By Alyce Collins
THIS HEAVILY pregnant woman was only two hours from DEATH when her husband brought her to hospital after she suffered a stroke that caused her to hallucinate that her doctors and her husband were trying to KILL HER.
Amateur photographer, Bridget Chiovari (28) from Arizona, USA, first noticed a stiffness in her neck while pregnant in 2016, but doctors dismissed it until the stiffness turned into the sensation of something having popped in the back of her head.
In September 2016, Bridget was 27 weeks pregnant when the stiffness began, but when she went to pick up her daughter, Liliana (3) she felt a pop in the back of her head which was followed by a headache and dizziness. However, the triage nurses insisted that it was just dehydration.
Within hours she had become delusional and couldn’t physically walk, despite being told just to sleep it off. Bridget’s husband, Chris demanded the hospital staff carry out an MRI scan to see what was having this effect on his pregnant wife.
The MRI revealed that Bridget was having an unexplained brain haemorrhage, with doctors saying that if she wasn’t brought in when she was, she would have only survived two more hours.
A drain was placed directly into Bridget’s brain to draw out the excess blood, which was kept in for a month until the swelling subsided. During this month, Bridget was hallucinating frequently and hardly recognised her own family – believing that her husband and the doctors were trying to kill her at one point.
Doctors confirmed that the brain haemorrhage was caused by a ruptured arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and delivered Bridget’s son, Roman, via caesarean section in November 2016.
“When I was 27 weeks pregnant with my second child, I had an incredibly stiff neck,” said Bridget.
“I didn’t really think anything of it but then I went out hiking one night and as I was picking up my daughter to put her in the carrier, I felt a pop go off in my head.
“It was a ‘pop’ followed by the worst headache of my life and I got really dizzy. Things were moving and my mouth got so dry. Any drop of saliva I had in my mouth was gone.
“I thought it was really strange, so I went to the hospital, but they pretty much sent me home and said it was just dehydration.
“I got into the car after the hospital had told me just to sleep it off, and I remember thinking that I was going to die. I knew it in my head, but at that point I couldn’t physically communicate to my husband. All I could do was hit and kick everything in the car.
“By the time my husband brought me home, I tried eating something but just ended up throwing everything up. I have a pretty high pain tolerance so I knew something was wrong when the pain was so high that I couldn’t even handle it.
“I was delusional, so in the middle of the night after Chris put me to bed, I tried to get out of the bed but took a fall and cut my lip open.
“Chris took me back to the hospital and demanded that I got an MRI. They could see that I was having a brain haemorrhage, but they didn’t know why.
“So, they put this tube into my brain that drained out the excess blood, and I was kept in ICU for a month while that was happening.
“They told my husband that I would have only lived two more hours if they didn’t put the drain in when they did.
“At this point, I wasn’t in my right mind at all. I was hallucinating a lot, I couldn’t remember who my family was, and I wasn’t able to walk.
“I don’t know if it was from the bleed itself, or the medication I was on, but I genuinely thought that my husband was trying to kill me and that the hospital staff was against me.”
Bridget had the drain in place from September 14, 2016 for the next four weeks until enough blood was withdrawn for doctors to look at her brain.
Once the swelling had reduced, doctors were able to see a ruptured AVM, causing a haemorrhagic stroke. Luckily, Roman was unaffected and Bridget was able to make it through the rest of her pregnancy while being monitored closely.
During a routine angiogram in March 2018, it was revealed that blood was still flowing to the AVM, so Bridget underwent radiation therapy which can take up to two years to eradicate the AVM.
“I had to undergo a c-section to give birth to my son two months after the rupture,” said Bridget.
“Luckily my baby was perfectly fine during all of this. They monitored him very closely.
“I had an embolization on August 22, 2017 to prep for my craniotomy which was supposed to take place on August 23. They basically go in with a glue called Onyx which is supposed to block blood flow to certain blood vessels and reduce any complications for the surgery.
“After the embolization, doctors said they could cut off all blood flow going to the AVM. I’d have to have routine angiograms to check it, but it was announced cleared.
“At my first angiogram six months later, blood flow was found feeding the AVM. Due to the location of the AVM and with the embolism done, surgery was now considered too risky.
“My last option was radiation, which I had done on March 13, 2018, but it can take one or two years for radiation to obliterate the AVM.
“I have a lot more energy than I used to, but I’m still recovering. I think the recovery process from a stroke is a lifelong thing.
“I walk a little strange when I’m tired and moving my head from side to side makes me dizzy. I also have a serious lack of balance now and my memory isn’t very good.
“Now though, I know what it’s like to be on the edge of death. I got into photography right after I had my stroke because I was obsessed with taking photos of my kids because I was likely to forget those moments.
“Having those photos were so important to me, and that just drove my passion to start taking photos. That would have never happened if it wasn’t for my stroke.”
You can see more of Bridget’s AVM recovery by visiting @bridgetclarice.