229: A Ticking Time Bomb: Cerebral Aneurysm

It was half past midnight in America, on November 7th, 2006. A sudden beast-like howl resounded through the quiet night. I ran into the room and was shocked to discover my wife lying prone on her pillows, her entire body jerking. Hurriedly, I turn her over, only to find that her eyes had rolled upward and she was frothing at the mouth. Quickly I yelled, “Shuling! Shuling… what’s happened?” However, no matter how much I shouted, she wouldn’t respond. In a panic, I dialed 911 to have her taken to the emergency room.

When my husband later told me about what had happened that night, I couldn’t remember any of it. At the hospital, examination results showed that a 1.2 centimeter, bubble-like cerebral aneurysm had formed in the language center of the left side of my brain. The American doctor advised me not to have it surgically removed, because there was no way to completely cure it. There also was no medicine I could take to treat it, so my only recourse was to take epilepsy pills to control the seizures caused by the aneurysm.

After falling ill, I lay in bed every day, listless and dispirited. My memory had severely declined and my capacity to speak was seriously damaged; sometimes I could not even utter a complete sentence, or anything at all. I felt a lot of physical discomfort, and was constantly drowsy. This left me helpless to do anything but wait for death.

After learning of my condition, my older sister said that in Taiwan there was a compassionate guru named Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, endowed with magnificent abilities and a great aspiration, who could certainly help me. She also told me about how the guru had saved her son’s life, and went on to recount many examples of his helping sentient beings. At the time I did not really believe because I felt that in the end, everybody dies, so I was not afraid of death. All I did was to ask my husband to take good care of our two small children.

Due to a causal condition, I read in the Sutra of Eight Realizations that in life, a person will undergo ten major difficulties. It read, “The eighth is the difficulty of obtaining a master practitioner’s blessings,” and “The tenth is that of seeing the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in person.” This convinced me that there really were Buddhas in this world! I had a look at Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s photograph on the Glorious Jewel Buddhist Center’s website, which my sister had told me about, and that evening as I lay in bed I continuously visualized the guru. Later, I dreamed that Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche had cured me. After I awoke from this dream, all of the side effects from the medicine I’d taken completely went away, and the veins in my right hand stopped jerking. Moreover, I no longer felt lethargic to the point of being bedridden.

Every week after I fell ill, my sister would implore Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche to save me. After three weeks of this, the only answer she had gotten was, “They don’t believe, so I can’t save them.” The day after I dreamed about the guru, however, upon my sister’s imploration again, without demur, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche immediately bestowed blessings upon me even though I was all the way on the other side of the ocean. Twelve days later, risking the possibility of turbulence causing my cerebral aneurysm to burst and leave me in a vegetative state, I took the fourteen-hour plan trip to Taiwan. To my surprise, there was no turbulence at all, and I arrived at my destination safely.

On December 23rd, 2006, during our first ever audience, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche told us that it had not been very easy to ensure such a safe trip back to Taiwan for us. He said that his younger brother had had a cerebral aneurysm, too, but that originally, because his brother would not eat vegetarian, he was not going to save him. However, after their mother implored him to, Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche agreed to help. After listening to this, tears began to roll down my cheeks, for I realized that seeing the guru was just like seeing a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. I really have no way of describing the emotion I felt then. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche went on to ask, “When do you return to America?” I replied, “We’re planning on going back this coming March, on the 18th.” The guru pointed out, “I cannot save you if you keep flying back and forth like this.” Presently, my husband said, “We could stay.” Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche advised, “Don’t give me such a hasty answer. Come and see me again next Tuesday.” And just like that, we gave up everything we had in America—our cars, house, and jobs—to move back to Taiwan. This was because I knew that only Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche could shine a light on my future for me.

Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche performing the auspicious Chod for sentient beings.

On December 29th, we participated in our first ever puja: the Chod Puja. After we got back home, a very thick, black, viscous liquid flowed out from my private parts, and I knew without a doubt that it was not my period. A month later, I took refuge in Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche and made my first offering. That night something else flowed out of my private parts, but this time it looked like blood.

After only having taken refuge for one and a half months, I felt invigorated. I was able to speak fluently, my head felt clearer than ever before, and even I felt that this was miraculous. On March 5th, 2007, I had a brain examination, and it revealed that not only had my aneurysm not grown any larger, but some of the blood clots surrounding it had vanished. It was obvious to my friends and relatives that my health and ability to speak had improved greatly. All of this was thanks to H.E. Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, who allowed me the opportunity to learn of the Dharma’s auspiciousness and magnificence.

Two weeks after returning to Taiwan from America and seeing Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, I stopped taking any medicine and receiving any medical treatment. I have not had a recurrence of my illness, and am now able to lead a completely normal life.

Zeng Shuling (second from the right), her husband, and their two children recall fondly how the guru has helped them.

Ever since I took refuge on January 28th, 2007, the guru’s compassion has given us disciples so many opportunities to follow him to various sacred places, participate in auspicious pujas, and accumulate good fortune. I am aware of the great weight of my evil karma from past lives, so I grasp every opportunity that comes along to rapidly accumulate good fortune, merits, and resources with which to practice Buddhism in this lifetime. In February of this year, I went to India to participate in a Grand Puja, and in April, I went to Nepal to send Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche off prior to his retreat. In August, after returning to Nepal to welcome the guru out of his retreat, I followed him to Japan to participate in the Kyoto Daimonji Festival, then on to Ladakh to take part in the Grand Puja celebrating the Year of the Pig. Finally, in October I went to Nepal to participate in a monastery’s consecration ceremony. Over this past year, I have taken many airplane trips over vast distances; I even went to Ladakh in India, which is 3,500 meters above sea level, to participate in that Grand Puja celebrating the Year of the Pig. Through it all, thanks to the guru’s blessings, I have not suffered any physical discomfort, and you would never be able to tell that there is a ticking time bomb in my body in the form of this cerebral aneurysm.

I would not be here without the guru; without the guru, I would live in constant fear. I am so grateful, and will never be able to repay the debt of benevolence I owe him.

Respectfully written by Disciple Zeng Shuling

Editor’s Postscript, from 12/12/2008:

Zeng Shuling got sick in 2006, and was diagnosed as having a cerebral aneurysm. Thanks to Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche’s auspicious blessings, her condition gradually stabilized, and later she had two follow-up examinations at the Hsinchu branch of Mackay Memorial Hospital in September of 2007 and July of 2008 respectively. The following information is based on her medical reports from those two visits.

  1. Type of examination performed: Brain magnetic resonance angiography, to inspect the structure of the cerebral blood vessels and any potential changes to the brain.
  2. Results from the examinations performed in 2007 and 2008 both revealed an aneurysm in the left temporal lobe, with peripheral compressive and bleeding marks (as indicated in the photograph with an arrow). No abnormalities were detected in the rest of the brain.
  3. Significant differences between the two sets of examination results included the following:

〈a〉The affected area had shrunk significantly, from its original size of 1.3cmx1.4cm to 1.13cmx1.13cm.
〈b〉The 2007 follow-up examination revealed traces of recurrent bleeding around the affected area, but the one from 2008 only showed old ones, without any new signs of bleeding. In other words, the patient’s condition showed a tendency toward stability and improvement, and no further bleeding.

Explanation:
(a)Aneurysm: Different from a regular tumor, it is not solid, and is just a malformed blood vessel often presenting as the thinning of the blood vessel wall, causing it to bulge like a balloon. Cerebral aneurysms are congenital, and the cause of their formation is unknown. Most examinations cannot detect them, which is why their occurrence cannot be predicted. However, they are like a ticking time bomb in the brain: After being subjected to an increase in internal blood pressure or a large enough external impact, the malformed blood vessel could rupture, leading to bleeding. This can cause a cerebral hemorrhagic stroke. Most cases are serious and lead to fatality.

Regarding the patient’s treatment:
In many cases, doctors have a hard time treating this condition—or even completely powerless to help. Zeng Shuling’s case is a classic example: Her aneurysm is situated in her brain parenchyma. Any attempts at surgery to repair the aneurysm would undoubtedly cause considerable damage to the left side of her brain, which could cause hemiparalysis, similar to suffering a stroke. Otherwise, a thrombectomy could be performed, but this, too, poses a high degree of risk. Without surgery, however, this ticking time bomb could detonate at any moment, meaning that she was in a constant mortal danger.

(b) Examination results:
The aneurysm shrank and no further traces of bleeding were detected. This was nothing short of miraculous.

Brain magnetic resonance angiography in 2007 Brain magnetic resonance angiography in 2008
(1) Affected area 1.3cmx1.4cm
(2) Traces of recurrent bleeding around the affected area
(1) Affected area 1.13cmx1.13cm
(2) Only showing traces of old bleeding; no new indications

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Updated on April 8, 2016