"I kind of blew it off': Mom shares story of survival after headaches lead to deadly discovery

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) -- Chris Hoffman, a nurse and busy mom of three,  has always had chronic migraines, but in December began experiencing headaches that felt much different.

"Especially a month prior," said Hoffman, of Mentor. "I kind of blew it off. At one point, I kind of heard a pop and said 'Oh, you're just imagining things'."

Then in January, as she was exercising in a swimming pool, she felt the head pain begin -- but this time, her legs buckled.

"I cringed and thought to myself that something was really wrong," she said.

She had someone call 911, and was taken to the hospital. While she was waiting for a scan, an aneurysm in her brain actually ruptured.

Hoffman underwent surgery and was in a coma for nearly a week. Since, she's had to do speech therapy and physical therapy, but she is now doing OK.

September is Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, and Hoffman is now working to help educate others on how to be aware of symptoms and how to prevent aneurysms.

Her neurosurgeon, the Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Peter Rasmussen, said not everyone at risk for an aneurysm has symptoms ahead of time. In fact, only about 20 percent do, he said.

An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery that can develop where a blood vessel is weakened, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Because of the weakness, the vessel can leak or even burst.

Once an aneurysm ruptures, blood is released into the skull and causes a stroke. That's why it's important to act fast when something feels abnormal.

There are risk factors for aneurysms, including smoking, high blood pressure and street drug use.

The biggest factor is family history, said Rasmussen. He recommends that anyone with a family history of aneurysms be screened; that will help prevent a stroke from happening and shorten recovery time.

Hoffman said after her ordeal, she learned she did have a family history of the condition.

Hoffman is kicking off the Aneurysm Awareness Run Oct. 14 in the Cleveland Metroparks.

For more info on that event, click here. 

For more on Hoffman's story and more on aneurysm awareness, watch the video player above.

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