PKD Connection Blog

Voices of PKD

Aneurysms: The silent destroyers, part 1

Rob Herman

My name is Robert Patrick Herman, proudly named after my mom and dad. I was brought into the world on Friday, August 13, literally in the middle of the Los Angeles riots of 1965. My mom always said it was a party for me that got out of hand! So it makes sense that if I had a crazy entrance, then the rest of my life might just be pretty crazy as well. So far, it has lived up to its billing, but you can be the judge of that over the next several weeks as I share with you a little about my incredible PKD life.

On October 2, 1974, we moved into our beautiful new home. Just ten days later, my mom was screaming in pain as my dad took her to the emergency room. She had a massive cerebral hemorrhage caused by her polycystic kidney disease (PKD). I had just turned 9 years old.

Patricia Herman

After flatlining twice on the operating table, my mom’s doctors gave their official clinical diagnosis: Patricia Ann Herman would be a “vegetable” for the rest of her life, with extremely limited motor skills, vocabulary, and memory. Oh, and for good measure, my mom didn’t even know who me and my three siblings were. My mom did not even know my name!

Welcome to an entirely different life; a life of defying the odds by trying to teach my mom how to be a functioning person all over again. The thought of putting her into some type of care facility never crossed my dad’s mind. In fact, it was his idea to put word signs on everything in the house: door, cup, refrigerator, plate, cupboard, window, sink, on and on. We worked diligently to try to teach her how to read, write, think, remember, communicate, everything. Day after day, month after month, for years this went on, as I also attempted to grow up.

Rob as a child.

I went to school late so I was home with my mom as my dad went to work. Before he left, my dad would warn me of the possibility of my mom having “mini seizures.” I will never forget watching my mom lying on her side on the floor of our living room, suffering through an uncontrollable seizure, as I tried to hold her so she wouldn’t hurt herself. It’s not something any child should ever have to see their parent go through. I was 12 years old, alone and so scared.

If you, or someone you know, has had an aneurysm – especially from PKD, please feel free to share your experiences, both physical and emotional, in the comments below. It can be very therapeutic.

Also, please get checked regularly for aneurysms if you have PKD. In an upcoming post, I will explain from my experience why this is so very important to prevent or stop these silent destroyers.

Learn more about aneurysms on the PKD Foundation website.


  1. Mary Nixon says:

    Rob, I understand. I was 10 when my Dad left for work. He didn’t come home. He was at his place of business when his aneurysm burst. He passed away at the hospital. My life was changed forever.

    1. Rob Herman says:

      Sorry for your lost Mary. Three years ago my sister did that. She went to lunch with my dad and his (new) wife, went back to work, and died before she hit the ground. And she had recently been checked for aneurysms!
      Never Give In!

  2. Karen Kessler says:

    My father had PKD, was on hemo dialysis for 15 years until he died from a brain aneurysm that burst. I was away at college so i didn’t witness the emergency at home, 911 call, EMT arrival, ambulance ride, and the initial emergency room intake, but the heartbreak of losing someone because of the complications from PKD still affects me decades later. I also have PKD and I’m grateful to have more hope for treatment than my other family members with PKD had (they are all gone). I’m also grateful for the PKD Foundation!!

  3. Marilyn Bright says:

    My brother died from aneurysm. I have pkd. I was checked for aneurysm. They found 2 one on right temple one on left temple. They clamped the one on right off. The left one hasn’t grown any. I get MRA done once a year to check it. My grandpa & dad ,brother sister passed away from PKD. I have it in stage4 .daughter has it She won’t go to Dr.

    1. Rob Herman says:

      Hi Marilyn,
      I am so sorry for your losses. I am always shocked at the generational impact of our disease. As you’ll learn in my later blogs, we absolutely understand the need for continuous and regular check-ups. We’ll pray your positive MRA results, and for strength to fight the good fight against stage 4.
      With regards to your daughter, I never wanted to go to the doctor either, especially if I felt good. (Don’t tell her that! LOL)
      Never Give in! Rob

  4. Rose says:

    I have PKD, long family history. Last January I was in ER for uti, was admitted second day I had the worst headache ever, when dr made rounds, nurse had told her about my night. She ordered MRI, waited another day to get results, and was told i had an aneurysm. Ordered CT. Was discharged and told i should follow up with Neurosurgeon. For three weeks i went on with normal life, working, driving..Finally on the 30th of January, i got to see dr in Baltimore. He took one look at my scans and admitted me. Next day 8 hour surgery to clamp aneurysm. Said i was very lucky, because it was leaking, if it would of ruptured, it would of killed me.
    So as a 52 yr old with PKD, stage 3, listen to body, be your own advocate.
    Thanks for sharing Rob…

    1. Rob Herman says:

      Hello Rose,
      Thank you for sharing that part of your story with me. As a 52 yr old, I can relate to the frustration, and relief, you must have felt going through all of that. Listening to our body is SO important. I share some of my long, complicated story in later blogs, but mostly in my book, “Naked in the Middle of a Tornado”.
      My motto will always be: Never Give In! Feel free to use it.
      My family will pray for you. Rob

  5. Lori says:

    Our father was waiting for dialysis in the Veteran’s hospital in Seattle when he appeared to have ‘fallen asleep’. They revived him but he was brain dead. An autopsy was not done. We believe it was brain aneurysm. He was only 59 and not in good shape. That was 1985, he had been wounded in WWII and they had to remove his left kidney because of the shrapnel. So that didn’t help one bit. We were just happy he went peacefully. All of us kids got the disease, two of us left and we have transplants. Both of my brother’s children have PKD, one has both kidneys out and is waiting for a transplant. So far one of my oldest brother’s children has it (he is diseased, also suddenly). We can only hope some or all of their children don’t have it. I donate as often as possible to the PKD Foundation for finding a cure or helping family and people who have it.

    1. Rob Herman says:

      Hi Lori,
      Thank you so much for your comments about your father, a true HERO. Anyone who defends are great country is a hero to me and my family.
      Of course, passing the problems down to the next generation is a favorite of PKD… I hate that!
      And THANK YOU for donating. We donate time and money as much as possible. Also, all the proceeds from my book, “Naked in the Middle of a Tornado”, go to the PKD Foundation. The foreword was written by Dr. William Bennett, one of the founders of the PKD Foundation!
      Never Give In! Rob

  6. Rob Herman says:

    Thank you Karen for sharing. Yes, we never really get over any loss of human life. But we are in this together… so none of us are NOT alone.
    Never Give In! Rob

  7. Rachel says:

    My mom had PKD, but she had other complications, reading this makes me realize she was lucky to make it to almost 68..she left us almost a year ago, she would have had her transplant 15 years on 2/19/2018, but she got lymphoma from the immune system being supressed all those years..she was in stage 3 of the transplant..I felt like she wondered sometimes if she would live a longer life, beyond this decade, but for the most part she acted like she was on borrowed far as I know, deceased donor kidneys last 15-16 years, the info I read online for the era she got her transplant it said up to 17 she had maybe 2.5 years left..she would have been 70 by heart goes out to everyone who is affected by PKD..

    1. Rob Herman says:

      Hi Rachel,
      Thank you for sharing your story with me. I get inspired by everyone’s stories; they make me better, they push me to be better – no matter what. I am on my 9th year of a deceased donor kidney transplant, and yes I have days when I wonder if I am on borrowed time (more than normal).
      You didn’t mention if you have PKD. If you do, let me know how you’re doing. If not, thank God, and thank you for being involved in the cause! Rob

  8. Rachel says:

    Hello Rob
    No thank god I don’t have PKD, I was tested many years ago..
    I admire my mom for enduring everything she went thru, she had many good years, she started talking about dialysis and going on the transplant list in 1994, went to Paris in 1995 a year before going on dialysis, a few years before that she went to London..we went on a few trips together in the us and Canada..I am grateful for the memories..finally in 2001 she went on the list, got the transplant in less than 2 years..she started talking about being on borrowed time in 2014, I think she was worried about heart failure at that time, which she had for almost 7.5 years, last year she told me she would be here for 2 years or less in so many words..
    Wishing you many more years of health, it’s great that people can get transplants, her grandmother died in 1930, she was told..she believed that was where the PKD came mom was adopted and didn’t meet her mother until 1988, her birth mother said it didn’t come from her, but it did, some cousins I’ve never met from that side have PKD, they are young right now..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the fight against PKD

Want to hear more stories like these? Any donation helps the Foundation continue supporting patients and highlighting their stories