Brain aneurysm survivor talks about warning signs & symptoms

Brain aneurysm survivor talks about warning signs & symptoms
Photo of the Hernandez family in 2012. Bernadette Hernandez recently died due to a brain aneurysm. (Courtesy: Honolulu Star-Advertiser/MidWeek)
Photo of the Hernandez family in 2012. Bernadette Hernandez recently died due to a brain aneurysm. (Courtesy: Honolulu Star-Advertiser/MidWeek)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - How would you know if you're suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm? That's what took the life of Bruno Mars' mother, Bernadette Hernandez this weekend at age 55. Recently, Hawaii veteran journalist Emme Tomimbang spoke publicly about her recovery and how she survived. Tonight, a Hawaii woman is sharing her story and says CPR and early detection can save lives.

36-year-old Melanie Mizumoto remembers it all starting with a nagging headache.

"On my head kind of toward the neck," Melanie said.

Her husband Marc who didn't go into work because of an injury was at home and found her unresponsive in her son's bedroom.

"When I rolled her over, her eyes were open, wide open," Marc said.

He performed CPR and called 9-1-1. Melanie was rushed to the Queen's Medical Center where doctors discovered an artery in her brain had ruptured.

A brain aneurysm is an abnormal bulge or ballooning in the wall of an artery in the brain. Doctors say some causes of brain aneurysms are unexplained. They could be hereditary or triggered by previous trauma to the brain.

"I learned it's a lot more common than anyone realizes," said Melanie.

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 3 to 6 million people are living with an unruptured brain aneurysm in the United States.  Every year, 25,000 people have a ruptured brain aneurysm and about 40% of the cases are fatal.

"When an aneurysm ruptures there's a 50% chance that people don't even make it to the hospital," said Dr. Tom Yao with the Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Oftentimes, there are no warning signs until the aneurysm becomes large, leaks blood or ruptures. If an aneurysm presses on nerves in your brain, you could experience a droopy eyelid, change in your vision, pain above or behind the eye, a dilated pupil and numbness or weakness on one side of the face or body.

If an aneurysm ruptures, you might feel a sudden, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck and you could lose consciousness.

Doctors say it is common for brain aneurysms to be misdiagnosed.

"People will think this is a migraine or a cluster headache or eye pain, sometimes they'll refer to it as sinus infection and physicians will give them antibiotics and send them on their way. If it is a bleed and it's missed, the results can be catastrophic," said Dr. Carlos David of the Lahey Clinic.

To treat Melanie's aneurysm, doctors inserted tiny metal coils into the ruptured vessel in her brain to stop the bleeding.

Most people who recover will have physical challenges.  It took Melanie about a month to learn how to walk again.

A year later, Melanie is dealing with short term memory loss and has lost some mobility in her feet.

"I think the scary part is that it can happen to anybody. It's so cliche and before this, I never ever imagined I would have a brain aneurysm," Melanie said.

She says it's a true blessing her husband was home when it happened and knew CPR.

"Definitely, 100 percent. I wouldn't be here, if it weren't for him."

It's not known what type of brain aneurysm Bruno Mars' mother Bernadette Hernandez suffered. Their family asks for privacy at this time.

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