With small steps, couple hope to make big strides in fight against brain aneurysms

  • Janet Sutherland-Madden and husband Kevin Madden stroll down the Illinois Prairie Path near the Glen Ellyn train station on Sunday during a walk to raise money and awareness for the fight against brain aneurysms.

      Janet Sutherland-Madden and husband Kevin Madden stroll down the Illinois Prairie Path near the Glen Ellyn train station on Sunday during a walk to raise money and awareness for the fight against brain aneurysms. Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 9/27/2020 9:49 PM

Janet Sutherland-Madden took small steps Sunday during a walk down the Illinois Prairie Path in DuPage County, but she also was making huge strides for a cause that means much to her.

Side by side with her husband, Kevin Madden, Sutherland-Madden walked a portion of a 10-mile trek from Elmhurst to her former hometown of Glen Ellyn to raise awareness and money for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. The couple, who met through their family's shared experiences with brain aneurysms, raised $1,800.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The cause is a personal one for Sutherland-Madden, who now lives in Westmont.

She suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm on March 22, 2004. During surgery to repair it, doctors discovered a second aneurysm.

"I woke up from a three-week coma blind and paralyzed. And I was given a 3% chance of survival," Sutherland-Madden said. "I have been in physical therapy for 16 years since my rupture and I have been recovering ever since."

She also has striven to heighten awareness of brain aneurysms, defined as a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain. She wrote a bill to make September Brain Awareness Month in Illinois and created support groups in the state.

In Glen Ellyn, businesses have held fundraisers and promoted her book, "Nose Over Toes."

"That's how you prompt people to stand up from a chair," she said of the phrase chosen for her book title. "You should put your nose over your toes and push yourself up."

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Sunday's walk was difficult, Sutherland-Madden said, and she and her husband only made a portion of the journey, both wearing red "Team Hope for Brain Aneurysm Awareness" T-shirts.

It was through the cause that they met. Both of Kevin's parents suffered brain aneurysms and he met Sutherland-Madden when he began working at the foundation. The association blossomed into a romance.

Every September, the couple holds fundraisers. In the past, they have been held at places like Maggiano's and Soldier Field. But COVID-19 forced changes for this year's event.

"Janet wanted to do this this year, even though we weren't going to be able to get a lot of people," Kevin Madden said.

"She just wanted to move forward and show that we can still try to keep some normalcy to our lives."

Sutherland-Madden said she wanted to give people a reason for hope amid the pandemic.

"With COVID, it seems that we take a step forward and we seem to fall 20 steps back," she said. "So I think I wanted to just promote hope. Gosh, there is so much tragedy and sadness in this world. And I think that's what I'm trying to do, promote hope, to brain aneurysm survivors (and) to everyone."

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