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Southampton Mom Hits the Ground Running

After life-saving treatment for brain aneurysm

Christy Meltzer, 43, was in the middle of a run through her Southampton neighborhood on an April morning in 2012, when she developed an intense ache across her forehead. She tried running through the pain, but when the back of her neck became stiff, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Christy Meltzer

Christy Meltzer

She stopped at a neighbor’s home and began vomiting. Christy’s husband, Andy, met her there and drove her to Abington Memorial Hospital’s (AMH) Emergency Trauma Center (ETC). Within three hours, experts had saved Christy’s life by completing the delicate, noninvasive procedure to treat the cause of her symptoms, a ruptured aneurysm on the right side of her brain.

“Christy presented with some of the classic signs of a ruptured aneurysm,” says Qaisar A. Shah, MD, director of Neurointerventional and Neurocritical Care Services, AMH. Fortunately she got to the ETC quickly, but it’s important to call 9-1-1 when experiencing these symptoms. A CT scan showed that a ballooned artery in Christy’s brain had burst, causing life-threatening bleeding. (Nearly 30 percent of all ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal.) Neurointerventionalist Osman Kozak, MD, and the medical team rushed Christy to the Neurointerventional Catheterization Lab. Dr. Kozak determined that Christy was a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure that would clot the blood inside the aneurysm to stop the bleeding and prevent further growth.

“Don’t ignore your body’s warning signs…
Call 9-1-1 and get to the nearest emergency room.”

Through a needle hole in Christy’s groin, Dr. Kozak inserted a catheter (a small tube) through a blood vessel, and using X-ray guidance, navigated it to blood vessels in the brain to identify the specific location of the aneurysm. He then directed a microcatheter inside the aneurysm, where, one at a time, he placed six small, platinum coils. “We pack the aneurysm with coils to cut the blood entering into it,” explains Dr. Kozak. “By clotting the blood inside the aneurysm, we also keep it from growing.”

Christy remained conscious throughout her medical emergency and the diagnostic part of her treatment. “I stayed calm,” she recalls, “because Dr. Kozak and the nurses kept talking to me and explaining everything they were doing.” After her procedure, Christy was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where most patients who have undergone similar treatment spend 10 to 14 days, before being transferred to another unit. Christy was determined to recover as quickly as possible to return home to her family.

It seems her medical scare stimulated the athlete’s competitive spirit. The day after treatment, Christy was up and walking around the ICU. “By the seventh day, she was practically running in the unit,” recalls Dr. Shah. A few days later, Christy was discharged from AMH.

The mother of three active children who play soccer, basketball, baseball and football, Christy, too, leads a physically fit lifestyle. When not chauffeuring the kids to their activities, Christy enjoys running, skiing and taking pilates classes. Dr. Shah believes Christy’s physical fitness was a contributing factor to her quick recovery.

Doctors don’t know what caused Christy’s aneurysm, but having one does not put her at greater risk for developing others. She will follow up with Dr. Shah over the next 10 years, for routinely scheduled imaging studies to ensure the aneurysm hasn’t grown.

Christy is alive today because she took immediate action when her symptoms struck. “Don’t ignore your body’s warning signs,” advises Christy. “Get emergency care right away.” Call 9-1-1 and get to the nearest emergency room – don’t wait for someone to drive you there.

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