TRENTON — The Assembly unanimously approved a resolution designating September as Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month. Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, the measure’s sponsor, survived a craniotomy and clipping to repair a potentially fatal brain aneurysm in May 2015.
“While falling asleep one evening I heard what sounded like a gunshot going off inside my head,” said Schepisi describing the cerebral attack. “Right then and there I should have gone to the hospital. Instead, I Googled it. Everything that came up pointed to a brain aneurysm, but it also said I would be incapacitated or dead. So I figured it wasn’t an aneurysm and went back to bed.”
Schepisi ignored some lingering symptoms for two more days before she realized something was seriously wrong.
“I had been feeling a little off and having some strange manifestations. I was in my car, and I felt my whole body going haywire,” said Schepisi. “I thought I was having a stroke so I drove myself straight to the emergency room.”
Within half an hour she was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. An initial attempt to fix the aneurysm through an angiogram and coiling was not possible. As a result she ultimately had surgery known as a craniotomy and clipping to repair part of the blood vessel that was dangerously close to rupturing.
Brain aneurysm ruptures occur approximately 40,000 times annually in the U.S. They are fatal almost half the time, and many more victims die of complications in the first six months. Brain aneurysms kill almost a half-million people each year worldwide.
“I was exceptionally lucky. I’m still alive without lifelong deficits, where a lot of others are not,” said Schepisi. “That’s why I am an advocate now. I want to make people aware of the signs and symptoms of brain aneurysms so they know what not to ignore. Identifying risk factors combined with early intervention is key to survival.”
That advocacy includes the resolution passed today in the Assembly.
“We can save lives by teaching people about the dangers of brain aneurysms and what to look out for,” Schepisi said. “From talking with people about my experience, everybody seems to know the warning signs and symptoms for heart attacks, strokes and cancer. People aren’t as aware of brain aneurysms, yet each year we have 40,000 people who end up with a ruptured aneurysm. The numbers are significant.”
The most common signs and symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include: A sudden, severe headache often described as the “worst headache” ever experienced, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, seizure, a drooping eyelid, numbness of one side of the face, dilated pupil, loss of consciousness and/or confusion.
“These are danger signs I should not have ignored,” Schepisi said. “Brain Awareness Month will spread the word so more people know how to spot this silent killer.”