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Aneurysm- Life Interrupted: April 10, 2013

At 26 years old Amy Ofenbeck was at the top of her game.

New job as a TV news anchor and newly married. She never suspected a weak spot in her brain.

“I was working out when I just collapsed. They took me to the hospital and determined I had bleeding on my brain from an aneurysm,” says Ofenbeck.

“An aneurism is a weak spot and out pouching on a blood vessel. Think of a balloon- as blood expands, the skin of the balloon thins so when that happens to a blood vessel, as the skin thins it can rupture,” says Dr. Gary Correnti, neurosurgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Traditionally surgeons remove a small section of skull, and go underneath the brain to clip the aneurysm.
“So here’s an MRI scan of Amy’s brain. This large black abnormality you can see there, that’s artifact from the aneurysm clip,” says Dr. Correnti.

She wasn’t out of the woods yet. Ofenbeck suffered a fairly common complication - a buildup of fluid.

“Blood, when it surrounds the brain, filters into the spinal fluid and then drains out of the brain along with the spinal fluid. Spinal fluid is like water and blood can clog the drainage system. So what happened is, she kept making her normal spinal fluid but her drain got clogged,” says Dr. Correnti.

It meant another surgery to place a shunt.  In the past 15 years, Ofenbeck has had eight brain surgeries. Stemming from one overblown blood vessel.

Aneurysms tend to go under-the-radar. It’s estimated 1 in 20 people in the US will have one. If it ruptures it’s fatal more than 40 percent of the time; 60 percent of the survivors will have permanent damage.

“I was in a wheelchair, a walker, two canes and then I used one cane. And for a while I wasn’t using anything,” says Ofenbeck.

Ofenbeck’s path to recovery took her to the Lee Center for Health and Rehabilitation.

“This blue line became my friend. I would have to walk down the line and keep my feet within the line,” says Ofenbeck.

Many miles and many tears later, Ofenbeck keeps moving forward.

“She’s been a great patient; she’s been optimistic and positive the whole entire time. Never did I feel she felt sorry for herself,” says Dr. Correnti.

“I do have some disabilities but I can’t complain. I’m just doing what everybody else does,” says Ofenbeck.

Despite a life interrupted.