Brain Aneurysm Survivors Share their Ordeal

Brain aneurysm survivors and their families participate in last year's Brain Aneurysm Awareness Walk at Jones Beach State Park.

Two patients treated for potentially life-threatening brain aneurysms will be featured on Saturday, Sept. 24, when the Brain Aneurysm Center of Northwell Health’s Neuroscience Institute, along with the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF), host Long Island’s Eighth Annual Brain Aneurysm Awareness Four-Mile Fun Run/Two-Mile Walk at Jones Beach State Park.

The walk will feature survivors – Stacy Allen, 41, from East Islip, NY and Meredith Brosnan, 70, from Glen Head, NY, who will share their stories to increase awareness of the warning signs of a brain aneurysm - severe headache, nausea, blurred or double vision, stiff neck or neck pain, pain above or behind the eye and loss of sensation. 

Ms. Allen was exercising at the gym on New Year’s Day, when she experienced a terrible headache.  A chronic migraine sufferer for the past 12 years, she didn’t think too much of it, but decided to go home.  Upon arriving at her house, the headache became more intense and was accompanied by neck pain.  Eventually, she lost consciousness.  Her 16-year-old son, Thomas called 911 and Ms. Allen was sent to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed a ruptured brain aneurysm.  She was transferred by helicopter to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, where Dr. Avi Setton, co-director of Northwell Health’s Brain Aneurysm Center, performed a minimally invasive endovascular coiling procedure.

The procedure required insertion of a catheter into the femoral artery in the leg, which was then navigated through the blood vessels to the location of the aneurysm in the brain.  Soft platinum coils were inserted through the catheter and deployed in the aneurysm, conforming to its shape, filling the sac and blocking blood flow.  The coiling was a success.

After a three-week stay in the hospital’s neurosurgical intensive care unit (ICU), Ms. Allen was later able to return to her paralegal job, regular gym activities and busy schedule as a mother of three children.  “If my son hadn’t called 911, my outcome could have been different,” said Ms. Allen.  “Doctors Setton and [co-director Dr. David] Chalif saved my life. They are amazing doctors.  Since my incident, I see things more clearly now and I am much more appreciative of every day.  I try not to stress about the small things.”

Similar to Ms. Allen, Ms. Brosnan also suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. In November 2014, she was at her daughter’s house when “an odd feeling” in her head caused her to collapse.  She was sent to Glen Cove Hospital, where an MRI scan revealed a ruptured brain aneurysm.   Ms. Brosnan was transferred to North Shore University Hospital, where Dr. Chalif surgically clipped the aneurysm, by working through a small opening in the skull, locating the aneurysm with an operating microscope and cutting the blood flow by placing a clip across the base -- allowing blood to flow normally elsewhere in the brain.

 Ms. Brosnan, an avid sailor, has been able to resume those activities.  This summer she is enjoying the boat she had purchased two weeks prior to her incident. “I am devoting more time to things that are important,” she said. “Dr. Chalif and the wonderful staff at the hospital saved my life!”

Dr. Chalif explained that “ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 40 percent of cases but thanks to the quick actions of Ms. Allen and Ms. Brosnan’s family members in seeking prompt medical attention, their lives were saved. By sharing their stories at our walk this year, they will help spread awareness about the warning signs of a brain aneurysm and save lives.”

Hundreds of walkers -- including brain aneurysm survivors, their families and friends -- are expected to attend the fun-filled event. Many doctors, nurses and staff members from Northwell Health’s Brain Aneurysm Center will also be on hand to show their support for the many patients they have treated over the years.  Among those who will be attending are Dr. Chalif and Dr. Setton.  Proceeds from the walk will benefit Northwell Health’s Brain Aneurysm Center and the BAF, helping support essential research into how to help prevent cases of ruptured aneurysms. 

 Registration for the walk begins at 8:30am at Jones Beach State Park, Field 5, 1000 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh, NY. The start time is 10am and the event will be held rain or shine. The registration fee is $25 through September 10th.  After September 10th, the registration fee is $30, so register early!  Entry fee includes the cost of parking and snacks. Tee-shirts will be handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis. To pre-register for the walk, click here.


About Northwell Health’s Neuroscience Institute

The Neuroscience Institute, part of Northwell Health, consists of multidisciplinary clinical and research teams that provide patients with state-of-the-art treatments for the entire spectrum of neurological and neurosurgical disorders, including brain aneurysms, AVM’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury, movement disorders, brain and spinal cord tumors, diseases of the spine, muscle and peripheral nerves, Chiari malformation, syringomyelia, neurodegenerative diseases, pain, epilepsy and neurological diseases of infancy and childhood.  To learn more about Northwell Health’s Neuroscience Institute and its centers of excellence, click here.