I am Heather: An impossible situation becoming a possible miracle
My name is Heather, and at the age of 33 on February 5, 2009, while taking a bath I felt a striking
pain at the base of my neck on the right side that rang like sirens in my ears. I did not know what was
happening to me. I continued to bathe and 30 seconds later I was struck on the left side like lighting.
I got dizzy, and I was scared. I screamed for my 13-year-old daughter Kaysha to call my mom as I
attempted to put my clothes on. I made it to my bedroom where my daughter was on the phone with
my mom. As I laid on the bed quietly, suddenly I had an urge to use the bathroom and knew I could
not make it to the bathroom alone. I attempted to go by myself, but I collapsed to the floor. I could
faintly hear my daughter telling 911 my momma is on the floor. Anything remembered by me after
this point are just snapshots and was told to me by my family.
EMS arrived and transported me to Tulane Medical Center emergency room where several tests
were done which confirmed I suffered two ruptured aneurysms. The doctors inform my family I
suffered two ruptured aneurysms and they needed to perform immediate surgery to implant a drain
in my skull on the right side front to remove the fluids and blood that flooded my cranium during the
rupture to stop damage My family agreed to this surgery, and it lasted for two hours.
Shortly after this surgery the doctors informed my mom ruptures caused severe damage to my brain
and they needed to coil my aneurysms through another medical procedure. The doctors predicted I
had a 10% chance of survival. My family agreed to the proposed surgery in hopes that it would
save my life. I was prepped and taken to surgery once again for almost four hours.
The news of my successful surgery spread throughout the hospital; I was referred to as the “miracle
girl.” I received so many visits from doctors, nurses etc. who thought it was totally remarkable that
I lived since I was predicted to have only a 10% chance of survival
My mom wanted me to know just how special this situation was so when we arrived home this is
what she said to me. “Heather, you are a miracle because God chose you to survive something that
most people do not. You survived a situation that you were given 10% a chance to live. The night
you were transported to Tulane Medical Center you were one of three women admitted into the
Emergency Room that night with brain aneurysms. Heather, you were the only one who lived to tell
the story, you are a MIRACLE!” I am truly grateful to be alive!
Within a month I was rid of the walker, wheelchair, and potty. I suffered from a deep depression as a
result of my situation. More than anything, I was ready to get back to my norm. So I worked hard
and diligently so that I can once again do the things I enjoyed doing. It was one hurdle after another
to jump, but I continue to work on becoming healthy.
Today, I am proud to work in Mental Health as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist advocating for
my clients and in college majoring in psychology.
In 2006 I received a call at work from my pcp informing me the scan I had done due to the change in headaches showed a brain aneurysm. Off to see neurosurgeon #1 in Portsmouth. He said he could do it but since it's in the center of my brain once my brain is exposed it would be hard to find. Rather than play search and destroy in my brain we thought it best to see another surgeon so off to Mass General in Boston we went. I had my first craniotomy shortly after. After about a year it was life as I had known it pre-aneurysm.
In April 2009 I was diagnosed with 2more aneurysms, one on each side of my brain. Between may and end of June 2 more aneurysms grew. I had them all clipped in multiple craniotomies by July 4th weekend. One craniotomy was a receipt because 29 days after an aneurysm was clipped it hemorrhaged. I learned then clips were not 100% protection as I thought. In 2011 it was time for a scan to make sure all my aneurysms were behaving. Unfortunately it showed that one of the clipped aneurysms had grown it's twin out from the end of the clip that had flipped behind the original aneurysm. Thankfully I had it done on a 3-D scan or it wouldn't of been seen because it was hiding. Along with that one I was diagnosed with 2 new aneurysms in my carotid artery behind my left eye. The 6 aneurysms in my brain are clipped and the 2 behind my eye haven't been treated yet.
On Easter 2014 I was not feeling well. Went through all the motions of a family Easter Sunday. Monday morning I went to work. I don't remember anything about the day but my husband tells me he found me late at night very sick. He went to take me to the er and I passed out. Once at the er I started having seizures that's when they found the 1 ruptured and 2 nonruptured anuerisms at that point I was airlifted to a hospital in Richmond to undergo emergency surgery during the next 23 days I remained in icu and had another stroke and another surgery. I have 3 anuerisms all three are coiled and 1 has a stent. I have 3 children. My youngest is now 12 and autistic. This has been very hard on my children as most of you know thank you for reading my story
My story started when I was about 25 (1988) with symptoms that were stroke-like and head pain. I was in the hospital for a week getting all sorts of tests done and they determined I had a migraine... This happened a few more times in my life and those were also determined to be migraine. It was frustrating as well as scary to have strange symptoms and not know why... and then be told that I am making a big deal out of nothing.
In 2010, I had the same type of symptoms again and headed to the ER. The doc only did a CT and sent me home saying it was a migraine. The next day, I begged my GP to order an MRI because of the family history of aneurysm and my ever increasing migraines (in frequency and intensity over the prior year). He is a compassionate man and he listened. The MRI came back clear but about 1.5 weeks later, my GP called me and said that they looked at the images again and saw a shadow.
Turns out I DO have an internal carotid aneurysm (as I suspected) and it was 1.5cm (giant) in my cavernous sinus area between the brain and the meninges sheath by the Circle of Willis. Between that time and my first surgery in August of that year, it had grown to 2.5cm. I had 4 stents and 2 coils done by a phenomenal neurovascular surgeon (Dr. Demetrius Lopes in Chicago). Then in Oct 2010, I needed 2 more surgeries to add 3 more coils then 11 more coils to the same aneurysm. I seemed to be improving then in April 2012, I began having constant pain again and changes to my vision. In March 2013, I had a fourth surgery to add a Pipeline inside of the existing 4 stents. Total: 5 stents/16 coils
I have quite a few neurological, visual, brain issues as a result but I thank God every day that I am still here. I believe that there are gifted surgeons who do remarkable things to save people with aneurysms but the after-care kind of gets lost in the shuffle.
Thank you, Todd, for starting this foundation in honor of your beautiful wife. You will be helping to bring awareness to untold amounts of people about aneurysms! Thanks for letting me share my story!
At the age of 39, I had an aneurysm rupture. I had multiple surgeries and now have a clip and a shunt for life. After 7 weeks in Neuro ICU and 6 weeks of rehab, I started getting my life back. It's a long journey, but worth the fight. I hope others stay strong and believe.
Here is my story. Since this aired in September 2015 I have had an additional coiling. Adding 7 coils and 2 stents to my existing Brain Aneurysm (7/25/16). Total of 17 coils now and 2 stents.
In 2004, I survived a rupture. In 2006 I had another aneurysm clipped. I'm also a nurse. In the years that have followed that circumstance I found there to be so many people who really do not understand the unusual symptoms and confusion upon coming home. The doctors treat for migraines without scanning to see if there is a reason for those migraines. Insurance companies want to argue paying the cost for the MRI/MRA because "just a headache" isn't enough of a reason. There are still many to teach. There are still survivors going home with no support. I do believe that this foundation....will change that.