My mom's brain aneurysm ruptured on December 23rd, 2018 at 11:35 am. I didn't know it at the time but it was a day that forever changed my life. We rushed down to the hospital only to learn that the rupture was too large and there was nothing we could do. We sat by her bedside and held her had. We told her how much we would miss her and how much we loved her and at 3:12 am on December 25th she left this life. She was 69 years old.
As the years have passed by, I've learned a lot about brain aneurysms.
I've learned that brain aneurysms can "run in families." If a close family member has had a brain aneurysm, ruptured or unruptured, you are more likely to have one, some studies show 25% more likely. My mom's grandmother died from a brain aneurysm rupture at the age of 36 but no one ever asked her about family history of brain aneurysms. Questions about brain aneurysms are rarely on medical questionnaires or intake forms.
I've learned that for some people, my mom being one of them, there are warning signs PRIOR to a rupture. This could be due to small leaks or other changes in the aneurysm. For my mom, these signs we're a persistent headache and nausea.
I've learned that high blood pressure is the leading cause of brain aneurysm rupture. A month before her aneurysm ruptured, my mom was put on a medication for lowering estrogen in her body (she had recently beaten estrogen positive breast cancer). Her blood pressure went from 112/72 to 146/109 in a matter of weeks. The medication wasn't necessary - she could have lived without it but on the advice of her doctors, who never asked about familial brain aneurysms, she stayed on the medication
I've learned that the way we talk about brain aneurysms and ruptures needs to change. For example, a ruptured brain aneurysm is a type of stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke, but when most people think of strokes, they think of blood clots in either the heart or the brain.
I've learned that an MRA (like an MRI but a scan that shows blood vessels more clearly) is a first step in checking to see if you might have a brain aneurysm (I have them done every 5 years).
I've learned that brain aneurysms can appear at any age but are more common in women and over the age of 60.
Most of all, I've learned that knowledge is power. You need to know WHAT to ask before you can ask it and you need to be able to advocate for yourself.