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Doctor: Overland Park woman's quick actions after brain aneurysm likely saved her life

Joyce Hess
Posted at 3:26 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 18:55:31-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — 62-year-old Overland Park resident Joyce Hess never imagined she'd find herself in a hospital bed at Saint Luke's Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute.

"I’m a very healthy person, I haven’t had surgeries, I was on no medications," Hess said. "I’m very active, watch my diet, exercise, all of that, so this just came out of nowhere."

Hess was introducing panelists at a luncheon in June when she got a sudden and excruciating headache.

"It felt different than any other headache I’ve ever had, (It) came out of nowhere, hit me on the side of the head and I knew at that point something wasn’t right," Hess said.

Hess had suffered a brain aneurysm. At the time, she thought it could be a stroke and knew time was of the essence. She went straight to Saint Luke's Community Hospital in Roeland Park.

After undergoing initial scans, she was quickly transferred to Saint Luke's Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute.

Once there, doctors conducted tests to find that the aneurysm had fortunately not ruptured. They performed a procedure to place a stent, cutting the blood supply to the aneurysm.

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, nearly half a million people die each year from brain aneurysms. A brain aneurysm is a bulging, weak area in the wall of a blood vessel in the brain that can rupture and cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

About half of all ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal. Among survivors, two-thirds suffer some kind of permanent neurological deficit. Doctors say it is imperative to seek treatment at the first sign of any issues before the aneurysm ruptures.

Interventional specialist Dr. Coleman Martin said Hess' quick actions may have saved her life or saved her from suffering any neurological deficits.

Martin said aneurysms can be deadly when they bleed into the skull.

"The skull being a closed container can only accept so much blood before the brain itself starts to be squished out of its normal shape and a person dies," Martin said.

Hess is recovered just in time to perform in the musical "HALF TIME - Gotta Dance," opening at Theater in the Park this weekend. It's a moment she's been waiting on for months. If not for her quick actions, she realizes that may not have been possible.

"I would’ve been so disappointed, I would’ve been grateful I was alive, but I would’ve been so disappointed," Hess said.

Hess hopes her story will serve as a reminder for people to act quickly if they know something is wrong.

"I was very frightened, because I have a lot of family that I’m very close with and it wasn’t time for me to leave them yet so I’m just very grateful that everything worked out the way that it did," Hess said.