Lois’ Story

Lois Watts, Lab Tech, Lake Worth Resident.

Two months before I had a Level Five subarachnoid hemorrhage and aneurysms, I made a huge mistake. On a mid-March afternoon, I was getting ready to go out with my daughter when all of a sudden, I had a horrible headache. Excruciating pain was coming up my neck and moving slowly up into my brain. It was the worst thing I had ever felt in my life. My husband said to go to the hospital, but I work in a hospital and I thought to myself, I am not going to the ER for a horrible headache. I went to my doctor, but was not able to see the doctor, never scheduled for a CT or MRI and sent to physical therapy for the pain in my neck.

Two months later, I was at work at Bethesda Hospital East when I collapsed. I looked up and it was 10 a.m. The last thing I remembered was picking up two specimens and putting them in the rack for my machine. I slid down and into the back of a co-workers chair. After that, I can’t tell you what happened. My co-workers told me later that my eyes were pin point like and my breathing was raspy. I had a friend who had popped in to say hi to me at work and knew something was wrong. I was brought to the emergency room and my friend interrupted an administrative meeting at the hospital to let the hospital administrators know what happened. While in the emergency room, a hospital to the South of Bethesda refused to take my case. The hospital called me an ambulance to have them take me to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

I arrived at St. Mary’s and Dr. Ali Malek wasted no time in using 3-D Imaging to view the aneurysm and then scheduled surgery. When I saw my diagnosis, it looked very familiar to me, because it was the same diagnosis that was on my father’s death certificate. I was never a smoker, never fainted and my blood pressure was just slightly high. Did you know that aneurysms are hereditary? My father had one at 59 years old; he died at the age of 63. I had my first aneurysm at age 59 and today I am 63. Back then they didn’t have the technology they have today and actually had to drill into the skull. My father knew he had it for five years and never told me or my sister.

I had a Level Five stroke, the worse one, with a survival rate of only 10 percent. Dr. Malek treated the hemorrhage and my huge aneurysm by using a coil to hold the blood in place. I had a weakening in the wall of the artery that actually caused it to balloon out and eventually rupture, causing a stroke and possibly death. If you get checked and they find the aneurysm they can repair it before it ruptures. Once it ruptures, many people die. I have had three more surgeries to add coils and a stent since my first aneurysm. Dr. Malek has done each surgery and all have been done at St. Mary’s. I could go somewhere else, but I prefer Dr. Malek. He is an absolutely wonderful, very caring, very gentle physician and man. He cares about his patients. He wants to help them live longer and have good lives, to live normally the best that they can. I recommend him to everyone and anyone. He is one of the few doctors who takes the time to explain things very well.

My family loves Dr. Malek. When you’re dealing with the brain, you just don’t know. I know he had to tell my family that there was a chance that I may not make it. He told my family that if the surgery was successful, it would be a good sign if I opened my eyes in three weeks. I opened up my eyes the next day. He had me on a lot of fluids because he wanted a lot of fluid in my brain. Whatever his treatment was, it worked.

When you have something like that happen, you try not to sweat the small stuff anymore. I have had people tell me that I’m calmer. I am definitely grateful for being here. I really shouldn’t be here. Today, I have everything I had before my aneurysm. I remember my childhood. As an aneurysm survivor, it makes you rethink a lot of things.

My sister got checked and has three aneurysms, but they’re very small. I have two; the one that ruptured was huge. I get angiograms at least a couple of times a year. My appointments are at the Palm Beach Neuroscience Institute (PBNI). I have been there twice and really enjoy the staff. They are also very nice and friendly. Today, I feel better than before. I am even off of my blood pressure medicine I was on previous to the aneurysm and hemorrhage. I am back to my passion of genealogy. My family started giving me stuff and I have been working on the lineages of different families. I no longer worry about the small stuff and have put the aneurysms and stroke behind me.