I want to share the story of my brain aneurysm and what life is like for me now living with a brain aneurysm.
Whether you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, or whether you just want to learn more about the subject – I hope this blog will help, and answer some questions you have.
My Brain Aneurysm Story: Living With A Brain Aneurysm
My brain aneurysm was actually discovered as an incidental finding. I had been admitted to the Emergency Department with the worst headache you could ever imagine. It turned out I had viral meningitis.
Diagnosed with Meningitis
I woke up in the middle of the night with a splitting headache. This never happened. I managed to get up, take two pain killers and eventually went back to sleep, hoping I could just sleep it off.
I didn’t want to wake my partner in the middle of the night, but something definitely felt abnormal. I rarely got headaches, but this one felt so different – all on the top of my head, not like a normal headache in the forehead.
I woke up a few hours later, and the headache was still there, strong as ever. I took more painkillers, told my boyfriend about the pain, and as we had no plans for that day we agreed I should stay in bed and try sleep it off, again.
I just couldn’t get my friend Jane’s story out of my head. At the age of 39 she had suffered a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage (a bleed on the brain).
I was beginning to think the same was happening to me. Plus my granddad had suffered from a ruptured aneurysm so perhaps it was hereditary.
The headache was unbearable. I kept checking for the FAST symptoms of stroke (facial drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech), but I wasn’t getting any of those symptoms. But enough was enough. This wasn’t normal.
As it happened during the middle of our lockdown in Sydney, covid was at the front of everyone’s mind in A&E.
Upon arrival screening, the reception staff detected I had a fever and so I had to be put in the ‘?covid’ (red zone) of A&E until a negative covid test came back.
It was 3 hours before I received any pain relief. I was in absolute agony. But I had no energy to cry.
It was probably 6 hours into my A&E admission that I received a CT Head scan (to check for a bleed on the brain). At least there wasn’t a bleed on the brain. But then what could it be?
The A&E team believed it to be Viral Meningitis and wanted the Neurology team to admit me. The Consultant Neurologist came down to see me, and also believed it to be viral meningitis, and told me I would be in hospital for a while.
I ended up in A&E for 20 hours – from 5pm Saturday evening until 1pm Sunday afternoon, as they had to wait for a bed to be free in the Neurology ward.
The next day I headed back down to the Radiology Department for an MRI brain scan.
When the results of the scan came back, they ended up showing an incidental aneurysm on my left Internal Carotid Artery just behind my eye.
The doctor told me in such a blasé way – kind of in a throwaway comment way like it wasn’t a big deal. Of course, having come from working as a healthcare professional, I knew this was a big deal as I was so young to have a brain aneurysm.
It took me a while to come to terms with having a brain aneurysm, but I am so glad it has been found whilst it is still small and manageable. I think about it sometimes, and try to lead as healthy a life as I can to prevent it from getting bigger – mainly regular exercise and healthy eating.
I now need to have annual MRI brain scans to check if the aneurysm has grown. If it gets too big I will need surgery to coil or clip it, to prevent it bursting unexpectedly, which could be fatal.
Some people may think it is better to not know you have an aneurysm, but at least by knowing it is there, the team is monitoring it.
I would rather live knowing I have a brain aneurysm and that I will have brain surgery to eliminate it one day, as opposed to not know and then just drop dead one day because it has burst.
What Caused My Brain Aneurysm?
Who knows. It’s probably partly genetic as my grandfather suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm that led to a stroke which left him with half his body paralysed.
But it could be a combination of other things too – the fact that women are more likely than men to get aneurysms, or that I used to work as a Flight Attendant so my body was subjected to changes in pressure.
Honestly, when the plane was ascending and descending I would often feel pain behind my eyes. Or perhaps stress or binge-drinking in my younger years had a role to play. I can’t change anything in the past, all I can do is try to be as healthy as I can now.
What Can You Do To Help Brain Aneurysm Survivors?
If you would like to contribute you can make a donation to BAFound.org – the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
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Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!