Aneurysm Patient Cynthia Hood

Aneurysm Patient Receives Second Chance at Life Thanks to Dr. E. Francois Aldrich

After injuring her head at work on two occasions, Cynthia Hood was blindsided by an intense, sledge hammer-like pain between her eyes as she drove home one day. Cynthia soon forgot about the experience after the pain subsided with help from pain medication prescribed by her doctor. However, three weeks later, she felt the intense pain once again and had to be transported to the local hospital by emergency services. Doctors were ready to send her home with more pain medication, but Cynthia insisted she be given a CT scan, a decision that would later save her life. Read her story below.

In July 2000, I slammed my head into a board at work, very hard and in the same spot where a baby's soft spot would be. Although I was in some pain for a little while, I worked all day. I hit my head again a few days later -- same board, same spot.

A few weeks later, without warning and while driving my car, I was struck with an intense pain between my eyes. It felt like someone hit me with a sledge hammer. Luckily, I was practically home when it happened. I got into the house and took some medication to relieve the pain.

I awoke the next morning with the same severe pain. I called my primary care provider and told his nurse that I felt like I was having the worst migraine of my life. My doctor prescribed something for my pain, and I went to work. Although my stiff neck, sensitivity to light and pain were still pretty intense, the pain medication made my symptoms tolerable. Eventually, the pain left after a couple of days and I blew it off.

Three weeks later, I was sitting on my deck, talking on the phone with my best friend, when all of a sudden, the sledge hammer-like pain between my eyes hit again. This time, the pain was more severe. In addition to the sudden onset of pain, I also experienced visual disturbances and a seizure. When I was finally able to crawl into the house, emergency services were called.

I was transported to the local hospital where, after leaving me alone in a dark room for a couple of hours, the staff decided to give me something for pain and to send me home. I insisted on a CT scan, however, and refused to leave without one. The CT scan showed a bleed, and I was admitted and transferred to the University of Maryland Medical Center the next day.

Once at UMMC, I was admitted to the Neuro ICU under the care of Dr. E. Francois Aldrich and an angiogram was ordered. From what I understand after speaking with family members who had consulted with Dr. Aldrich prior to my surgery, the angiogram confirmed that I had two bleeds from two different spots in the aneurysm, which explained the severe pain I had experienced on those two occasions.

My surgery to repair the aneurysm took place on August 25, 2000. Dr. Aldrich explained the aneurysm clipping surgery to me in a way I could understand, and he was very compassionate with me and took the time to answer my family's questions. A few hours after returning to my room, I asked my husband for the phone and I called my best friend. She was totally blown away when I finished the story I had been telling her before the aneurysm ruptured.

Shortly after my surgery, I had another discussion with Dr. Aldrich. I told him what happened at the local hospital -- that they wanted to give me pain medication and send me home. I told him how I refused to leave without a CT scan. Dr. Aldrich just put his hand over mine and looked at me and said something I'll never forget. He told me, "It's a good thing that you had the presence of mind to insist on that. If they had sent you home, you would have died."

I was a patient at UMMC for a total of 16 days, and I have to say that I was given excellent care by all staff that I had contact with, even the resident who performed my spinal taps (I really didn't like seeing that particular guy because I knew what he was there for, but I have to admit, if you need a spinal tap performed, he was the guy to do it. First try -- right in and done!).

The staff of the UMMC Neuro ICU was incredible. I still remember some of the nurses who took care of me. Mary Ellen was very nice and attentive, with the patience of a saint! John was another very good nurse with quite the sense of humor. I know I was quite a handful, but they all took excellent care of me. I have not had any residual problems from my ordeal with the aneurysm or the subsequent surgery.

Thank you, Dr. Aldrich and the staff at UMMC. Miracles do happen sometimes, and that's what I consider my experience to be.

For more information about the University of Maryland Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery, or to make an appointment, call the University Physicians Consultation and Referral Service at 1-800-492-5538 (patients) or 1-800-373-4111 (physicians).