By: Mary Pat Baldauf
On the evening of March 18, I noshed on some dark chocolate-covered espresso beans left over from a road trip to see a Modest Mouse show in Charleston. I ate a lot, at least ¼ of a pound. Then later that evening, I felt a sharp, electrical-like pulse go down my part
line, and then down my head. Then it felt like ice cold water running down the sides of my head. I felt really weird, like I was outside of my body; I even told my sister that I thought I was dying.
She said that I threw up and felt better; I don’t remember that, but I do remember refusing her suggestion that we call Mom or go to the ER. I said, “No, I just ate too many espresso beans,” and went to bed. She found me unconscious by my bed the next morning.
Aside from being a woman over the age of 40, I had few of the common aneurysm risk factors. I’d lost and maintained an 80-lb. weight loss. I had LOW blood pressure, so much so that I had taken meds to prevent me from having constant vertigo. I never smoked except for one or two cigarettes in college. So I had no idea I could be having an aneurysm. (Unaware to me until after the event, which could’ve been far too late, I did have a family history. My father’s sister, Rose, had one and survived, and they lost two cousins to aneurysms.)
The doctors say that my aneurysm was about as bad as they get, and my family didn’t know if I would survive for three long weeks. Even then, the doctors wouldn’t predict a full recovery. Every year over 30,000 U.S. families lose someone from a ruptured brain aneurysm. About 40% of those experiencing a ruptured brain aneurysm will die. Those that survive often face significant challenges, greatly impacting their lives and the lives of their families.
From someone who’s been there, I urge you to use this month to learn more about aneurysms, including the risk factors and symptoms. You can talk to you doctor or consult the internet; my favorite sites are the Brain Aneurysm Foundation and Joe Niekro Foundation. As a rare brain aneurysm survivor, I consider this message to be my mission; I want to speak out so other families won’t have to go through what mine did. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have or speak with you or your small group about my experience.