Cruising to Recovery After an Aneurysm

For now, Audrey Barratt has to get her tennis fix watching matches on TV. The usually fit and active 73 year old, who is a regular at the gym and on the courts, has been stuck on the sidelines since suffering a brain aneurysm while on a cruise.

“We had just gotten back on the ship after a port stop in Barbados, when I became violently ill and got this sudden and excruciating pain that went from the top of my head down my spine,” recalls Audrey.

Audrey and John Barratt

Audrey and John Barratt

The doctor on board diagnosed the problem as a virus and prescribed some medication to help settle her stomach, but the pain and nausea was so debilitating that Audrey spent the remaining four days of the trip in their cabin unable to even eat.

“When we got back to port in Miami, I managed to get her off the ship and onto the plane home,” says husband John. “When we arrived home she told me the pain was back again and I knew right away it was something much more serious. I called 911 and while I was on the phone, I heard her collapse.”

Paramedics rushed Audrey to the emergency department at their local hospital in Burlington, where an x-ray confirmed she had suffered a brain aneurysm. Still unconscious, she was immediately transferred to Hamilton General Hospital, where the neurosurgical team quickly worked to pinpoint the location of the ruptured artery.

The scan revealed that Audrey had suffered a major bleed as well as a smaller bleed, earlier while on the ship. Due to the shape and location of the aneurysm, surgeons could not use the less invasive coiling procedure and would instead need to access her brain by creating an opening in the skull to place a clip on the burst vessel.

“Before they took her into the operating room, I asked the assisting surgeon if the doctor on call was the best they had, and he told me if it was his mom in that bed, this would be the team he’d want doing it and this is the procedure he’d recommend,” recounts John. “So I said ‘OK do it’, and signed the consent.”

Audrey regained consciousness a few days after the successful procedure, and remained in intensive care for nearly three weeks. John spent a significant amount of time at The General while Audrey recovered and was impressed with the dedication of the staff and how well they treated the whole family.

“The care at Hamilton General was outstanding and in my opinion is the model that every other hospital should be based on,” he says. “The staff were skillful and attentive, but also had that human touch.”

Thankful for the life-saving care Audrey received, the couple made a $1,000 donation to Hamilton General Hospital Foundation designated for the purchase of small equipment that will help in the recovery of neurosciences patients.

“I am still a bit tired and continue to have trouble with my short-term memory, but they expect me to make a full recovery with no long-term deficits,” she says. “My goal at this point is to get back to the gym in the next little bit, and hopefully I’ll be back playing tennis this winter.”