Advanced Technology and Experienced Staff Save Sharon's Life
September 4, 2013 was another beautiful day in Las Vegas. Finishing her morning coffee was all Sharon Martin remembers before her husband, Keith, found her unresponsive in her reclining chair. A 9-1-1 call got her to the nearest hospital.
A computed tomography (CT) scan of Sharon’s brain showed an aneurysm, which is a bulging, weak area in the wall of an artery that supplies blood to the brain, had ruptured. It was a Grade 4 subarachnoid hemorrhage, meaning there was bleeding into the brain tissues, so she needed to be transferred to a hospital equipped for such severe emergencies. Even knowing Sharon was given a 3 percent chance of surviving a 10-mile ambulance ride, her family insisted she be taken to Spring Valley Hospital, “the place” in Las Vegas for cardio and endovascular treatment.
“Experience really counts with brain aneurysms, and we treat a lot of cases here,” says Raj Agrawal, MD, an interventional neuroradiologist who practices at Spring Valley Hospital and Valley Hospital. “We have a technologically advanced angioplasty room and our nurses and staff are excellent.”
Dr. Agrawal first secured Sharon’s aneurysm by performing a coil procedure, where a catheter is inserted into the dome-shaped aneurysm and coils – made of platinum and nitinol – are packed inside the dome. The coils promote blood clotting, which closes off the aneurysm and reduces the risk of repeated bleeding. From there, the neurocritical care in Spring Valley’s intensive care unit (ICU) took over. Quality ICU care is as important to a patient’s survival and recovery as the cardiovascular intervention.
“Patients can develop blockages, or arteries can start to narrow and we have to relieve the swelling,” says Dr. Agrawal. “We might perform further angiograms or inject medications in the brain to keep the arteries open.”
Her faith in God helped Sharon get through 25 days in the ICU, including seven days in a coma, where friends and family took shifts so someone was by her side every minute. Her Christian community of friends prayed for her, and her 5-year-old granddaughter, Sophie, stayed in from recess for weeks praying for “Grammie” to live. Sharon is devout about the power of prayer and believes, “God guided us to the right hospital.”
Amazingly, Sharon recovered without any resulting paralysis or other disabilities. Her doctors called her outcome a “miracle,” considering those who come to the hospital in a coma with a Grade 4 rupture, as Sharon did, only have a 15 to 20 percent survival rate. On the one-year anniversary of her aneurysm, Sharon personally delivered “Thank you for saving my life!” cupcakes and cookies to the ambulance service who drove her to the ER, the fire station personnel who responded to her husband’s 9-1-1 call and to all the nurses and staff at Spring Valley Hospital. “I owe my life to three things,” says Sharon. “Faith in God … the support of my family … and the fabulous care I received at Spring Valley Hospital.”
The Family Connection
Sharon Martin’s aneurysm was a blessing in disguise for her daughter. Since weakness in the arteries can have a genetic link, Sharon Martin’s neurologist recommended that her immediate family members undergo magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) scans, which provide pictures of the blood vessels inside the body. The test for Sharon’s daughter, Shelly, rendered a “shadow” that turned out to be a benign brain tumor about the size of a grape. She had it removed just seven months after her mother’s aneurysm. “After my illness, I asked God why I had survived. Now I know it was so I could be here to help my daughter,” says Sharon. “I learned that life is short and can end in a split second. So show your family you love and appreciate them … while you can.”