Pain from chronic migraines can be crippling, and there are millions of people who suffer from them for years. Nausea, numbness, and light sensitivity are just some of the things that happen when migraines attack.
Lee Broadway had migraines since she was 8 years old, so she was no stranger to the agonizing pain. The North Carolina mom of four was busy making plans for her 42nd birthday with her husband before their day got started.
A few hours had passed when she texted her husband Eric at work, telling him he needed to come home right away. She was in massive pain with what she described as the “worse headache of her life”, and by the time Eric arrived home, her leg had gone numb and she collapsed. He rushed her to the E.R.
Doctors determined she needed specialized care and Lee was flown to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte; it was no migraine. Still unaware of the specifics, Eric spoke with a nurse who informed him his wife had a brain aneurysm. Sadly, Lee passed away two days later on April 3rddue to complications.
Symptoms of brain aneurysms may sometimes resemble those of a migraine. But people often state that the pain is unlike anything they’ve experienced. More worrisome is that they are often fatal. What exactly is a brain aneurysm?
Commonly formed within a brain artery, aneurysms occur when the wall of the artery becomes weak or thin. In the spot where there’s weakness, the blood-filled bulge forms in the blood vessel. Most people are not aware that they have one unless it ruptures, as they are asymptomatic. Johns Hopkins Medicine lists the following as some of the symptoms:
- Sudden onset of severe headache
- Facial pain
- Visual problems like double or blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
There are some risk factors that can contribute to weak arteries and susceptibility to brain aneurysms. They include: high blood pressure, nicotine smoking, old age, head trauma, heavy alcohol or drug use, hardened arteries, and blood infections. At birth, certain health issues may be present that increase risk such as a congenital condition, family history, blood/artery disorder, or a disease.
Detecting a brain aneurysm requires imaging tests such as a MRI, CAT scan, or X-ray. Various treatments are available to help regulate blood flow in the brain or to prevent one from rupturing including coils, stents, or clippings.
Though Johns Hopkins estimates that about 2% of people have an aneurysm, 20% of that group have multiple aneurysms. Again, most people don’t even know they have one and they require immediate medical attention.
Unruptured brain aneurysms are highly unpredictable, but the Mayo Clinic suggests some behaviors that may decrease the risk of a rupture:
- Eating a healthy diet that is low in cholesterol and bad fats
- Gentle exercise that lowers the blood pressure
- Limit caffeine intake (it can up your blood pressure)
- Avoid stress, sudden startles, or overexertion
Eric and Lee were childhood sweethearts who knew each other since middle school. Eric and the rest of Lee’s family praise what a wonderful mom and wife she was as they continue to grieve her tragic death. Missing her tremendously, Eric shared that he hopes her story inspires love in others:
“I hope people just learn to love your love(d) ones every minute of every day and not to take it for granted. Lee and I both took things for granted and it is me just wishing I could say one last thing to her and do one last thing for her.”