Meredith Staggers was conducting errands across Houston, Texas on August 4 when a blinding headache prompted her to pull over to the side of a busy road.
The 35-year-old founder of Cake & Confetti suffered from headaches throughout her pregnancy prior to the birth of her third child in June, but the intensity of the anguish in that moment was unlike anything she had ever encountered, evoking signs of a stroke.
“I began to see an aura in my left eye and to gradually lose my eyesight. My face began to numb, and then my hands and feet began to lose sensation “She informs. “I attempted to call my spouse, but I was unable to click the buttons on my phone, as if it were not registering in my mind.
I was finally able to make touch with him, but 10 to 15 minutes later I lost my capacity to communicate clearly.”
The spouse of Staggers hurried to her place and transported her to the emergency room.
“When I came in and was triaged at the emergency room, they questioned my husband, “Is there a chance she is under the influence of drugs?” That’s how disorganized I was, “She continues.
The CT scan of the head and x-ray of the chest were both finally negative. Next, she might wait in the ER’s understaffed waiting area to be seen.
After nearly nine hours of waiting, Staggers opted to return home, dismissing the incident as a migraine that had subsided.
Staggers, though, suffered severe migraines for six straight days. And less than a week after her visit to the emergency room, the mother of three experienced another significant crisis while at an OB/GYN checkup with her daughter.
Staggers reports that she rapidly lost vision and was unable to hold her infant or interact with medics, but again assumed she was experiencing a migraine.
“I wasn’t only coping with the postpartum hormones that the ordinary woman experiences; I also had this rare instance of having to be in the hospital with my small little baby due to RSV and pneumonia,” she says, referring to the added stress of her daughter’s hospitalization.
In that moment, I believed I was experiencing a severe panic attack, which provoked this migraine once more.
The nurse then suggested that Staggers contact a neurologist just in case her experiences were something more than hormonal migraines. The next day, she made an MRI appointment with her primary care physician…
The MRI indicated that Staggers’ migraines were caused by a 5-6mm brain aneurysm, roughly the size of a fingertip, and she was brought to the hospital immediately.
An aneurysm is an enlargement of a brain blood artery. When an aneurysm ruptures, it can trigger a life-threatening stroke by releasing blood into the areas around the brain.
Dr. Joseph Cochran, a neurosurgeon at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, explains that Staggers’ symptoms were caused by a leaky or bleeding aneurysm behind her left eye that was pressing on the nerves.
Staggers considers herself fortunate to have discovered her aneurysm before it ruptured.
Dr. Cochran tells PEOPLE that when an aneurysm ruptures, only about half of patients make it to the hospital, and approximately 40 percent die before reaching the hospital.
“Thus, it is a terrible thing, but if you catch it before it bursts, it can be quickly repaired with minimal discomfort.”
Staggers was scheduled for surgery within days.
“As a mother of three little girls, this was obviously very upsetting news, and I felt immediately terrified of what was to follow.
But at the same time, I felt a tremendous feeling of satisfaction that I now understood what was going on “She concedes.
“It was a pretty weird event because it occurred so suddenly. Oh, you’re experiencing a migraine, they said, and then, no, it’s something that would require surgery.”
Staggers continues, “I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed that it was an aneurysm.”
Dr. Cochran performed an endovascular flow diversion on August 15, in which a catheter was inserted through the groin and into the artery containing the aneurysm..,
The device, which works as a stent to channel blood away from the aneurysm, is then deployed.
He refers to the technique as a “game-changer” because Staggers was able to return home within days, when an open brain surgery would have required a lengthier recuperation period.
Even though imaging of the blood vessels, such as an MRI, is required to detect an aneurysm, Dr. Cochran advises that anyone experiencing “the worst headache of your life” accompanied by nausea or vomiting should seek medical assistance.
He adds, “If someone is experiencing persistent headaches, imaging of their brain’s blood arteries should be performed to rule out an aneurysm.”
Dr. Cochran says that smoking, high blood pressure, and family history or genetics are the three primary causes of aneurysms. After recuperating, Staggers discovered that she has a family history of aneurysms, suggesting that genetics played a role.
“Once I was diagnosed with mine, my mother informed me that my grandfather had two aneurysms, one of her cousins, and numerous other relatives on the same side of the family all died or were diagnosed with an aneurysm,” Staggers adds.
“There were multiple examples in my family, but no one ever addressed it to me before I was diagnosed. Consequently, this motivated my mother to obtain an MRI and get examined, just in case.”
Dr. Cochran continues, “In general, we urge that if someone has an aneurysm, their first-degree relatives be screened.”
“Meredith’s children, as well as her siblings and sisters, should be examined to determine if they have an aneurysm. And we accomplish this using only an MRI scan, so it is not an intrusive study.”
As a social media influencer and in recognition of September being National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, Staggers hopes that her survival story will motivate others to maintain a healthy lifestyle and get examined if they have a family history of aneurysms.
“Suddenly, I wondered, Why is nobody talking about this? I felt there was a lack of awareness regarding brain aneurysms “She reveals.
“When you see the doctor and are asked about your family medical history, brain aneurysm is never mentioned. They inquire about diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which made me understand there is a significant gap.”
“Sharing my tale, if I could perhaps help one person catch it like I did, I would consider that a tremendous achievement,” adds Staggers.