Dawn and Chuck Mureddu reside in Johnston, RI, and have been active members of the BAF community since 2013.
DM: I remember having my first migraine when I was 30 years old. I had 22 years of 12-18 migraines per month. I lived in three states and had three neurologists; no one ever ordered brain scans. They said it was hormones. During those years, I got sick, took pills and injections, and still worked.
I have always liked working out most of my life. However, I was working too many hours and feeling burnt out, so I hired a trainer and headed for the gym on February 17, 2013. By this time, I had been having migraines for 23 years. I was on my first piece of equipment and felt a pain in the back of my head. I told the trainer I always have migraines, so no big deal. Then, I got sick, and after the workout, while I was at home, I started seeing double. That lasted for about 20 minutes. After that, I just thought I had a weird headache. So, I ignored it even though the neck pain didn’t subside.
I finally called my doctor, who sent me for an MRI on March 8th. The scan showed a large aneurysm. The radiologist called my doctor he sent me to the ER. They found a ‘Giant Fusiform Aneurysm’, which they said was very rare. My neck pain was a symptom that it had been bleeding, but it had stopped. ‘Giant’ meant that it was 31mm, and ‘Fusiform’ meant that it was irregular in anatomy. I needed surgery, and they would have to put a team together. The problem was that the doctor was going on vacation. The staff was texting him at the airport. They kept me overnight after an angiogram and other tests.
Meanwhile, my husband, Chuck, went home and started researching. He found Doctor Christopher Ogilvy in Boston, MA. He also learned that Dr. Ogilvy had founded The Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF). The BAF website gave Chuck a wealth of knowledge. I left the hospital the next day as they had to assemble a team. We were able to educate ourselves, and we understood my challenge.
The Brain Aneurysm Foundation helped us to know what questions to ask. Finally, we felt confident, and Chuck called Doctor Ogilvy’s office. Dede Buckley, NP, called Chuck back immediately and arranged a consultation that week. We got a second opinion from the RI doctor, who agreed that Dr. Ogilvy should do the procedure.
On April 13, 2013, during the ten-hour surgery, Dr. Ogilvy performed two arterial bypasses and clipped the aneurysm. When I awoke, I couldn’t speak, walk, pick out a color, or know what a flashcard of a house was. I say I was like a one-year-old and had to relearn everything. I was in the hospital for nine days and Spaulding rehab hospital for 14 days. Then, outpatient rehab for eight weeks. After ten months, I returned to work; however, I continued my recovery for five years and still saw progress.
I attended a Brain Aneurysm Foundation support group meeting shortly after leaving the rehab facility. I never thought I would get as much as I did out of that meeting. I met many people, some who worked for the foundation and others like me. We count on BAF for their support and education. They gave me reasons for why I was feeling the way I did. The BAF website tells you about aneurysms and how they are different. What types there are, about ruptures, and symptoms. They helped me with my recovery. They gave me confidence.
It has been almost ten years since the surgery. I am still working and workout at the gym as much as possible. My mother and my family have been there through it all. I have the most wonderful husband and caretaker who has always been there for me and helped me build my confidence. I know that I am blessed.
DM: While I was in Neuro-ICU at Rhode Island Hospital after they found my aneurysm, my husband Chuck went home that evening and started researching immediately. He discovered the Brain Aneurysm Foundation and Dr. Ogilvy. He also educated himself, so we knew what questions to ask when calling Dr. Ogilvy’s office and during our visits to Boston.
From the beginning, Dede and Dr. Ogilvy were committed to giving me the best care and outcome possible. We became involved very early on with BAF and their support group. BAF has been and will always be such an essential part of our lives. Everyone involved with BAF are very special people who genuinely care about the work needed in this field and are truly passionate about its mission.
DM: I am still here today and need to do something to help others who might be like me and ignore symptoms. I need to get the information out there. That’s why I need to advocate for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
Knowing the statistics, it’s important to continue supporting education and research so we can better understand and identify those at risk at an early stage. We had no idea about brain aneurysms until my diagnosis. I was one of the lucky ones. Mine did not rupture. If it had and given its size and anatomy, I would not be here today.
We were surprised that in the span of 23 years, the professionals in three different states did not see any reason to scan me. So instead of a $2,500 scan, the cost was more in the hundreds of thousands.
Then, we were surprised to find out that there was such a lack of funding for brain aneurysms compared to other illnesses with similar fatal outcomes. We will always support BAF and its mission to fight this disease. The progress just over the past ten years has been tremendous. But there is still so much more to do. We are proud and blessed to be part of a very special family.