Mentor woman uses personal experience to warn others about brain aneurysms

Posted at 10:50 AM, Sep 14, 2017

Right now, about one in every 50 people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm. It happens when a blood vessel balloons with blood and if it ruptures, it can be deadly.

Chris Hoffman of Mentor is one of the lucky ones. She is using Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month to get her story out there.

Hoffman has suffered from bad migraines since she was a little girl, so when she got a headache about ten months ago, she didn't think much of it.

“When this incident all occurred, I was swimming at a rec center and I was doing water aerobics, doing laps and all that stuff and all of a sudden, my legs just kind of buckled,” she recalled. “And I went to the side of the pool, I put my head down and I asked them to call a squad.” 

Hoffman got to Cleveland Clinic just in time. A CAT scan revealed a ruptured aneurysm. She went into surgery and spent a month in the hospital.

“The big-time effects were short-term memory and a lot of cognitive issues, because it affected my frontal lobe and it also affected my emotions,” she explained. 

Those memory issues meant Hoffman had to leave her job.

“The hardest part is probably not being able to be a nurse,” she said. “You know, who wants a nurse that can't remember?”

That's right -- Hoffman dedicated her life to nursing. So, even she was surprised to learn what she had been taught about brain aneurysms wasn't necessarily true for everyone.

“I was always taught that it was a thunderclap headache,” Hoffman noted. “The worst headache you would ever have and I didn't experience that.” 

Now she is using her experience to spread a message.

“You might not have a splitting headache. Everybody's different. Pain is subjective. Everybody has a different threshold of pain.” 

If something feels off, Hoffman says you should trust your gut and don't take chances.

“If you have a headache, if you think it's different, even if you're not sure, what are you hurting by just getting it checked out?"

Hoffman is still recovering and hopes to get back into the workforce one day. She knows she probably won't be able to go back to critical care nursing but says she wants to help educate people about aneurysms.              

Hoffman will be kicking off the Cleveland Clinic Brain Aneurysm Awareness Run next month, on October 14th.