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Why We Need to Start Talking About Aneurysms

Our bodies have subtle or very obvious ways of telling us something is wrong – what we call symptoms. But if you’re as in tune with your symptoms as I am and know something isn’t right, speaking out becomes even more important. We report our symptoms with the hope that our physicians will rule out the root cause of the issues. These last seven months of illness have been the scariest of my entire existence. I discovered I’ve got an aneurysm moving along the artery going into my spleen. It’s common amongst women especially in their childbearing years, and it’s found incidentally. And it’s a silent and deadly, quick killer. We need to be discussing aneurysms more.

I hope nobody endures what I did to save my own life. Though I am no doctor, I am one for my health and well-being. At first, nobody would believe that I had a symptomatic aneurysm, and the symptoms kept piling up—vomiting, crippling stomach pain, inability to digest food, and much more kept me down for seven or more months. And worse, I reported to physicians that I could feel the aneurysm pulsating against my skin. I could tell it was marching quickly toward its rupturing point.

When a splenic aneurysm ruptures, you die within minutes and will bleed internally fast. Think of an aneurysm as a big balloon sitting on a string (your artery). Throughout Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year’s, I was beyond uncomfortable and sick. By January, I was fearing my symptoms weren’t being heard or adequately assessed, so I went from hospital one to hospital two, which gave me more progress.

In February I did another CAT scan, and the calculation size of the aneurysm was the same, 1.9 centimeters in diameter. I begged and begged physicians to listen and understand that my life was on the line. Hospital number one told me to wait on the aneurysm for six months and thankfully I didn’t. My parents were on board with me the whole time, and we sought experts. And then, hospital number three, a major research center in the United States, analyzed my situation.

They presented us with three options: have this surgery done endovascularly, and the other two were risky surgeries. I am not someone who can live without a spleen because of my primary immune deficiency and other conditions. I was initially told option A (the endovascular option for surgery) might not be achievable due to my artery’s condition. Essentially, all I could see was my death and kept praying for more days, more time, something to work out. I kept thinking, if only people had listened to me months earlier or a lot sooner. I was never more scared in my entire life.

But a miracle happened.

The brilliant interventional radiologist at that research center performed the endovascular procedure — the less threatening surgical approach. It turns out that my aneurysm was just over 2.5 centimeters, well into the rupture zone. My spleen was saved, and so was my life. Even though I’m not out of the woods just yet, I’m hoping I won’t have to go through this a second time. It took five hours to do the angiogram and procedure, and the recovery is brutal.

I hope no other person (patient) has to go from hospital to hospital for adequate medical care. Don’t be afraid to speak out about your symptoms and be a fierce advocate for your health.

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