When she started making mistakes on the job, Rosebush, 56, thought it was time for a new eyeglass prescription. She had been employed at the casino near her home in Bridgman for years, working the slot machine floor without any problems. But in the space of just a few weeks, she wrote down an incorrect social security number for jackpot winners—twice. “I am not a person to make those kinds of errors,” Rosebush says. She was also having more headaches than usual—another problem she thought a new pair of glasses would fix.
Luckily, an alert vision technician at her optometrist’s office noted that Rosebush’s right pupil was dilated compared to the left one and referred her to a specialist at Great Lakes Eye Care in St. Joseph. A CT scan revealed that Rosebush had a brain aneurysm arising from the carotid artery, pressing on her right optic nerve. “No one wants to hear, ‘You have a brain aneurysm,’” Rosebush says. “At first I couldn’t breathe.”
It’s no wonder Rosebush was frightened. Aneurysms are weak spots in blood vessels that are enlarged and stretched thin. Left untreated, they can burst. And if they burst in an artery that brings blood to the brain, stroke or death often occurs. Every year, 30,000 people in the United States have a ruptured brain aneurysm. This condition is more prevalent in people ages 50 to 60, and three times more prevalent in women.
Rosebush’s next step toward treatment was more testing overseen by Christian Sikorski, MD, a neurosurgeon at Lakeland Neurosurgery in St. Joseph. Several CT scans later, Dr. Sikorski broke some difficult news. At 3 centimeters, Rosebush’s aneurysm was very large—classified as a “giant”—and it was also the “large-neck” variety, meaning it had a wide opening at its base on carotid artery. Both attributes would make treatment difficult.
Aneurysms are often treated by inserting tiny coils into the aneurysm to divert blood flow. But her aneurysm was so large that inserting a large number of coils would cause problems due to additional pressure. And the other traditional treatment—“clipping,” or opening the brain to seal off the base of the aneurysm with a tiny clip—wasn’t an option either. The size of Rosebush’s aneurysm made this major, invasive surgery very risky.
Luckily, Dr. Sikorski has a strong collaborative partnership with Bronson neurointerventional surgeon Jeffrey Miller, MD. Dr. Sikorski referred Rosebush to Dr. Miller who met with Rosebush and her husband John to explain treatment with a new technology called the Pipeline stent.
Pipeline is a flexible mesh tube made of platinum and other fine metals. It is attached to a catheter and inserted into an artery in the groin, then threaded up into the carotid artery inside the brain. It is expanded against the neck of the aneurysm to divert blood flow away from the aneurysm. The blood remaining inside the aneurysm forms a clot, making the aneurysm less likely to grow or rupture.
“When Dr. Miller explained the procedure, we totally trusted him,” Rosebush says. “We could have gone anywhere—Mayo, or someplace like that—but we had heard so many positive things about Bronson’s neuroscience program that we were at ease before we even got there.”
During surgery, treating Rosebush’s aneurysm took a little longer than expected. As soon as the Pipeline stent was inserted, the aneurysm clotted against it so aggressively that blood flow was threatened. Dr. Miller used blood thinners and balloon angioplasty to make sure the artery stayed open.
The blood thinners made the incision in Rosebush’s groin slow to close. Over the next 24 hours, nurses took turns applying pressure to the site. “Dr. Miller even came in to take a turn, too,” Rosebush says. “Everyone was just phenomenal at Bronson. I never had to wait for anything. Every person we came in contact with was so caring and friendly.” After just two days at Bronson, Rosebush was able to go home.
Aneurysms treated with the Pipeline stent often shrink or even disappear over time. After just a few weeks, Rosebush’s brain scans were clear—her aneurysm was gone. Vision in Rosebush’s right eye is still impaired, but the blur that was once dark now appears lighter.
While she is hopeful that her eyesight will continue to improve, Rosebush is quick to point out, “I don’t complain about my sight.” She and her husband are enjoying each day—especially those spent with their grandchildren. “I’m just lucky to be here,” Rosebush says. “If it weren’t for Dr. Miller and this procedure, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be here right now.”