By Rebecca Drew
THIS PAGEANT queen nearly died after she suddenly collapsed due to a ruptured brain aneurysm and then suffered a stroke that caused her BRAIN TO SWELL – which lead to her having part of her SKULL REMOVED.
Digital marketing specialist, Cynthia Martinez (35) who lives in Delaware, USA, had always lived a healthy lifestyle and competed in beauty pageants between the ages of 14 and 25, and is still involved in the judging and working at them today.
Single mum of one Cynthia’s health took a turn for the worst on November 9, 2018, when she arrived at a friend’s house for a games night with her son, Bryce (6), and suddenly collapsed within minutes of stepping though the door despite having no prior symptoms.
Panicked, her friends phoned the ambulance and on their arrival the paramedics wrongly assumed Cynthia had had an overdose and gave her two shots of Narcan to revive her. On arrival at hospital Cynthia was screaming in pain due to the horrendous headache she was experiencing, and doctors discovered that she was suffering from a ruptured brain aneurysm.
Within hours, Cynthia underwent a craniotomy to have the aneurysm clipped but a few days later she suffered a stroke that caused her brain to swell so she had to have an emergency surgery to remove her bone flap, with doctors giving her family little hope for Cynthia’s survival.
Following her stroke, Cynthia had a contracted left arm and had to undergo surgery to replace the bone in her skull. She was finally discharged from hospital on January 6, 2019, but her bone flap became infected and had to be removed on February 14.
On May 16, she had a tissue expander fitted to stretch the skin so a synthetic bone could be fitted and on September 9, she underwent surgery to have the bone fitted. Healing was going well until October 23, when Cynthia’s scab fell off and she could see the bone. On October 25, she had another surgery to fix the incision.
Today, Cynthia is well and after 13 months of being unable to work due to her acquired disability, she went back to her job on December 16, 2019.
“I started when I was fourteen with Miss American Coed. When I was twenty-five, I did Miss Delaware USA and placed top ten, then when I was married I competed in the Mrs International Pageant system. Although I don’t compete anymore – I’m still involved by participating as judge, staff and emcee at the Miss American Coed Pageants,” said Cynthia.
“Fortunately, I don’t remember much [from when I collapsed]. But from what I was told, I barely had taken off my coat when I collapsed, I had bent over to tell my son something when I just fell – in front of my friends and at the feet of my son.
“The EMTs got there quickly – and kept asking what drugs I took, they thought it was an overdose, I guess it’s just routine and they actually gave me two shots of Narcan.
“I don’t remember my arrival at the hospital but from what I was told I was screaming of a terrible headache begging for ice. Within a few hours I had a craniotomy to clip the aneurysm.
“I suffered a stroke a few days later and it caused my brain to begin to swell so I had a hemicraniectomy. A hemicraniectomy is when they remove part of the skull to give the brain room for the swelling.
“By that time, I had a lung infection possibly from the blood I had swallowed when I spit up blood the time I first collapsed, I had pneumonia from the breathing tube, and I had gotten a blood infection and a kidney infection as well – I was just extremely sick and extremely weak at the time I was going into surgery – there were no guarantees.
“Well right before the stroke and the second surgery, I seemed to be doing fine – but it was very sudden that I took a turn for the worst. My family was in absolute shock and disbelief that they went from, ‘Oh she’s going to be ok’ to, ‘Wait, what are her final wishes?’
“Recovery has been a rollercoaster. Before I left the hospital, I had a third surgery to put the bone back in but a little over a month after I got home it got infected, so it had to be removed which was surgery number four.
“On February 14, when they removed my infected bone. They had to give my head time to heal so it was left without a bone flap with a plan to put a synthetic bone down the road and I had to wear a helmet for protection.
“Well after they removed the bone in February, my skin was too thin for a synthetic bone, so they had to stretch out my skin, so I had to get a tissue expander placed, but after complications with the first, I needed it replaced with a second and after more complications I needed it replaced with a third. So, my eighth surgery, was finally my synthetic bone on September 9.
“But then there was a complication with the incision so on October 25, I needed my ninth surgery. But with this aneurysm rupture – I won’t need any more surgeries. But I do have another unruptured aneurysm that I will need to get fixed later on. It’s currently stabilised and being monitored.”
Cynthia’s son Bryce was just five years old when she was going through her ordeal and Cynthia has had to be very careful about how she explains what has happened to him.
Above all else Cynthia’s journey has made her realise her strength and she also says the power of prayer saved her life.
“Bryce doesn’t know the details – so I don’t use words that he wouldn’t understand like ‘aneurysm’ or ‘stroke’ – but he knows mummy fell because something happened inside her brain that caused her to not respond and in my surgeries, that followed, he knows that doctors have tried to make mummy’s brain better and fix it,” said Cynthia.
“Things could have gone very, very wrong. For my family and especially my son – like it does for countless people in my situation, when things get tough I try to remind myself that I’m alive and I was given this privilege of living. I struggle because I’m living.
“We are all strong enough, we just don’t know it until we are pushed against the wall and forced to fight. Fight for our lives, fight for our recovery, fight for whatever it is that is important to us.
“Miracles and the power of prayer are very real. Whether you believe they are from God, the Universe, any other higher being. It’s real. I have family in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay that were all praying for me. As well as family friends in Spain, co-workers in the UK, current and old co-workers all over the US that were praying for me.
“And it worked. I’m walking proof that it works; the power of prayer and miracles are very real.
“In fact, that’s why I decided to publicly document my journey. I just felt that, so many people all over prayed for me – I owe it to them to show them what they did. What their prayers accomplished. I will be forever grateful to everyone.”
To follow Cynthia’s journey, visit her Instagram: www.instagram.com/cynthiavm5