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Lisa Foto, Survivor

Riding in the ambulance, Lisa Foto kept grabbing her head. "It was the worst headache of my life," she remembers. Then things went black. Minutes later Foto, 48, went into surgery at Mission Hospital. An artery had ruptured in her brain. Her life was at risk. Dr. Lempert, an interventional neuroradiologist, guided a micro catheter – the size of a human hair – from an artery in her leg, into her aorta, through her neck and into the ruptured artery in her brain. He then inserted a platinum coil through it. In two hours and with less than a millimeter margin of error, he stopped the bleeding and saved her life.

Foto was in a coma for five weeks and in the hospital for 52 days. She had a tracheotomy, excess fluid drained from her brain, a portion of her skull removed and 18 more brain surgeries. Now a year later, she's 98 percent recovered from a trauma where the mortality rate is 50 to 60 percent and where those who make it through often remain severely disabled.

On March 20, 2007 she'd been running in place on a whiteboard for about a minute when her trainer realized something wasn't right with her. She had a dazed look and seemed disoriented. He called 911 and paramedics responded. They transported her to Saddleback Memorial Hospital and a CAT scan revealed a subarachnoid hemorrhage. She needed immediate brain surgery and was transported to Mission. She and the staff at Mission call her complete recovery miraculous.

Foto rides her horse again. She's gone skiing and she even walked her daughter down the aisle on her wedding day less than four months after getting out of the hospital. She tells her story to anyone who listens. After 18 brain surgeries and 52 days in the hospital and then rehab, the total cost of saving her life was $2.5 Million. The cost of not knowing whether you have a brain aneurysm is much higher.

Sofia Alejandra Gutierrez

Sofia Alejandra Gutierrez

My name is Monica Gutierrez. I am a proud mother of two beautiful daughters, Sofia and Emma. Tragically, my 11-year old daughter, Sofia, passed away July 18, 2009 due to an unexpected brain aneurysm. She was a healthy and normal tween girl. Sofia's favorite color was green, loved the Jonas Brothers, played volleyball and was an honor roll student. She had no symptoms except for a slight headache.

After Sofia passed away, we learned this could be highly genetic and acquired approval for our immediate family to undergo MRI testing. In her passing, my daughter saved my husband's life - an aneurysm was discovered in the anterior right part of his brain. The aneurysm was "embolized" or coiled with a very quick recovery time.

Every day we ask ourselves, "Would our Sofia be here today if we had the knowledge or information that we had to learn after this tragic event?" There is just not enough information out there for parents. Please help me share Sofia's story to help educate parents. If we can save just one child, it will be worth it. Please help me bring awareness so that my daughter's death won't be in vain. Thank you… Monica

Holli Dawn Faulkner, Survivor

Holli Dawn Faulkner, Survivor

It all started with a slight tremor in my pinkie and ring finger on my left hand. I was 35 years old and working as a Veterinary Ophthalmology Technician. I have always had migraines and had been on a number of migraine preventatives but nothing was working. I went to my physician and told him of my intermittent tremors in my left hand. Even though I do not type at all on my job, and only one hand had the tremor, he recommended steroid injections into both my hands and told me to come back in 6 weeks if I still had a problem. I work with some very delicate instrumentation, so I went back for more steroid injections. Two weeks later at work I became very dizzy and my face went droopy on one side. Because my boss was intimate with neurology, though be it veterinary, she demanded I get an MRI right away.

When I visited with a neurologist, he was lackadaisical. Even though I had classic signs of a brain aneurysm rupture, when I asked him to do an MRI, his reply was "do you really think you need one?" I meekly said yes, and I had an MRI the next day. He called me at work to tell me he was very sorry he'd doubted me, and indeed I have a brain aneurysm. What's more it was quite large, and I needed surgery right away. After a 6 hour surgery, I was waking up and the surgeon came in to tell me that I had "a little stroke" but I would be fine.

I was having seizures and tremors post OP for the 8 days, but I only remember seeing the surgeon once after my surgery. The tremors continued. Three months later I was told that my tremor was due to a stroke and it may never go away. I developed Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome almost immediately after surgery. This is a rare side effect of the surgery where you can't stop vomiting once you start.

I was told that I would never be able to have another MRI due to the titanium in my head, but I persisted and found a neurologist that agreed to give me one. We were both surprised to find another aneurysm. This one is much smaller and I'm told this one can be coiled, so I am making plans to have that done in Santa Fe, NM. New Mexico has financial aid for people like me who cannot work more than 4 hours a day 3 or 4 days a week. Brain Aneurysm Disease has had a life changing impact on me. It never crossed my mind that I may not even live through surgery until the morning of surgery. I realize now the ordeal I have been through. I know I am lucky because I lived. It's the fear of going through the same ordeal with the next one. At least this time, I know in advance and I can manage this new aneurysm with preventative care.

JD Hearen, Survivor

JD Hearen, Survivor

On June 18, 2010, JD came home from work complaining of a severe headache, so he took two Aleve. He gave his two-year-old son, Finn, a bath and helped his wife, Kat, prepare Finn for bedtime. JD decided to take a cool shower. When he didn't come down for awhile, Kat went to check on him and found him lying on the bed, he could barely speak. He mumbled that his head was splitting in half and he was burning up. He then made a mad dash to the bathroom where he began to vomit uncontrollably. Kat left to get him water but before she left the room she heard a crash - JD had passed out.

JD was rushed to St. David's Hospital in Round Rock. Within the hour of his arrival a CAT scan was performed and analyzed. He had an aneurysm and needed surgery as soon as possible. For 12 hours they were unable to give him any narcotics to knock out the pain so JD lay on a hospital bed with the most excruciating head and neck pain imaginable.

Saturday afternoon Dr. Stanley Kim performed a Left Pterional Craniotomy and saved JD's life. The surgery lasted 6 1/2 hours. JD's recovery time in the hospital was long and not without many setbacks. For weeks, fluid was siphoned from his brain to relieve pressure. He was poked and prodded, asked hundreds of neurological questions and endured even more physical pain with a hematoma cause by an angiogram.

On Kat's birthday he was released from the hospital after spending 18 days in the ICU and 2 days in a recovery room. Only 10% of people who suffer this type of aneurysm survive and 10% of those people are neurologically unimpaired. JD WILL BE 1% of that population. Recovery at home has been slow and he finds certain activities to be difficult and exhausting. It may be 6 to 9 months before he is able to return to a normal work routine. JD and his family would like to thank the ICU team at St. David's Medical Center for their hard work and dedication toward his healing. They were angels at his bedside and helped in every possible way they could to make a very painful and uncomfortable experience bearable.

Kristin Marshall, Survivor

On the morning of November 7, 2006 our 14 year old daughter Kristin Marshall suffered a ruptured aneurysm. She awoke fine but within minutes of getting up she fell to her knees in excruciating pain. She was rushed to Brackenridge Hospital and given two CT scans and then an arteriogram. We were informed that immediate surgery was necessary. Fortunately, the new Dell Children's Hospital had successfully recruited one of the top Pediatric Neurosurgeons in the country, Dr. Timothy George, and from the moment we met him we felt our daughter was under the best care. During a 7.5 hour craniotomy, Kristin's aneurysm was successfully clipped.

She spent 12 days in the Pediatric ICU, one day in a regular room and returned home the Monday before Thanksgiving. She has all her mental and physical abilities. She is at home doing her missed school work and playing the piano. Kristin had no symptoms. She was a very healthy and active 14 year old freshman at Anderson High School. We thank God that our outcome has been so wonderful. We are blessed with 2 other children and now the need for early detection screening has taken on a whole new meaning.

Sandra Nordhausen, Survivor

It's a pure miracle. On October 22, 2006, I was in a deer camp 17 miles north of Laredo when a sudden headache came on almost instantly. I don't get headaches so we knew this was unusual.

I laid down for a while but it wouldn't go away. I got this feeling that I better get up and go get help or I was going to die. So we went to the hospital in Laredo and they gave me pain meds and told us it was a migraine. My family argued with them that I don't get migraines and we insisted on a CAT scan. They did it and noticed blood on my brain. I was flown to Austin's Brain and Spine Center at Brackenridge Hospital for care.

Dr. Rutledge told me I had a brain aneurysm and that surgery was necessary to stop the bleeding. They didn't give my family much hope for me to survive, but my family and friends were very prayerful and kept the faith. The surgery was five hours long and 10 inches of titanium coil were put in my brain to stop the bleeding. I was in ICU for 12 days, 13 days total and still recovering. The recovery process is one week for each day in ICU. I am grateful to be alive. Give God the Glory… Dr. Horowitz suggested that this could be hereditary and both my children should be screened. If you have anyone in your family that has had an aneurysm, you should get all family members screened. It could save their life…