Ruptured Brain Aneurysm | Dr. Olachi Mezu's Story

Author: Johns Hopkins Medicine

That day is a day I would never forget, the most memorable and terrifying day of my life. I had a sudden onset of a dull, constant, throbbing headache. My head, my head, my head. She had this headache. As a physician, I know this is no ordinary headache.

A part of me said this really is the worst headache of your life. Immediately I thought that, chills went through my spine. I'm, like, in medicine that is a subarachnoid hemorrhage and I knew something was wrong at that point. ER doctor did a CAT Scan and said she was fine, no evidence of anything wrong, but her head was pounding and there was nothing we could do. For the kind of headache she was complaining we need to make sure that she has not bled into her brain. The only way to find out she's sick was to do a lumbar puncture.

I remember that a few days' back I had transferred a newborn baby from my hospital to Hopkins, so the number I had dialed was fresh in my head. When I received the call from the hotline, the operator told me that there was a patient who has a subarachnoid hemorrhage but the referring physician is also the patient, so I thought this is new coz I've never heard this before and I said, okay, you know, let me take the call. And I could tell from Doctor Mezu's voice that she was very anxious, so I told her not to worry, that I'd take care of her, and I think that provided some level of reassurance. We recognized right away that she did indeed have a clinical presentation that was very suspicious for a ruptured aneurism. So then she underwent cerebral angiogram right away and that confirmed our clinical suspicion of a cerebral aneurysm.

Doctor Huang went ahead to tell me you are so lucky. And these are ruptured she said from the bottom and is contained by brain tissue, so that's why it did not show on the CT because even now your CT will be negative. Someone must be watching over you coz that's the best place to have an aneurysm, she said. Due to her young age and the location of the aneurysm, the configuration of the aneurysm, microsurgical clipping was recommended as a definitive treatment.

Ruptured Brain Aneurysm | Dr. Olachi Mezu's Story

Even though the reputation of ruptured brain aneurysms is a dreadful one and it is that way in many situations, it's not necessarily true because some people have a ruptured aneurysm and after it bleeds it stops bleeding right away, so that doesn't necessarily cause irreversible neurologic injury and if they seek treatment in a timely fashion, the prognosis can actually be very good. Doctor Mezu, give me a thumbs up. I opened my eyes and looked and they were still on -- over me and I asked, have you started the surgery? And she said it's over. Seven to eight hours gone. I had no memory of it. I felt no pain. And immediately I knew it was intact.

I was healed. From the moment a patient walks through our doors there is a team approach. Everybody is focused on getting that patient through whatever problem they have.

As a neurosurgeon, I think we have to really focus on educating each particular patient about their neurosurgical disease and what the best options are. What's good for one person may not be the best for the other person. The opportunity that I had to take care of her and get her back to caring for her patients which are premature infants and their mothers and get her back to being able to do what she's passionate about is for me a constant source of inspiration. I remember the day of discharge. I walked into a room and my parents were like, oh, Doctor Huang, it was clapping ‪and cheering. She's, like, did I miss something? My mom said, no, we're just excited. We're just happy always to see you.

She's a remarkable human being. She said don't worry, I'll take care of you.

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