Brain Aneurysm victim shares story of survival, warns of silent killer

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Tammie Parris knew when she woke up the morning of March 27, 2013 with the same excruciating headache she had the night before, something wasn't right.

"I had a terrible , terrible headache. The kind that had me eating ibuprofen for hours on end," Tammie said.

The workforce training coordinator at Cape Fear Community College called the office and told a co-worker she would probably be late if she was able to come in at all.

"They never heard from me again," Tammie said.

At 41, Tammie Parris was completely unaware of what was going on in her head. She had been living with a brain aneurysm. It ruptured shortly after she got off the phone with her office. She was then facing death head on.

"At that time, I was having a seizure---blood was coming out of my mouth. I could see it coming down my chin."

Her daughter had left for school so she was alone. she tried dialing 911 but couldn't.

"I hit the button on the phone that let me talk to the last person I talked to the night before and it happened to be my daughter's best friend's mother. She said I would repeat my name, my address and I kept telling her I didn't want to die," Tammie said.

By the time EMS workers got her to the hospital,  Tammie was unconscious. Doctors here decided to airlift her to Chapel Hill.

"When they came back out from doing the scan, I remember my mom saying that the ER attending said 'ma'am, the Tammie that you knew before you came in here is not going to be the same Tammie because she's going to have some damage."

Doctors at UNC had a difficult time finding her aneurysm. Tammie would spend the next 32 days in Chapel Hill.

"For the first three and a half weeks, they could not find where the blood was coming from and I laid  there and my brain just bled for three and a half weeks."

If an aneurysm is not repaired in time and a second hemorrhage occurs, about 80% of patients die.

"They are difficult to repair because, of course, you're dealing with the brain and they are typically small," Dr. Kathleen Wiese says.

Wiese, a vascular neurologist with Wilmington Health Associates, says people can have brain aneurysms for years and not know it.

One in 50 people have them.

Symptoms include severe headaches, stiffness in neck and vomiting. But by the time the symptoms are present, the aneurysm is typically about to rupture.

The only way to know if you have one is to be screened, and Dr. Wiese says they don't typically do that on a routine basis.

"I think the single most important thing to know is if you have a family member or two that have an aneurysm, that its very important to be screened for them," Wiese says.

Tammie Parris was one of the lucky ones. Even her doctors call her a miracle. Now she's on a mission to educate others.

Earlier this year, she convinced North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to declare September Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month. And two weeks ago, she met with lawmakers in Washington to try and persuade them to recognize brain aneurysms nationally.

After having to learn how to walk again---how to drive again---she believes its her purpose.

"The spiritual side of me says I feel like I have a second chance," Tammie says.

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