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  • Writer's pictureSheree Hoddinett

Annie's Inspiring Journey

Annie Barnett’s beautiful smile and positive attitude certainly are infectious. It’s a big difference to two years ago, when at the age of 21 Annie was left fighting for her life following the rupture of two brain aneurysms and a stroke. It was October 2021, Annie was a seemingly happy and healthy young woman in the prime of her life, working part-time and studying at university when her life turned completely upside down. It’s hard to imagine what she’s been through in her recovery since, but Annie is now on a mission to raise as much awareness about aneurysms as she can.

When you hear the word aneurysm or even stroke, chances are you associate them with older members of the community. But the reality is, it can happen to anyone, at any age, even young people and Annie is living proof. More than two years on from a very frightening time in her life – being told she had a total of five aneurysms in her brain – Annie is very much reaching for the stars. Finishing her university degree, getting back behind the wheel of a car, drinking coffee, hitting the gym several times a week and locking in a full-time job at the Burpengary Community Club as the marketing coordinator are just a few of the highlights.

“I’m feeling amazing,” Annie says. “I’m so grateful to be here, every single day. I’m also grateful to not have any brain damage, especially after what I went through there was a high chance.

Annie Barnett

“My life has changed a bit since everything happened, but I look at it in a positive way. It might sound strange, but it was meant to happen.”

Annie’s experience led doctors to recommend her family undergo testing to see if any of them were also “ticking time bombs”. Annie’s mum Carol, dad Greg and her grandmother were also walking around with multiple aneurysms inside their brains. However, Annie’s two younger brothers have so far been given the all-clear but will need regular screening tests.

While it’s certainly been a scary and challenging time for Annie and her family, she continues to see the positive in everything. Now 23, Annie is relishing the opportunity to return to somewhat of a “normal” life.

“I’ve been trying to be more independent because I'm 23 now and I feel like my independence was taken away for a while there,” Annie says. “I’m very grateful to my mum and dad, because they have been with me through every part of this journey. They saw me at my worst when they thought they were going to lose me. I can’t imagine how that must have been for them as parents.

“But last year in October, it was exactly two years since it all happened, so I went on a holiday to The Whitsundays by myself. It was only four days, but it was the most amazing experience for me. I’ve never travelled solo before and now that I’ve done it, I want to do it again.”

Annie had to put her university degree on hold, which she has now finished and in January she started working at the Burpengary Community Club as the marketing coordinator, a role which she is loving being able to make her own.

“I finished my double degree in 2022, only a year after I was originally meant to,” Annie says. “I was working at Woolworths before I moved into a marketing assistant role and now I’m a marketing coordinator and I can’t wait to see what else I can achieve.

“My boss at the club is amazing and he's so helpful. He wants me to grow within my career and encourages me to ask questions anytime I want. It’s an exciting new chapter for me.”

“It’s like what’s your superpower? I’ve survived a nine-hour brain surgery! And that was only the beginning of many brain surgeries.”

Along with her new role, Annie is working hard behind the scenes to try and bring aneurysm awareness into the forefront of everyone’s minds.

“I'm very open about my situation and I feel like it was meant to happen to me,” Annie says “So my story is I survived and I’m okay. But, I don’t want to be just known as the girl with the aneurysms, I want to be known as a survivor and inspire others.

“The truly amazing thing with sharing my story is I have had others reach out to me who have been through a similar experience. The thing to remember here is it’s not unheard of for this kind of thing to happen, but it is unusual in younger people.”

Many people live with brain aneurysms that go unnoticed, but if they rupture, like in Annie's case, more often than not they can be fatal. Undergoing an emergency craniotomy, part of Annie's skull was removed in an attempt to stop the bleed. Although some details after the operation are sketchy, Annie still recalls the lead-up to the procedure.

“I was in a room with 30-plus nurses and doctors in there, I’ve never been in a room like it, it was pretty scary,” Annie says. “I underwent a nine-hour brain surgery. It’s like what’s your superpower? I’ve survived a nine-hour brain surgery! And that was only the beginning of many brain surgeries.

“When I tell people I had a craniotomy, where they took my skull out and because I had no bone there to help with the swelling and pressure, I like to share the fun fact that my skull was in a fridge for six weeks. Being able to laugh about it now is all part of what I’ve been through.”

Despite everything she has endured in the last two years including further surgery and watching her family go through their own operations, Annie is doing her best to make up for lost time with friends and life in general. When she has a chance, Annie also takes the time to educate others about the risks associated with brain aneurysms through the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital Foundation.

“Whenever I tell people my story, they're like, I would not have expected that at all,” she says. “Then I show them a photo of my scar (now well-hidden behind the hairline) and that’s definitely another way to impress people!” 


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