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This Latina’s Experience with Brain Aneurysms is a Cautionary Tale for the Latino Community

This Latina’s Experience with Brain Aneurysms is a Cautionary Tale for the Latino Community belatina latine

Did you know that both the Latino and Black communities are about twice as likely to have a brain aneurysm rupture compared to whites?

Historically excluded communities are disproportionately affected by an array of issues. For the most part, we are aware of how the Latino and Black communities struggle more when it comes to their economic growth, opportunities, and certain diseases that they may be prone to such as diabetes. But it’s not common knowledge how brain aneurysms pose a great risk to our families – and even to ourselves. 

An unforgettable moment

Mexican-American entrepreneur, Angela Sustaita-Ruiz, for instance, faced the danger of a brain aneurysm. It could’ve brought a devastating reality to her family if she hadn’t taken action when she did. 

Credit: Angela Sustaita-Ruiz (Angela Sustaita-Ruiz and her beautiful family)

On the day of the frightful moment, two weeks into the new year, Sustaita-Ruiz, 51, recalls having the worst headache of her life.  

“The pain traveled throughout my head, I felt a tingling sensation in my brain, my neck stiffened, and my back began to hurt,” Sustaita-Ruiz, a renowned Hispanic media entrepreneur, mom, and wanderlust recounted about that day. 

But let’s be honest here. Brushing away a headache is normal. The stress the world – collectively – has experienced in the past couple of years has merited a few headaches. At least, a headache from time to time is fine. 

Truth is Latinas and women alike are used to trekking through any pain. It’s perhaps an evolutionary reaction to usually being the key figure in our households and not wanting to disrupt the order. After all, Latinas are the ones who run things at home, which is probably why they are more stressed than men at any given time, according to a study in 2016. 

However, this pain was different. As strong as this Latina entrepreneur is, she realized that her over-the-counter medicine wasn’t going to alleviate her headache. The tension in her head only grew; it felt like it was going to explode. 

“As I walked back to the kitchen, I was in so much pain, that I sat on the floor, leaning against the wall,” she said.  

“Severe nausea kicked in, my chest started tightening, my face and right arm began to numb, and I knew that I needed to get to the hospital immediately.”

The effects of a brain aneurysm 

These are some of the classic symptoms of an aneurysm, although some people may also confuse these symptoms with a stroke. Still, they differ from one another. 

A stroke presents itself when there’s a ruptured blood vessel in the brain – or if there’s a blockage to the blood supply in the brain. An aneurysm, on the other hand, is a direct consequence of a weakened artery wall.

It may seem as though going through an aneurysm is a minimal thing, but it’s not. If untreated, the situation will worsen and can cause a hemorrhagic stroke, among other dire effects. 

A hemorrhagic stroke is usually caused due to the bursting of a small artery due to high blood pressure. Or, it can also be caused by a brain aneurysm. Strokes are the number three leading cause of death for Latinas. 

As you can see, Sustaita-Ruiz’s day became entangled in a medical emergency that needed attention immediately. Luckily, her husband was home to drive her to get medical care. 

“I began vomiting on the way to the hospital, and by the time we arrived at the ER  – about 25 minutes from the initial onset of pain. I threw myself on the lobby floor because the pain was unbearable.”

Soon after, the ER team of nurses, doctors, and surgeons worked to stabilize her. A neurosurgeon, who virtually assessed her, ordered an MRI and CT Scan. These tests confirmed that Sustaita-Ruiz had two brain aneurysms. One of them had already burst.

With news like this, every second counts. She was sent to another hospital for emergency intervention. 

Her surgery didn’t take place until the day after –  they wanted to make sure everything was in order. 

Prior to her surgery, they performed a Cerebral Angiogram to determine the best intervention option. She had two options: endovascular coiling (non-invasive) or a craniotomy (invasive).

“Thankfully the medical team determined that non-invasive coiling would be the better option. I spent 11 days in the ICU undergoing ongoing monitoring, and diagnostic tests.” 

Life after enduring two brain aneurysms

The Mexican-American media guru didn’t have any complications, mobility, or cognitive issues after her surgery. She resumed her regular activities a month after the surgery, but with more caution. 

Three months later, she went in for a Cerebral Aneurysm intervention procedure, where she said the doctor determined that the coiling was intact and that a stent could create more risk, such as the risk of a stroke. 

Now, almost ten months later, she has made an effort to slow down in her life as she continues to heal. She’s back to tending to the areas of her life that bring her the most joy. From a busy mom to a successful business owner, life post brain aneurysm gave her a second chance to appreciate and bask in the beauty of being present. 

What’s next for her? Well, you can catch her running Miami’s Half Marathon in January 2023, a year after she experienced her life-changing headache. What a badass.

On this National Brain Aneurysm Month, we must remember that not everyone is as lucky to have someone taking care of them as they start showing signs of a neurological crisis. This is why periodical neurological evaluations are important. Have you gotten checked lately?