New medical device saves the life of New Matamoras woman
A newly-approved medical implant device saved Vesta Kidd Hall’s life, and that experience changed her outlook on how to live.
Kidd Hall, 57 and a resident of New Matamoras, discovered earlier this year that an array of alarming symptoms – memory loss, slurred speech, anxiety and vision problems – were being caused by a brain aneurysm. Her family doctor ordered a brain scan.
“I was having anxiety, panic attacks, my vision wasn’t right, and I had sort of a breakdown in my family doctor’s office,” she said Tuesday while visiting her workplace in the basement of the O’Neill Center.
“I had been tired, and mentally off for a long time, I thought maybe it was from the stress of losing my daughter last year,” she said. “When the doctor saw the aneurysm on the MRI, she said, ‘You need to go now to get this fixed, and recommended Mount Carmel hospital or Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University.”
A brain aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of one of the arteries that supply blood to the brain. The weakened area is in danger of blowing out, a life-threatening occurrence. Most people who have aneurysms aren’t aware of them, and a third of the people who have arterial failure because of an aneurysm die.
Kidd Hall went to Mount Carmel the following day, and after examining her, the physician recommended she go to Wexner. “He told me, ‘there’s nothing we can do for you here,'” Kidd Hall said.
At Wexner – after a four-week delay in having her records forwarded – she met Dr. Patrick Youssef, an endovascular neurosurgeon. He proposed a procedure using a recently-approved implant.
In the meantime, her activities had been restricted in an effort to prevent any strain that might burst the aneurysm.
“There was no walking, lifting, bending, I had to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure down, no stress,” she said. “I would tell everyone, ‘Hey, I moved from one end of the couch to the other today.’ Basically, I couldn’t do anything. They hit it all.”
At the end of April she returned to the Wexner Medical Center. The procedure was simple – anesthesia, about 35 minutes as Youssef worked the implant up her arterial system with a catheter, then implanted the device, which looks like a tiny mesh ball of metal.
Youssef, speaking from Columbus Monday night, said an aneurysm is comparable to having a bulge on the sidewall of a tire – it could blow out from any excessive pressure or impact. They come in many shapes and sizes, but until recently the only implant approved was a coil-shaped apparatus that would work only on aneurysms that were mushroom-shaped – the coil would plug the narrow neck of the aneurysm and shut off the blood flow to eliminate danger of bursting.
Kidd Hall’s aneurysm was not the right shape for that.
The “webbie” – woven endobridge aneurysm embolization system -approved in early 2019 by the FDA, works on aneurysms with wider apertures.
“The wide-neck aneurysms were always a treatment challenge. We used to have to use a coil with a stent and put the patient on blood thinners, and not all patients can tolerate that,” Youssef said. Such procedures also involved significantly more invasive surgery.
“It’s an overnight stay in the hospital instead of three to four nights,” he said.
Aneurysms are surprise killers because they often develop without symptoms, Youssef said.
“It is asymptomatic … if the blood vessel tears, it bleeds into the base of the brain. The mortality rate is 30 to 50 percent,” he said.
When confronted with the prospect of submitting to such a new procedure, Kidd Hall was ready for it.
“What’s the alternative?” she said. “It’s all in God’s hands anyway.”
She had a family meeting with her husband, Harvey, and her children.
“I told the kids everything would be OK. No matter how it went, they would be fine, and I loved them,” she said. “Then I said not to come for the surgery — if I died, it was a long drive home and I’d worry about them, haha!”
The procedure was smooth and undemanding, and the results were almost immediately apparent.
“There was no more of that anxiety, even my co-workers noticed that I’m quicker now and more alert. My vision is still a little off, but things are coming back,” she said.
Cathy Ryan, who works with Kidd Hall in the community action kitchen, said she could see the difference.
“That slurred speech, inability to concentrate, now that confusion and stress seems to be gone,” she said.
The experience has changed Kidd Hall’s outlook. She’s planning to retire after 32 years of overseeing the kitchen that sends out hundreds of meals a week to seniors and children.
“Now I’m going to do what I want to do. It’s a good crew here, they’ll take care of things,” she said. “My husband retires in September, and we’ve got grandkids in Iowa. I’ve got my life back. I don’t worry about the small things anymore.”
A breakthrough for treating brain aneurysm
• Device: Woven EndoBridge (WEB) aneurysm embolization system.
• Material: Nickel titanium.
• How it works: Implanted in aneurysm location to isolate the weakened area from blood flow.
• Advantages: Can be used on wide-opening aneurysms without invasive surgery, implanted through arterial catherizations.
Source: Wexner Medical Center, The Ohio State University.