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Technology Increases Chances of Surviving Aneurysm


Each year, half a million people die from brain aneurysms -- when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. For survivors, physical disabilities are often severe. They may include memory problems, loss of balance, trouble speaking and even blindness. But new technologies are increasing survival rates and reducing disabilities.

Beaumont Bacon is a survivor who makes light of her experience because she is a comedian. She uses humor to make others laugh.

"That first year you're married, man, you have yourself strapped into that roller coaster ride of love..."

Beaumont Bacon loves to make people laugh about the ups and downs of life. Now she's working on a new show. The subject will be something that nearly ended her life.

"Welcome to the Beaumont Bacon fireside chats, where we will be discussing the events of my life, to put you at ease regarding my brain. On Sunday, January 31, 2010, I had a double brain aneurysm. Two blows to the head. Right between the eyes."

An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel that can burst. If that happens in the brain, it can be deadly. The Brain Aneurysm Foundation says aneurysms kill 50 percent of the time.

Michael Alexander is her doctor. He operated on Beaumont Bacon after her attack.

"She had bleeding in the frontal area of her brain, so right above the eyes, and it was quite a bit. The part that was in the brain was about maybe the size of an egg. So, that's a fairly large bleed."

Ms. Bacon had a better chance at survival than most people because of Dr. Alexander. He directs the Neurovascular Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The center offers new technologies that include threading a catheter into an aneurysm, then coiling in platinum wires to promote blood clots. This technique, or method, reduces the chances of another burst blood vessel.

"You don't have to open up the skull or open up the brain to do surgery. It's all done from inside the artery. So it reduces the amount of blood loss, hemorrhaging during the procedure, and the recovery is much faster."

For Beaumont Bacon's recovery, the hospital worked to prevent problems commonly found in patients with a burst aneurysm. The problems include brain swelling, or enlargement, and vasospasms that can shut down blood vessels.

She spent a month in a coma -- unable to communicate with doctors, friends and loved ones. Health experts describe a coma as a deep state of unconsciousness, when the patient is alive but unable to react to his or her surroundings.

Doctors warned she might never walk, or talk, or see, or swallow again. But with the help of her husband and a year of treatment, she recovered.

Now, she is making people laugh.

"WAUGGH!!! Oh, my God, he lost his job!"

Dr. Alexander has plenty of good things to say about his patient.

"Her strength of character and her fight and his devotion really helped her have a great recovery."

"Just so you know, there are seven things I have learned about being in a coma. Number one: don't be in a coma. Number two: refer to number one."

The Brain Aneurysm Foundation says severe head pain may be a sign of an aneurysm rupture. Knowing the warning signs and getting immediate care can increase survival.

I’m Marsha James.

Shelley Schlender reported this story. Marsha James wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

aneurysm -n. a burst blood vessel in the brain

thread(ing) – v. passing through something in a straight line

coil(ing) – v. to move something around in circles

rupture v. – to break or burst

vasospasm n.sudden narrowing of a blood vessel, reducing its size and flow

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