“I was eight weeks pregnant when I was working at my computer in our Portland, OR kitchen and suddenly had a horrible headache behind my right eye. I was never prone to migraines, so it was a bit alarming. I then looked over at our dog at the time whose face was split into two different planes. It was almost as if a black bar had separated his face.
I stepped away from my computer thinking maybe I had just been parked too long in front of it, not blinking. Probably just needed to give it a bit of time. But the vision changes and headache persisted, so I packed up my purse and drove myself to the ER at OHSU. Better to be safe and get it checked out, I thought. Especially since I was pregnant.
About ten hours in the ER and I was ready to call it quits. The vision test was normal, they chalked it up to migraines associated with pregnancy. My 1-year-old daughter was at home and I wanted to head back to be with her. The ER doctor and nurse encouraged me to stay for a scan. Something to the extent of, “it isn’t like you to come to the hospital, we want to make sure everything is OK.” So I stayed…another two hours. The scan results seemed fine according to the resident that looked them over, so I was on my way back home.
Early the next morning I received a call from the Doctor who double checked the scan. In fact, everything was not fine. I had an unruptured 7mm aneurysm behind my right eye that needed attention.
The next several weeks were spent scheduling appointments with my neurosurgeon at OHSU and also the perinatal (high risk pregnancy) team. I had options to weigh. I was told treatment while pregnant would be more difficult because I wouldn’t be able to go on blood thinners. And while a stent would be the most beneficial treatment, the blood thinners necessary for it would result in a very dangerous delivery.
I had to wait for my first cerebral angiogram until in my second trimester to be sure that the baby’s organs had formed. That was an additional month after the diagnosis. I felt like a ticking time bomb and was told that I essentially was.
The angiogram confirmed the aneurysm was unruptured and treatable. Since I decided to keep the pregnancy despite the aneurysm, the option available to me was to place coils. At six months pregnant, I went in to have them placed.
One night in the neuro ICU, my nurse said that I was the only pregnant patient, and the only patient able to speak. There was immense gratitude that my issue was treatable and had been found. I had a few more angiograms to see if the coil had worked. The answer was sort of…so this meant I had to have a c-section. The neuro team didn’t want me to push.
My son came a month early and at 8lbs 3ozs didn’t look much like a preemie but had to be in the NICU for 24hours to assist with breathing. It was all a blur.
A few months later I had another cerebral angiogram, which again showed that the coils were sort of working, but the recommendation soon became to get a stent placed now that I wasn’t pregnant and could be on the necessary blood thinners.
So on June 24, 2020 I had a stent placed. It was during the pandemic, so I had to go in alone, which was a little daunting. Another night in the neuro ICU, and home the next day. This one knocked me out for a bit longer with chronic migraines for 10 days post procedure.
Earlier this year I had another cerebral angiogram, and the news was great! The stent had done its job and blood had stopped entering the aneurysm. The nurse that helped me in recovery was the same nurse that had encouraged me to stay in that first ER visit. True kismet.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I always share my story when I can, and always tell people to trust your intuition. Better to be safe than sorry.”