I Had No Idea What a Brain Aneurysm Was – Until My Headaches Got Worse. Tricia Brooks’ Story

The unknown –
Well, that’s what it WAS for me before August 21, 2014. I had both no idea what a brain aneurysm was, or what that I had one.
**Times and dates may be incorrect due to my memory being off and much of this was retold to me**

For approximately 2 years, I struggled with blood sugar problems. It was slightly atypical because I was not diabetic, rather hypoglycemic, but they couldn’t find a reason. I saw an endocrinologist that ran a 4 hour test to try to see if there was any kind of reasoning for this drop in blood sugar. At one point about 2 hours in, my blood sugar had dropped into the 30’s and I was so weak, they ended up stopping the test. There was really no explanation for my blood sugar problems. After some blood tests, the endocrinologist diagnosed me with aGHD (Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency). I went on my way and started to have success with the blood sugar issues with these shots she prescribed me. Because I had gained so much weight over the prior 6-8 months, I decided that I’d go ahead and try to quit smoking while I was at it. So, I decided to try the vaping route. Around May 2014, I successfully turned to complete vaping, got to the lowest nicotine level almost immediately, and started to slow down on that. My blood sugar was finally on track, my smoking had stopped and I felt like I’d finally be able to to start losing some of that weight.

I started walking daily at lunch, 5+ miles, but within about 2 months, something in me changed. I didn’t just feel lazy, I felt “off,” or weak, or something just wasn’t right. I was dizzy, and unfortunately, I really didn’t know what it was. But, I’m stubborn, so I went on ignoring it. And I quit walking.

(This has been retold to me) Around the 10th of August, I started to swell drastically. So, I called the nurse hotline for Blue Cross Blue Shield. They told me to get off of these shots, take my blood pressure, if elevated try to get it down and if it didn’t come down and my body didn’t start to lose the fluid, to go to the ER. I went to the ER because I was in pain due to the swelling and feeling like I’d bust out of my skin…and after sitting there for several hours, I left without treatment. So, I ended up stopping these shots completely. (I believe this must have been direction from the endocrinologist).

Here’s the spiral…spinning so quickly downward.

For about a week, I complained of a headache. Looking back through Facebook posts, I found this “Today! August 17, 2014! I can actually say was a good day! Aside from a headache that I’ve had since Wednesday, which has been very mild today.” We had celebrated my sons’ 14th birthday that day. Little did I know this would be 4 days prior to “the worst day of my life.”

Almost a week in now…that God forsaken headache.

Tuesday August 19th, 2014 is when things got just weird. Sitting at work, in pain, in the dark. My boss walks into my office and flips the light switch on..to which he notices my sunglasses, said some choice words that upset me, and the thick skinned person I am, had disappeared. Friends trying to comfort me, rubbing my shoulders/neck, trying to make me feel better…to no avail, that stupid headache kept being persistent. Sinus pressure? Stress? Neck Cramps? Pulled muscle? Neck bone problems?? WHAT WAS CAUSING THIS AWFUL HEADACHE???

I asked my mother who she saw for her migraines (she suffered for a long time with headaches) and she said it was a regular dr. My exact text to her at 9:50 am said “I just got the worst headache I’ve ever had, it hit out of nowhere. I thought the one I had this weekend was bad, I was fine one minute then BAM the next.” That afternoon I wanted my mother to call me but she was busy. I don’t know what I might have wanted. But apparently I made an appt with an ear nose and throat dr. I thought maybe it was a sinus headache…so I asked my mothers’ opinion if she thought I should go to the dr beforehand and said “I have never in my life experienced pain like that but my left shoulder around my neck hurts so I’m sure it is likely a tension headache.”

Wednesday, August 20th. We’re now 1 week into this headache, but its gone from hurting, to not bad, back to hurting, to horrible. I text my boss that I’m going to be late to work, I’m going to the dr for this headache. My mom texts to ask how it is and I tell her that its still there pretty bad, but I’m not as nauseated. I go into my usual walk-in clinic. The PA there looks at me and says she’s really unsure at this point, she thought I may be having a mini stroke, but she’ll call and check on me in the morning and if it gets too bad, go to the ER…but she would request an MRI if not better. She gave me migraine meds and sent me home. I believe her notes state something about a possible TIA (transient ischemic attack). I head to work. My boss calls me and tells me to go home. I go home and take migraine meds, do a lot of sleeping.
Wednesday August 20th – very late in the night. I wake up from sleeping and really feeling awful – not sure if puking at this point, and tell my husband that I HAVE to go to the ER. I needed help NOW to make this pain go away. It is noted in record that I waited to see a dr for approximately 2 hours? Was never taken seriously about my level of pain. My husband hasn’t slept much (he works nights) so he goes and gets my phone charger, brings it back to me, and goes back out to the car to go to sleep. I guess dr’s gave me some pain meds for the time being. I really don’t know. So I have a CT scan. they started to prepare my discharge papers as “just a migraine.” I walked to the bathroom while waiting, and noticed my pupil was dilated…so I call the nurse. The nurse calls the dr in and they look at my pupil and decide to do a CT-A or MRI one. After imaging and the radiologist/doctor reading it, they decide (For the 2nd time) to send me home with a migraine and told me to take the meds that the walk-in clinic had prescribed (topamax). Nurses noted that before final release, they had let the dr know that my pain level had increased since the 2nd scan, but they still sent me home.

Thursday August 21st I wake up and call my drs office. He gets me in immediately. So, knowing my husband returns to work on Thursday and is exhausted from taking care of me and the kids, he still takes me anyway. I can’t see well enough to drive. I have a droopy eyelid and dilated pupil. I sent a pic of my face to my mother. She asked if I had contacted the dr. She said that “an aneurysm isnt something to mess with.” Nobody had said anything about an aneurysm, so it was odd she said that. I replied that I was sitting in his office, he thinks it’s an eye migraine but is sending me to a neurologist and ophthalmologist because he thinks its the beginning of a stroke. His notes state it’s a possible TIA. Mom asks if her or my dad need to be here, I tell her no. I go home, end up laying in the bathroom floor and puking, get in the bathtub to relax, cant – continually puking in pain. Get in the bed, still…. My friend came and took me to the ophthalmologist.

My mother text at 3:49 pm to check on me. I was still in the lobby…alone, and told her I was still there. A few minutes after the text I was in the ophthalmologists chair. He (ophthalmologist) later told me that he had told me to go to the ER immediately, dont waste any time. But, I never made it to the ER. I got REAL sick and they called 911. A little old couple came in and asked if they could pray for me, I agreed. Little did I know that I needed that prayer. (God rest their souls, both of them). When paramedics arrived, they said while trying to get my info, I grabbed my head and screamed. As soon as they put me in the Ambulance, my heart stopped. They used a defibrillator to get it started again, and as soon as they pulled me off of the ambulance, I went into cardiac arrest again (doing CPR as they wheeled me in to the ER).

This same ER sent me home approximately 12 hours earlier. They didn’t have contact info on me and thankfully my son called my phone to see what was going on and they got my husband on the phone….but wouldn’t give him any information over the phone due to HIPAA privacy laws. They asked him to please come to the hospital IMMEDIATELY. He arrived at MMH ER and saw a helicopter and his heart dropped with thoughts of it being for me because he knew nothing at this point. The front desk rushed him back to me, and this is where he saw me, tubes and wires everywhere, and a life flight crew standing nearby. The dr let him know that things didn’t really look good for me. I had suffered from cardiac arrest, a ruptured brain aneurysm, and a hemorrhagic stroke. I would have to be airlifted to Lubbock for surgery that MIGHT save my life, but the risks were high and survival chances very low.

Approximately 4 years later, just days after my father had passed away, my brother also suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. I know they say that these can/do run in family’s, but as far as we know, we’re the first ones to have them.