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DiversityNursing Blog

Mom Gives Birth After Surviving Aneurysm and Brain Surgery While Pregnant

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Feb 06, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

anna2.jpgWe need a Wednesday feel good story and this is a terrific one! Anna Weeber suffered frequent headaches since she was 16 years old. Now she's 26 weeks pregnant, 27 years old and this headache is unlike any she's ever had in the past. 
The doctor who took on Anna's case had a pregnant wife the same age and was 24 weeks pregnant. Dr. Singer said that 50 percent of patients with Anna's case don't even make it to the hospital alive and of the 50 percent of those patients that do survive, 30 - 50 percent don't recover to their previous level of health and function. See below for details of Anna and her baby’s survival. 

Anna Weeber was getting dressed for a bike ride with her husband and 2-year-old son, Declan, one September afternoon last fall when she was struck by a blinding headache.

The 27-year-old mom had suffered from frequent headaches – about three times a week since she was 16, she says – but this was a completely new level of agony.

“It was the most intense headache I’ve ever had in my life,” Anna, who was 26 weeks pregnant at the time, says. “It felt like a balloon was filling with tar in my head.”

The pain was so intense that she began sweating and vomiting. Then, as her husband Nate called 911, the Zeeland, Michigan, mom realized she couldn’t move the left side of her body.

“From that moment on, I don’t remember anything,” she says.

An ambulance arrived and Anna was rushed to the nearest hospital, where a CT scan identified a ruptured brain aneurysm.

An aneurysm is a ballooning of a blood vessel in the brain. When an aneurysm ruptures it releases blood into the spaces around the brain, which can cause a life-threatening stroke.

“About 50 percent of patients who have a ruptured brain aneurysm don’t even make it to the hospital alive,” explains Dr. Justin Singer, Director of Vascular Neurosurgery at Spectrum Health. “Of the 50 percent of those patients that do survive, another 30-50 percent don’t recover to their previous level of health and function.”

After Anna’s aneurysm was identified, she was rushed to Spectrum Health where she was treated by Dr. Singer. Singer says he felt deeply affected by Anna’s case, as she is about the same age as his wife, who was 24 weeks pregnant at the time.

By the time Anna reached Dr. Singer, she was lucky to be alive – but still in a condition that threatened not just her life, but also the life of her unborn child.

A maternal fetal specialist joined the case and together Anna’s medical team and family decided that a brain surgery to insert a clip that would isolate the aneurysm from the circulatory system so it could be removed was the best treatment option.

“I know if my wife was in that position I would want the most definitive treatment option that poses the least risk to the baby,” Dr. Singer tells PEOPLE. “And that’s surgery so that’s what I advised them to do.”

While Anna was in surgery, Nate continued to ask for prayers on Facebook, as he had been doing since the first ambulance ride.

“Hundreds if not thousands of people started praying for us all around the world,” Anna says.

Twenty hours after the nightmarish episode began Anna emerged from the successful surgery. After a day and night of worrying that Anna could suffer lasting effects from the stroke, Nate was elated to find that “she was completely back to herself,” the 33-year-old says.

Anna remained in the hospital so that doctors could look out for vasospasms, a common complication of a brain aneurysm that limits blood flow within the brain and can cause stroke-like symptoms, paralysis or death.

Anna was treated for severe vasospasms and after 18 days she was released from the hospital. “It was so good to be home with our little family again we finally went apple picking and all of the normal fun fall activities,” she says.

The rest of the pregnancy went smoothly and on December 30, Anna and Nate welcomed a healthy baby boy they named Hudson.

anna1.jpg“We were just praying that Hudson wouldn’t suffer any effects from the surgery and as far as we can tell he is one perfectly health little boy,” she says.

Still, Anna says she can’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion when she thinks about all she and Hudson have been through together.

“The first couple of days after Hudson was born, he and I would look at each other and make eye contact and I would just start crying knowing everything we’ve been through together,” she says. “We both knew God got us through this huge miracle.”

Dr. Singer and his wife welcomed a baby girl they named Jordyn the following week and the two families have already gotten together for a play date.


Despite the grim statistics, Anna has only discovered two changes since the surgery. She was thrilled to find that her headaches stopped completely, and less thrilled to learn she has begun snoring. All things considered, she says, even that feels like a blessing.

“My husband is totally fine with the snoring considering that of all the possible outcomes I’m here and alive,” she says.

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Topics: aneurysm, brain surgery

Softball Player's Brain Aneurysm Draws Attention to Rare Condition

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 27, 2015 @ 02:23 PM


kabc dana housley brain aneurysm jc 150526 16x9 992 resized 600A 15-year-old California softball player is reportedly fighting for her life days after a brain aneurysm led her to collapse on the field.

Dana Housley told her coach she “felt dizzy” before collapsing on the field, according to ABC's Los Angeles station KABC.

She was taken to Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, California, where she is on life support, according to KABC. Hospital officials did not comment further on the case, citing privacy laws.

As Housley’s teammates rally with messages of support with the hashtag #PrayforDana, experts said that the teen’s case can help put the spotlight on this mysterious condition that affects an estimated 6 million Americans.

Experts are quick to point out that Housley’s activity on the softball team likely had no bearing on her developing a brain aneurysm or having it rupture.

“The biggest mystery is why they form,” Christine Buckley, the executive director of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation told ABC News.

Just two days after Housley’s hospitalization, a teen baseball player reportedly died after being hit by a baseball. In that case, the cause of death was not yet released, though his grandfather told a local newspaper that one cause may have been an underlying condition, including possibly an aneurysm.

Teens rarely develop aneurysms, but those that do often do not understand their symptoms including headache, eye pain and sometimes earache, Buckley said.

“Early detection is the key,” she said, noting that people should seek treatment at a hospital if they experience signs and symptoms.

An aneurysm develops when a weak spot develops on the wall of a brain artery, leading to a bulge. Should the weak spot rupture, the blood loss can lead devastating results, including strokebrain injury or death.

Aneurysms can run in families and ruptured aneurysms are more associated with smoking, but no specific activity is associated with developing an aneurysm or having it rupture, Buckley said.

Dr. Nicholas Bambakidis, director of Cerebrovascular and Skull Base Surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said brain aneurysms in teenagers and children are rare but they do occur.

“It’s a severe tremendous headache, almost always accompanied by loss of consciousness,” Bambakidis said of brain aneurysm symptoms. "Worst headache of my life. It’s not like a tension headache or a headache after a bad day."

Bambakidis said even an outside trauma like a baseball hitting the head may not lead to rupture and that they are mostly likely to be rupture due to severe trauma that actually pierces the brain.

The biggest predictor of survival is how a patient is doing when they arrive to get treatment, he said.

“How bad was the bleeding and how much damage was done to the brain when it’s bleeding?” Bambakidis said of figuring out the likelihood of a patient surviving.

Brain aneurysms are most prevalent for people between the ages of 35 to 60, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. The condition can be deadly if ruptured and approximately 15 percent of patients with a specific type of aneurysm called an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, die before reaching the hospital.

Approximately 30,000 Americans will have a brain aneurysm rupture annually and about 40 percent of these cases are fatal.

Topics: health, brain, hospital, treatment, headache, life support, aneurysm, brain artery

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