Two years ago, Stacie Jones, who many remember from the second season of “The Apprentice,” had just put her kids to bed and was saying goodnight to a friend who was staying over when she passed out cold. She was rushed to the hospital where they determined that she had suffered a seizure due to a ruptured brain aneurysm.
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 40 percent of people who suffer a brain aneurysm die, and 60 percent of survivors suffer permanent neurological deficit. When Stacie regained consciousness after being in an induced coma for four days, she had undergone a series of strokes that left her with memory loss, slowed speech, impaired vision, and an inability to control the left side of her body. The road to recovery would be very challenging, especially when you take a closer look at what happened.
Estimated to have been growing some 25 years, doctors said Stacie’s medium-sized aneurysm could have ruptured at any time. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, up to six million Americans have aneurysms, but they don’t always rupture. In many cases, they don’t have symptoms so there are no definite warning signs of a looming rupture. In Stacie’s case, however, there was a big warning sign.
Eleven days prior to being rushed to the hospital, Stacie had her first headache. It persisted daily, but she dismissed it, thinking maybe it had something to do with some wine she drank one night. Two days before the rupture, her daughters’ father insisted she get an MRI brain scan. “I did get an MRI, but doctors missed it,” Stacie said, adding that she should have gotten an MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) scan because it gives a more detailed look inside the brain.
Research points to smoking, high blood pressure, cocaine use, and family history as possible causes of brain aneurysms. However, an avid runner for years who was the perfect bill of health, Stacie didn’t fit the profile for any of the risk factors. If family history was to blame Stacie wouldn’t know because her parents have never been tested.
It would take everything Stacie had to battle through learning to walk again, recovering her speech, regaining her vision, doing simple math, and taking charge of her own therapy once her insurance company stopped paying eight months in. Though a devastating blow, Stacie continued therapy by practicing mental games and exercises she learned online. “My drive to live and get better was all because of my kids,” said Stacie, whose daughters were 6 and 4 years old at the time of the rupture.
And while Stacie doesn’t know if she’ll ever be “100 percent,” she does recognize her progress as a miracle. “My neurosurgeon says that she’s only seen one other brain aneurysm patient recover to the extent that I have.”
As for what’s next, Stacie is passionate about bringing awareness to brain aneurysms. “The largest segment affected by aneurysms is African American women, so if you have the worst headache of your life, and it persists, go see a doctor immediately,” she warned. Stacie also started The Jones Insurance Agency to help people get the proper insurance care they need in case of a health emergency or death. “I never expected to need disability insurance, and then this happened,” she said, “so it’s important to protect yourself and your family while you are still healthy.”
To learn more about brain aneurysms, visit The Brain Aneurysm Foundation.