Living life to the fullest after an aneurysm

Twenty-nine years ago, Brenda Leboeuf’s mother suffered an aneurysm, so when 54-year-old Brenda suddenly began experiencing an intense pressure in her head the night of October 22, 2018, she knew exactly what was happening. She immediately phoned a friend to take her to the nearest hospital in Escanaba, Michigan.

"I got out of the truck," said Brenda, "and I told the lady [at the hospital], ‘I think I’m having an aneurysm.’"

A life-threatening condition

A cerebral aneurysm develops when there is a weak, bulging spot in a blood vessel in the brain, which grows and can burst, or rupture. A ruptured aneurysm can cause a severe headache, seizure, loss of consciousness, and weakness.

Dr. Gerald Eckardt, neurosurgeon at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, describes aneurysms as having the shape of a balloon. "As blood continues to fill inside of the aneurysm, the risk of it rupturing and bleeding in the brain is higher," said Eckardt. "When it ruptures, then it’s a medical emergency."

A ruptured aneurysm becomes a hemorrhagic stroke.

The right choice

After a CT scan confirmed that Brenda’s fears were correct, she was airlifted to Aurora BayCare Medical Center, where Dr. Eckardt went right to work on Brenda’s aneurysm. He performed a procedure called endovascular coiling, which entails using a small catheter to deploy tiny metal coils into the aneurysm to block blood from flowing further into the aneurysm.

"A few days later, I woke up and I knew everything about who I was, how old I was," said Brenda. "Dr. Eckardt absolutely saved my life. He gave me a second chance."

Aurora BayCare Medical Center is a Comprehensive Stroke Center, the first and only in the region, where patients receive 24/7 neurointerventional care, care for all types of strokes, access to a dedicated ICU unit, 24/7 Advanced Neuro imaging, and high-quality care to support recovery.

"The care they gave me for the 17 days I was here was amazing," said Brenda. "I feel like I have a family over here on the east side of Green Bay."

Aneurysm risks and prevention

"Aneurysms can sometimes go unnoticed for many years," Dr. Eckardt said. "Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, family history of aneurysms, head trauma, and age."

Dr. Eckardt suggests avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising as ways to lower your risk of developing an aneurysm.

"It was obviously in my genes, I have a stressful job, and I was a previous smoker," said Brenda, "I quit smoking, I try to eat better, I’m out getting more exercise with my two dogs, and I don’t get so stressed about work anymore."

Life after an aneurysm

Brenda is back to doing the things she loves: taking her dogs to the woods or to the beach for a swim, riding down the country roads in her Jeep, going fishing, travelling and being with family and friends.

"When I found out I had an aneurysm, I cried and was extremely scared," admitted Brenda. "I try to do everything I can, because I don’t want it to turn into a missed opportunity."

Outcomes like Brenda’s, where the patient has absolutely no long-term effects, don’t always turn out this way.

"I feel very blessed to have recovered from such a severe injury," Brenda said. "Dr. Eckardt was so caring and compassionate. If they didn’t get me here, if he wasn’t the surgeon who performed the coiling, I may not have survived it."