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When Jamie Falstrault’s undiagnosed brain aneurysm ruptured while in his Scotch Plains home, he and his family feared for his life. Would he survive? And if he did, would he be able to walk, talk or have a decent quality of life?
“We were all in utter shock,” Jamie recalled. “The only symptom I experienced prior to my aneurysm was extremely bad headaches. I went to the doctor three times, and all three times I was diagnosed with a sinus infection. The next thing I know, I’m feeling disoriented and sick to my stomach – and I’m being rushed to the hospital.”
Jamie, 43, was immediately taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center and then transferred to the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute at Overlook Medical Center.
At Overlook, Jamie began seeing Dr. Ronald Benitez, a board-certified neurosurgeon at Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS) and specialist in brain aneurysms and strokes.
“Headaches can signal many medical conditions, but sudden, highly severe headaches are a telltale sign that an aneurysm has – or soon will – rupture,” advises Dr. Benitez. “Until symptoms present themselves, aneurysms often go undetected. That’s why it’s so important to know the warning signs. For aneurysms that have not yet ruptured, symptoms include pain above and behind the eye, dilated pupils, numbness or weakness and difficulty speaking. Beyond extreme headaches, other symptoms associated with ruptured aneurysms include blurred or double vision, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, a drooping eyelid, seizure, and loss of consciousness. If you or a loved one experiences any of these, insist on immediate medical attention. It’s a critical move for survival.”
Under Dr. Benitez’s care, the brain aneurysm wouldn’t be the end of Jamie’s story. It was, however, the beginning of a difficult journey toward reclaiming his life and regaining his health.
Jamie spent nearly a month in the intensive care unit. During his five-month-long hospital stay, he had multiple procedures including surgery to clip his aneurysm, insertion of a shunt and several angioplasties which use small balloons to relieve the narrowing of arteries that is often a complication of cerebral aneurysm. While in the hospital, Jamie suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed the entire left side of his body.
Jamie spent six months in outpatient rehabilitation, but he continued to struggle physically.
“Despite my best efforts, I was weak and I was having terrible tremors, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do everyday tasks — from writing my name to eating a meal. As much as I felt like giving up at times, I was determined to persevere. Dr. Benitez saved my life and it was up to me to keep pushing myself forward,” said Jamie.
That’s when an acquaintance who had also suffered brain injuries recommended Jamie try yoga therapy, which is increasingly being used to supplement medical healing. He began practicing at a studio, focusing on breathing, stability, and mobility exercises.
After just a few months of practice and diligence, Jamie noticed he was, in fact, becoming significantly stronger.
“I was no longer paralyzed. Like a miracle, my strength began to come back, and my shaking stopped. It has been nothing short of remarkable,” he said. “Combined with traditional medicine, yoga has been a major influence in speeding up my recovery and allowing me to regain more mobility than I once thought was possible.”
Jamie concluded, “Hope and healing comes in many forms. For me, it’s neurosurgery and yoga — a life-saving combination I am eternally grateful for.”
Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS) is New Jersey’s largest neurosurgical practice and one of the most advanced in the country. Since its founding in 1958, ANS has specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the nervous system. For more information, visit www.ansdocs.com.
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