Two Hearts Beat Stroke: Pregnant Mother Survives Aneurysm During Pandemic

"That’s exactly where I needed to be." - Jamie Carey

In the blink of an eye, everything changed for Jamie Carey.

“You wouldn’t even believe me except that I can’t make this story up!” said Jamie, who survived a stroke while being 26 weeks pregnant with her son Asher.

It was a day like any other, except for the pounding migraine Jamie was suffering. She took a hot shower, Tylenol, and laid down to cope with the headache. Nothing she tried worked, and her pain escalated to vomiting. 

Her high school sweetheart and husband of nine years, Tony, noticed that one side of Jamie’s face was swollen and lopsided. Without hesitating, Tony rushed her to Saint Luke’s Community Hospital in Overland Park, one of five state-of-the-art Saint Luke’s Community Hospitals that provide emergency, inpatient, and diagnostic services with an average wait time of less than 10 minutes.

“My head hurts so bad you have got to help me!” said Jamie as she walked into the hospital. “They took care of me right away. I believe it was God’s grace that brought me there: No other hospital near me treats high-risk cases.”

Jamie had a cerebral aneurysm, which led to a hemorrhagic stroke, and was immediately transferred to Saint Luke’s Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute, an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center which provides the region’s most cutting-edge stroke care to more than 2,000 patients each year.

As soon as Jamie arrived, Adrienne M Moraff, MD, a specialist in cerebrovascular neurosurgery, ran an essential diagnostic angiogram.

“This test had to be done right away, since the risk of re-rupture of an untreated aneurysm is very high, with up to 1 in 5 patients having another rupture within two weeks,” said Dr. Moraff. “For hemorrhagic strokes, we have a dedicated multi-disciplinary team of radiologists, neurosurgeons, and neurointerventionalists who collaborate to make sure every patient gets the most appropriate treatment.”

Jonathan D Breshears, MD, a fellowship trained neurosurgeon, performed an emergency craniotomy, a surgical opening in the skull to treat multiple issues in the brain, and clipped both of Jamie’s aneurysms.

“Jamie’s condition was life-threatening,” said Dr. Breshears. “We acted quickly, and the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists kept an eye on Jamie to ensure her baby was okay. The surgery went well.”

Jamie remembers waking up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where she remained for a few weeks to allow adequate time for her brain to heal.

“The team who cared for me in the ICU was amazing!” said Jamie. “Every day they monitored and performed a non-stress test to make sure my little baby was all right.”

Just two weeks after Jamie’s stroke, her husband joined her in the hospital with a collapsed lung from a work-related accident. Tony was placed in the ICU one floor beneath Jamie and surprised her with a visit to her room saying, “I told you I’d get to see you!”

“He was so proud to have made it to me through the visitor restrictions, despite his collapsed lung,” said Jamie. “The staff went above and beyond to make our visits possible, and they were so positive and encouraging every day.”

Both Jamie and Tony were released from the hospital in June, about one month before baby Asher made his debut on August 18.

“Asher is my little miracle baby and was my bright light through it all!” said Jamie. “He is the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life, and I am amazed by every little sound and move he makes.”

Today, all three members of the Carey family are home, healthy, and happy.

“Remarkably I don’t have any remaining effects from my episode, except for my new outlook on life. Time is so fleeting and precious, and I realize that in a new way,” said Jamie. “I believe everything happened for a reason, and that it was a miracle I was taken to Saint Luke’s. That’s exactly where I needed to be.”

Find out more about Saint Luke’s Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute, the region’s premier neuroscience institute dedicated to quality patient care, clinical excellence, research, and education.