‘He thought I was drunk, but after hearing me slam my head several times due to seizing, he approached the stall and witnessed me convulsing on the floor.’

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“My name is Lance Corporal Camryn J. Ashton; United States Marine Corps. I’m 27 and have served for almost 3 years. While deployed to Japan in January 2018, I suffered a Hemorrhagic Stroke. Never did I think I’d experience such a major health scare in this capacity. After all, I was extremely healthy, in great shape, and a grunt! A grunt is a term us infantry Marines use to describe ourselves. Maybe the urban dictionary will give you a better understanding of that term.

Marine man in uniform with straight face
Camryn Ashton

The onset of my stroke presented as a severe headache. I’m not talking just your substandard headache, I’m talking excruciating! I tried to sleep it off but the pain was unbearable. In the middle of the night I went to the restroom, I was feeling nauseous and started dry-heaving. The symptoms escalated to seizures. During this part of the deployment, my unit was staying on Marine Corps Base Camp Fuji and all my company was staying with me. Thankfully, one of the Marines went to the bathroom and at first thought I was drunk, but after hearing me slam my head several times due to seizing, he approached the stall and witnessed me convulsing on the floor.

I was rushed to the hospital with several Marines holding me down. My consciousness was fading. The first four hospitals turned me away because they were at maximum capacity. Healthcare in Japan is free. We finally arrived at the fifth hospital where I was successfully admitted but only because the commands Japanese interpreter, who was only there a few times a week, demanded it.

Marine in Japanese hospital with tube down his mouth
Camryn Ashton

The doctors did an initial assessment and determined brain surgery was required immediately to stem the bleeding in my brain. I slipped into a coma before the surgery. Fifteen days later, the doctors performed a very invasive craniotomy to remove the aneurysm that had caused my illness. At the time they rated my chances for survival as slim to none. Doctors used surgical saws and drills to cut through the bones of my skull. After five long hours, the surgery was a success.

Marine's skull after having very invasive craniotomy
Camryn Ashton

After the second surgery, life saving measures were still in place. I developed pneumonia. I ingested food through my nose and urinated and defecated through tubes. I lost almost fifty pounds. Things looked dire, but by the grace of God, after three weeks I awoke to a half-paralyzed body. I have no memory of the events that happened while I was in the hospital, not even my Marine Corps brothers coming to give me comfort or my sister who came from the states.

Marine sits in hospital as doctors place box over his head
Camryn Ashton

Once I was stable, I was medically evacuated from Japan to Naval Medical Center San Diego, California. I have been performing rigorous speech and occupational therapy to restore my memory. I also did physical and recreational therapies. Due to the physical and mental demands of the Marine Corps, I am not able to continue serving as an active duty Marine. This breaks my heart as I waited four years to join and planned to stay in as long as possible.

Close up of marine with screws in his forehead
Camryn Ashton

In addition to the aneurysm, my neurosurgeons discovered an AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation). If it remains, it is a ticking time bomb. As of now I have a 6 percent chance of succumbing to stroke. The risk increases 3 percent annually. I had Gamma Knife radiation in November 2018, it is intended to slowly shrink the AVM until completely dissipated. Since I can remember, the operation was the worst thing physically I’ve ever dealt with. I wanted to cry, but the only reason I didn’t is because I’m a Marine and wouldn’t allow myself to otherwise I could’ve wept my eyes out. Thankfully, the Gamma Knife success rate is about 80%, and if it doesn’t work I can always try again.

AVM sitting beside ruler
Camryn Ashton

I’ll be medically retiring soon and am truly thankful for everything the Marine Corps has taught and given me. I believe I wouldn’t be alive if I weren’t a Marine and if somehow, I was, I’d be drowning in debt. I plan on beating this thing and when I do I’ll do my best to give back and try to help people who may be dealing with similar circumstances. I have a lot of people to be thankful for including my mom who has been with me throughout the whole process.

Mother stands beside marine son who underwent several brain surgeries
Camryn Ashton
Marine man who had several brain surgeries smiles with arm around another man
Camryn Ashton

I’m sharing my story with the intention to motivate and help others through whatever adversity they may be dealing with. Miracles can and do happen through faith and determination. As a grunt, I’ve never feared death and honestly after everything have remained in good spirits. That won’t change, just like I’ll always be a Marine. Semper Fidelis!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Camryn Ashton. Submit your story here. For our best stories subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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