Living to Celebrate Many More Birthdays
Grace Donoho and her granddaughter Isabella
When Isabella celebrates her birthday in March, she probably won’t remember how she spent her first birthday. But her grandmother, Grace Donoho, will. Grace was at UAMS undergoing a procedure to treat a brain aneurysm, and Isabella was by her side.
One afternoon Grace was gardening in her backyard in Springdale, Arkansas. While digging up a plant to give to a co-worker, she felt a fierce pain. “It felt like my head exploded,” she said. “At first, I couldn’t imagine what it was. I was really scared.”
The pain started going down her neck, so Grace thought she could be having a stroke. Grace knew she wasn’t able to drive, so she walked to her neighbor’s house to ask for help. Her speech was slurred, and right away the neighbor knew something was terribly wrong. Grace’s neighbor drove her to the local hospital, and a CT scan revealed a brain aneurysm. Since her local hospital was unable to treat a condition of this nature, Grace was airlifted to UAMS.
Grace was in intensive care until the procedure was performed. She was not allowed to watch TV or do other simple activities that might stimulate her brain and cause further bleeding. But Grace’s family could be there to comfort her, and that included her granddaughter, Isabella. “Everybody was so kind. They allowed my grandbaby to sleep in my arms,” Grace said.
Grace was comforted by the high quality of medical care she received from her UAMS physician, Dr. Eren Erdem. “He had a kind and gentle voice, and he explained all the pros and the cons,” Grace said.
“All my questions were answered. I never thought I wasn’t going to make it. They were confident of the procedure, and I was confident in their abilities.”
Since her aneurysm was already ruptured, the best course of action was to undergo endovascular coiling. This involved a catheter going through her groin area, and then being navigated through blood vessels up to the aneurysm. The coils, which are made of soft, platinum based hair-thin wires, are then wound into the aneurysm like a ball of yarn. Over time, the coils become a dense mass that prevents blood from going to that area and causing more damage. Eventually the coils turn into scar tissue.
The procedure has only been actively performing for about 15 years, Dr. Erdem explained. He has been performed the procedure for 10 years at UAMS. “Studies have shown that there is a better outcome with this minimally invasive surgery,” he said. “The patient recovery time is much faster.” Without the minimally invasive techniques, Grace’s quality of life would have been affected for months. Now this surgery is being used more frequently to treat brain aneurysms and has become the preferred method of treatment for ruptured aneurysms.
Grace’s procedure was performed on Isabella’s first birthday. “Everybody at UAMS was sensitive to that and let me be with my granddaughter,” she said. She spent a week in the hospital following the surgery, and she was grateful that the staff allowed Isabella to be there and help in the recovery process. “I couldn’t have asked for a nicer environment to have this done. It meant so much to be treated with such kindness, understanding and compassion. I don’t think that people in Arkansas realize the top notch health care we have available at UAMS.”
Since her surgery, Grace has shown no signs of complications. She feels that her attitude and outlook definitely helped her recovery process. She said that the procedure made her look at life differently. “It has made me realize the importance of the time that Isabella and I have and that we are able to build memories together.”
Grace has completely returned to normal activities including participating in many community activities. She has also helped other patients who have gone through what she did. She meets with people in the Springdale area who have shared her experience so that they can support and encourage each other.
Grace is extremely grateful to the treatment and care she received at UAMS. “Everybody at UAMS was wonderful to my children and grandchild. I owe my life to UAMS and Dr. Erdem,” she said.
To learn more about the personalized care provided by our doctors using state-of-the-art equipment and technology, please visit our medical services section.