Fresno woman defies the odds after an aneurysm

February 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A Fresno woman defied the odds and even the hopes of her family, by recovering from a brain aneurysm and a coma.

Doctors still call her a medical mystery. She believes she died, and came back.

Action News Anchor Margot Kim brings us Linda Fortune's remarkable story of hope and healing, and her family's love that made it all possible.

Linda Fortune finds joy in spoiling her pets and spending time with her family in her Northeast Fresno home. But just a year and a half ago, life was very different for the 49-year-old, former office manager.

She was a work-a-holic and didn't know how to slow down, until August 11th, 2011, when she suffered a brain aneurysm while going to the post office in East Central Fresno.

The sudden rupture of an artery in her brain caused her to pass out. She spent 14 unconscious hours in her SUV, until someone finally discovered her and called 9-1-1.

Steve Fortune said, "Oh I was in a panic!"

Her husband Steve, a local farmer, frantically called family members, and they gathered to look for Linda. Then, Steve received a message that changed his life.

On that fateful August day, Steve came home to find a message on his answering machine from Fresno police, saying they had found his wife and her car. Almost at the same time, there was a knock at the door. An officer was standing there, offering Steve a ride to the hospital. At that moment, Steve feared the worst.

"They said call your loved ones, she's not going to make it through the night," said Steve. "Have everyone say goodbye."

Steve was in shock. He and Linda married in 2003. But just eight years later, he thought he was about to become a widower.

"We had a good life together and I was thankful," said Steve.

Rushed into surgery at Community Regional Medical Center in Downtown Fresno, Linda's heart stopped during the operation to stop the bleeding in her brain. Then she slipped into a coma, for a month.

Doctors told Steve it's unlikely Linda would wake up and if she did, she wouldn't have any normal function. So the family made the excruciating decision to take Linda off life support, expecting her to die within minutes.

Steve explained, "As a family, we're around her, they pull her off life support, we're all crying and an hour goes by, 2 hours go by, people are leaving, coming."

But instead of dying, Linda seemed to become more alive.

Steve said, "The doctors came in the next morning and couldn't believe it."

"I refused to die I said nope, I'm not ready to go yet," said Linda. "It's not my time."

Linda defied medical odds by not only waking from her coma but speaking and even recognizing friends and loved ones at her bedside.

Fresno Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Mark Chin had to see Linda for himself. She was a former patient and they kept in contact. He was stunned.

Dr. Mark Chin said, "I looked at her and I said do you remember who I am? And there was a pause and she looked at me and in her soft voice said, 'I remember who you are' and my mouth just dropped."

Neurologists at Community Regional Medical Center declined to talk about Linda's case but Dr. Chin says her recovery is unusual and beyond medical explanation. He says it's a miracle.

Dr Chin said, "What else could it be? It's just really amazing she recovered to this level and to this quality of life."

Linda also believes a greater power helped her heal. She says she went to an all-white room in heaven but didn't want to stay.

She said, "I needed to come back here if had things to take care of, I had my husband, I've got my children."

After Linda came back to life, she underwent intensive speech and physical therapy at the Center for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield, a world-renowned rehabilitation facility.

Doctors told Steve, the effects of the aneurysm would change Linda's personality. Steve jokes, that was a good thing.

Steve explained, "She was a little high strung before."

"I appreciate my husband," said Linda. "He's a good man. I'm very lucky to be married to him. To have him in my life. He's taken very good care of me."

Steve added, "Before she used to call me every name in the book!"

"Not anymore," said Linda.

Steve says he and Linda are like a young couple in love, again.

Linda said, "Thank you baby, that means a lot to me."

Now they spend precious time on earth, because Linda says she knows, heaven waits for her someday, but not today.

Another unexplained result of Linda's ordeal: she didn't know how to speak Spanish before the aneurysm. And now, she can!

Steve and Linda plan to take a cruise in September, to celebrate their wedding anniversary.


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