Air Force Veteran Defies the Odds and Survives a Ruptured Brain Aneurysm

As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Danisha Henry is trained to handle high pressure, high stress situations.  What she didn’t realize was the life-threatening situation she’d have to battle through after putting the combat zone behind her.

“Back in March, I was in the kitchen, and the next thing I remember is being on the floor. I was in a lot of pain and my head was ringing, but I managed to crawl to the bedroom to get my cell phone and call 9-1-1. By the time the firefighters were able to get to me, I had lost consciousness again,” remembers Henry.

Henry was rushed to the emergency center at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, where emergency physician Mikael Lucas, M.D., discovered a ruptured aneurysm in Henry’s brain. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, a ruptured brain aneurysm occurs when the walls of an artery get too weak, and the artery bursts. This allows blood to escape into the space around the brain. About 40 percent of those with a ruptured brain aneurysm die.

Any kind of intracranial hemorrhage is life-threatening. As soon as I saw the results of the scan showing blood in her brain, I knew we needed to transfer her to the Texas Medical Center,” says Dr. Lucas. “Luckily, because she’d been seen here at Memorial Hermann Katy, the doctors at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center would have her most recent medical information and be able to review the scans we performed even before she showed up at their hospital.”

Henry was taken by ambulance to Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center and into the care of Spiros Blackburn, M.D., a neurosurgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UTHealth. Dr. Blackburn performed a minimally invasive procedure, called endovascular coiling, to repair the artery. A microcatheter is passed through an artery in the groin to the brain, where the coil seals off the opening of the aneurysm.

“Danisha had an unusual rupture, as far as the location is concerned. It was in the anterior inferior cerebellar artery, which is located toward the base of the brain. Due to its location, coiling was the best method for sealing off the aneurysm,” said Dr. Blackburn.  “Another treatment option includes surgery, which is, obviously, more invasive than coiling.”

For the next several months, Danisha would tap into the discipline and commitment she learned in the Air Force to make huge strides in her physical therapy and rebuild her strength.

“Most people who meet me would never know I had a brain aneurysm just a few months ago.  The military teaches you never to give up, and so for me, I viewed this as just another challenge to overcome,” says Henry.  “I don’t think it was until after I recovered that I realized how lucky I was to recover without any sort of lasting neurological damage.”

Henry will still see Dr. Blackburn for some precautionary follow ups, but he expects her to make a full recovery.

“Since those who experience a ruptured aneurysm are at a slightly higher risk to experience another one, we will need to re-evaluate the condition of her blood vessels over time. However, her recovery is going very well,” says Dr. Blackburn.

Recently, Henry made a point to return to Memorial Hermann Katy to thank Dr. Lucas.

“I know his care made a big difference in my outcome and I wanted to make sure he knew how thankful I was,” says Henry.

“It was a nice surprise to have Danisha return to say thank you.  I can remember what she looked like when she came in, and it was like seeing two different people. It’s these little moments that remind you about why you got into medicine,” says Dr. Lucas.

Henry says she’s always been an advocate for veterans, but now she’s also going to be an advocate for brain aneurysm survivors.

“Anything I can do to raise awareness and educate people, I want to do it. I want to tell people, you can get back up.”

To learn more about Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute, click here.

Comments

  1. I was diagnosed with 2 very small aneurysms several years ago. Nothing was done, since I didn’t have any more problems. Back in February 2017, I got hit by a truck back window, so hard I had water come out of my nose. I didn’t have any problems at that moment; that afternoon I got a severe headache, pain in my eyes, double vision, and I forgot my conversation. I managed to drive myself to the emergency room. They perform a CT scan, didn’t find anything wrong. I mentioned the 2 small anurysms, doctor said he didn’t see them. Can anurysms desapear on their own???

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