Local Resident Shares Story Of Survival

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Westbury resident Kathleen Smith is one of two brain aneurysm survivors who will share their stories of detection, treatment and survival at the upcoming Brian Aneurysm Awareness Four-Mile Run/Two-Mile Walk At Jones Beach State Park on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Smith will be joined by fellow brain aneurysm survivor, Terry Bongiorno from New Hyde Park.

Proceeds from the ninth annual walk will benefit Northwell Health’s Brain Aneurysm Center and Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF), helping support essential research into how to help prevent cases of ruptured aneurysms. Hundreds of walkers, including brain aneurysm survivors, their families and friends, are expected to attend the fun-filled event. Doctors, nurses and staff members from Northwell Health’s Brain Aneurysm Center will also be on hand to show their support for the many patients they have treated over the years. Among those who will be attending are David Chalif, MD, and Avi Setton, MD, co-directors of Northwell Health’s Brain Aneurysm Center.

“One of the goals of this annual event is to increase awareness about the warning signs of a brain aneurysm,” said Chalif. “The symptoms can include severe headache, nausea, blurred or double vision, stiff neck or neck pain, pain above or behind the eye and loss of sensation.”

Family history led Smith to get screened. Her sister died from a brain aneurysm nearly two decades ago. This past summer, Smith’s primary care physician recommended she get screened due to family history. A magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) was performed, which revealed a brain aneurysm. She was referred to Chalif, and upon reviewing the MRA images, Chalif said she was a good candidate to receive endovascular treatment with coils and a stent, a minimally invasive procedure to treat brain aneurysms.

Smith underwent an endovascular coiling and stenting procedure in January, performed by Setton. Coiling a brain aneurysm requires the insertion of a catheter into the femoral artery in the leg, which is then navigated through the blood vessels into the brain where the aneurysm is located. Soft platinum coils and a stent are inserted through the catheter and deployed in the aneurysm. The coils conform to the shape of the aneurysm, fill the sac and block blood flow to the aneurysm to prevent the aneurysm from rupturing.

“Approximately 5 percent of brain aneurysms are linked to a family history,” said Chalif. “But due to the decisive actions of Ms. Bongiorno and Ms. Smith seeking medical attention because of their family history, their lives were saved due to early detection. By sharing their stories at our walk this year, they will undoubtedly help us spread awareness about the warning signs of a brain aneurysm and the importance of getting screened if you have a family history. We are extremely grateful to both of them and they should be commended for their extraordinary courage and strength.”

Registration for the walk begins at 8:30 a.m. at Jones Beach State Park, Field 5. The start time is 10 a.m. and the event will be held rain or shine. The registration fee is $25 through Sept. 9, $30 afterward. Entry fee includes the cost of parking and snacks. T-shirts will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. To pre-register for the walk, visit www.bafound.org and click upcoming events.

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