By Liana Jacob
MEET THE brave woman who surgeons expected would DIE after she suffered a BRAIN ANEURYSM which made her feel like her head was going to EXPLODE – but she survived and doctors are calling her a ‘miracle patient.’
In June 2010, student, Chloe Gallagher (24) from Ontario, Canada, was watching TV in her parents’ room while they were out, when the TV screen went blurry and she suddenly felt like her head was going to explode.
As she tried to get out of the bed to get to the kitchen, she fell and realised she couldn’t walk, so she crawled down the hall to the kitchen, confused and terrified, and managed to call her dad.
On his way to her, her dad called her brother, Dru, who was nearby, and when he arrived, he saw Chloe curled up in a ball on the kitchen floor, screaming in pain. So, he carried her to her bedroom and within the next five minutes, her dad rushed into her room and they took her to the hospital.
At the hospital emergency room, the doctor immediately recognised that the cause was a ruptured brain aneurysm and a CT scan showed that her brain was ‘full of blood’. As she was only 15-years-old at the time of the surgery, she was referred to McMaster Children’s Hospital by an ambulance where they then did the emergency decompressive craniotomy to relieve the swelling in her brain.
She had an emergency surgery to remove a bone flap in her brain that her doctor said was the size of her hand and then put in a three-day coma. Before she was placed into a coma, her doctors told her parents to expect the worst and she was unlikely to make it, even if she did, she would be faced with some serious disabilities.
However, she made it through and when she woke up, she was surrounded by her family who were crying with happiness.
As a result of the aneurysm, she developed epilepsy and has suffered 10 to 15 seizures over the years.
She is now recovering from her last ever surgery on April 4, 2019 and hopes to study a course in the medical field so that she can help others the way her doctors and healthcare team have helped her.
“I came home from school that day, did some homework, then was watching TV in my parents’ room and was on my phone texting some friends,” Chloe said.
“Suddenly, the TV screen and my mobile phone screen were blurry, and my head felt like it was going to explode. It literally felt like it was going to explode.
“I can’t even describe to you the pain I felt that day. I got up to go to the phone in the kitchen since I couldn’t see the screen on my phone, but when I stood up out of the bed, I fell. It was then I realised I couldn’t walk.
“It was then I realised something was seriously wrong. As I was crawling down the hall to the kitchen, I was trying to figure out what the hell could be happening.
“I have no idea how, it must have been muscle memory, but I dialled my dad’s phone number. I didn’t know it but at that point I was just screaming.
“He was on his way home from work and still fifteen minutes away, he called my brother who was five minutes away at his friend’s house. He said, ‘Dru, somethings wrong with Chlo, you have to go home right now’.
“From this point on, I don’t remember seeing anything, but I remember hearing him coming in the door and rushing over to me. Apparently, I was curled up in a ball on the kitchen floor; still screaming.
“Shortly after, I remember hearing my dad walk into the room and they made the decision to just take me to the hospital. That’s the last thing I remember.”
Before Chloe went into surgery her parents were told that she could die and to expect the worst. Since her recovery, she has been labelled the ‘miracle patient’ by her doctors.
She has since had further surgeries, such as; another bone flap removal in her skull due to an infection, an insertion of a new prosthetic piece, an excision of neuromas along the incision line, a depth electrode surgery and an epilepsy surgery-right temporal lobectomy and right posterior quadrant disconnection.
“Before I went into surgery, and into the coma, the doctors told my parents to expect the worst; it was likely I wouldn’t make it, and if I did, I could be a very different person and have some major disabilities,” she said.
“When I awoke from the coma, I was surrounded by doctors, nurses, and family and all I saw was tears of joy on everybody’s faces but I couldn’t understand why.
“Once they told me what had happened, I just cried and hugged my family. I then started immediately asking questions. Why? Did I do something to cause this? What do we do now?
“Honestly, looking back, every time I thought I went through the toughest part, something else would happen that would replace it.
“Every time I thought it was over, something new would happen; a complication, an infection, a surgery, a seizure, having to stop school.
“I was in intense pain after waking up from the coma, I had double vision/cross eyed. The double vision went away, the left side gradually improved slightly, but to this day I still have left peripheral vision loss.
“People have reacted positive about my situation throughout the years. Words that come to mind that people have described are optimistic, inspirational, resilient, positive, and strong.
“There have obviously been negative comments over the years as well, which is okay. One of the aspects of my epilepsy and medications is that I can’t drink alcohol, or I will have a seizure.
“This is totally okay with me, I still go to parties, go out with friends, and have fun like any other twenty-four-year-old – just minus the alcohol.
“One time at university, someone asked me what I was drinking, and I said just water. They thought I was kidding and kept pushing the issue and I said no, if I drink, I’ll have a seizure.
“I’m not shy about my condition and I don’t mind talking about it; sometimes it’s an opportunity to educate people.
“This person then said, ‘that’s so awful’, and that they have no idea how I survive, they’d rather die than not drink. It was pretty disappointing to hear that.
“Physically, I am still not one-hundred percent recovered from this recent surgery, but I am getting my strength and independence back day-by-day and doing fairly well.
“Mentally, I am exhausted, but patiently excited. It just took so long and so many tests and procedures to get to that final surgery.
“Overall, I am so thankful for my whole neuro team in University Hospital in London, Ontario, as this wouldn’t be possible without all of them.”
Chloe says her biggest supporters have been her family doctor, close group of friends and her family and that she couldn’t have got through these years without them.
“I am so fortunate to have such a close and supportive family. I could not have made it through any of this without them,” she said.
“They have always been there for me every step of the way; through every high, down to every low. Helping me work through obstacles, always there to talk when I need it, spending countless days at my bedside. They have been so selfless.
“It wasn’t just my life that changed that day, it was theirs too. We have all gone through this crazy journey together.
“My family have faced everything head on. We dealt with any challenges that came my way, we always discussed things as a family unit, and worked with my doctors to make the most educated decision.
“I have great hope for my future right now; I’m hoping this last surgery was successful, which would mean that I wouldn’t have any more seizures, or at the very least have less violent ones.
“My immediate goals are to fully recover, then get back to the gym, playing volleyball again, and maybe going on a little vacation with some friends.
“As much as it breaks my heart, I need to re-evaluate what I am realistically capable of as a career. Whatever it ends up being, I hope it will be in the medical field so I can help others like people helped me.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to always advocate for yourself. If you have a question for your doctor or healthcare team, or if you’re not comfortable with something going on, make sure you speak up.
“It’s your life that we’re talking about here, you need to understand what is happening with your care and be on the same page. Make sure you advocate for others too, especially those that need a voice.”