Ruptured brain aneurysm can’t overtake fit, jogging mom

Local Life March 7, 2013 0 Comments

Christy Meltzer was not about to let a ruptured brain aneurysm get the best of her. (Photo by Ken Kauffman)

by Carole Verona

Andy Warhol once said, “In the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.”

Well, Christy Meltzer, 44, is certainly getting her 15 minutes of fame. Her picture appears on a billboard overlooking the Pennsylvania Turnpike where it crosses Second Street Pike in Lower Bucks County, on posters prominently placed in the Willow Grove and Montgomery Malls, in local newspaper ads, on the elevator doors at Abington Memorial Hospital (AMH), on the hospital’s website and in “Touching Your Life,” a magazine that the hospital publishes for consumers. “I’m popping up everywhere,” Meltzer said. “My friends are saying that they’re getting tired of looking at me!”

But Meltzer’s journey to this new-found fame wasn’t easy or planned. It started on the morning of Tuesday, April 17, 2012, while she was out for a routine early-morning run. “All of a sudden, a minute or two into the run, I got a severe headache. I know people who get migraines, and I thought, ‘So this is what it must feel like.’ I continued running for another couple of minutes and then felt a sensation of heat over my head and down my neck. I started vomiting, and that’s when I stopped at a friend’s house. I didn’t think it was serious. I thought I had food poisoning because I had eaten blackberries in the morning when I was preparing the kids’ lunches.”

Christy’s friend called Meltzer’s husband, Andy, who was at home getting the kids ready for school. He rushed over and took her to AMH’s Emergency Trauma Center. Looking back, Meltzer said that they should have called 911 to transport her to the hospital. “What if something had happened to me in the car?”

Within three hours of Meltzer’s arrival at Abington, doctors performed a life-saving procedure to fix a ruptured aneurysm in her brain.

“Christy presented with some of the classic signs of a ruptured aneurysm,” said Qaisar A. Shah, M.D., director of Neuerointerventional and Neurocritical Care Services, in an article about her in “Touching Your Life.” A CAT (Computer Axial Tomography) scan confirmed the diagnosis and showed that a ballooned artery in Meltzer’s brain had burst, causing life-threatening bleeding.

Meltzer said that the doctors explained to her that there are two procedures to correct an aneurysm. One is minimally invasive, and the other involves opening the skull to go in and make the necessary repairs. She said she didn’t know which procedure they were going to do. “I was a little nervous, but mostly I was calm,” she said. “I think I was more shocked than anything else. I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think anything bad was going to happen to me. I knew it was going to be fine. It had to be!”

After doctors determined that Christy was a candidate for the noninvasive procedure, Neurointerventionalist Osman Kozak, M.D., inserted a catheter (a small tube) into Christy’s groin and guided it up to blood vessels in her brain. Informed by what he saw on x-rays, Dr. Kozak was able to pinpoint the exact location of the aneurysm, direct a mircocatheter inside it and insert six small platinum coils. As quoted in “Touching Your Life,” he explained, “We pack the aneurysm with coils to cut the blood entering into it. By clotting the blood inside the aneurysm, we also keep it from growing.”

After the procedure, Meltzer spent eight days in the Intensive Care Unit — she was up and walking the day after the procedure — and then spent some time on one of the regular hospital floors before she was discharged. Two weeks after getting home, she returned to her part-time job as a billing clerk at Met Speed Label in Levittown.

Meltzer lives in Southampton with her husband, Andy, a sales representative at DMI Sports in Fort Washington. They have two children: Nicholas, 12, and twins Chelsea and A.J., 9.

What did the kids think about all of this? “They didn’t say much; they were just happy that I was going to be OK. They were spoiled! They were very well taken care of by their friends’ parents and by people in the neighborhood. There was an outpouring of love from people you wouldn’t expect it from,” Christy said.

Meltzer is physically fit. In addition to running three to four miles several times a week, she also does Pilates and skiing. Dr. Shah believes Christy’s physical fitness was a contributing factor to her quick recovery.

So what caused the aneurysm? “It’s just something that happens. I could have been born with it. I could have had it for years and years and years,” she said. Meltzer will continue to get yearly check-ups to make sure there’s no growth. She said there’s less than a five percent chance that will happen.

Meltzer said her experience has not changed her outlook on life. “It’s a blessing that I’m still alive, but my life hasn’t changed one bit. I’m still doing the same old stuff!”

More information at 215-481-2300 or www.amh.org.

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