help readers learn more about the people in their communities who are working to make it a better place, who have interesting stories to tell, or who the community “15 Minutes Deserves fame ”. “To nominate someone as a Neighbor Spotlight, email the editor of the Neighborhood News Network, Katie Green, at [email protected]

When Heather Rendulic suffered a series of cerebral haemorrhages in 2011 that required risky surgery to remove the mass that caused it, the then 22-year-old Hampton woman set her goals to two simple things if she was to survive – walk the island carry down her bouquet and dance with her new husband on their wedding reception.

Not only did 31-year-old Rendulic survive to achieve these goals, she made it her life’s mission to help others meet the challenges she believes made them stronger.

“Not everyone will have multiple strokes that require brain surgery,” said Rendulic, a 2008 Hampton High School graduate. “But we all go through difficult times – it’s inevitable. And while we cannot control what happens to us, we are in control of how we react to the situations we face. “

Rendulic, who now lives in Shaler, recorded her journey in a book called “Head Strong: Through Life, Love and Brain Surgery”.

“As a result of the strokes and surgery, I now have things that will affect me for the rest of my life,” she said. “So I hope that the book will provide other people with some of the tools and mindsets that I have been trying to develop to help them overcome what I have faced.”

According to Rendulic, the doctors found that she had a “cavernous angioma” deep in her brain.

Cavernous angioma is a collection of weak blood vessels that can cause seizures or bleeding. In her case, it was on her thalamus near the brain stem.

While the doctors had doubts that as a result of the surgery she could walk to save her life, she was determined to prove them wrong.

“I went through months of rehabilitation and therapy to learn to walk again,” she said. “And I can’t use my left hand, which was a fight, but I can do it.”

Rendulic said she also needs to have regular brain scans to monitor her condition and has had several surgeries over the past few years to improve her quality of life.

“The picture of my life that I had had since I was a kid suddenly crashed and burned when I was diagnosed,” she said. “But from the start I was determined to overcome whatever was in store for me. So every day I wake up ready to fight hard for it. “

While Rendulic is able to do many of the things she enjoys, she can no longer pursue her passion for horse riding and competing in hunting and jumping competitions with Darius, a 30-year-old brown Belgian warmblood.

“I was able to ride a few times, but when I tried barren running I fell off Darius and broke my arm in two places. So I decided it was time to hang up the stirrups, ”she said.

Darius now lives on a farm in Butler County that Rendulic can visit.

Dr. Robert M. Friedlander, chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, said Rendulic’s positive approach to the challenges she faces is an integral part of successful recovery.

“I tell my patients that 50% of the recovery process is driven by their positive attitude, a strong desire to do their best,” Friedlander wrote in the foreword to Rendulic’s book. “I didn’t have to tell Heather. She was there and would do anything to meet this challenge. She really did. “

Friedlander said Rendulic’s “amazingly positive attitude, even against immeasurable adversity” was inspiring.

“Her story, in her own words, will give strength to many others who face adversity. What a thrill to see Heather share her soul, her personal life, through this inspiring book. “

In the years since the life-saving operation, Rendulic graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and hopes to use her book as a foundation for a career in public.

“I want to work full-time helping people who are looking for ways to overcome the difficulties they are facing,” she said.

“I think the things I learned to deal with my problems could be useful to them. I want to show people that they have the strength to master their challenges. “

Tony LaRussa is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, [email protected], or on Twitter.

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