Willow resident brings awareness after suffering a brain aneurysm rupture

Maggie Brooks considers herself lucky to be alive
Maggie Brooks considers herself lucky to be alive
Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:30 PM AKDT
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WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been a little over a year since Maggie Brooks experienced one of the scariest days of her life. She was cleaning one of her Mooseberry Cabins on Nancy Lake in Willow when a persistent headache only got worse.

“It started getting really scary, and it felt like somebody was standing behind me pushing my eyes out of my head,” Brooks recalled.

Brooks called her husband as well as her neighbor, asking them to come over because she didn’t want to be alone. The next thing she knew she woke up in a hospital in Anchorage, with no idea that she had just undergone brain surgery.

“One of the first words I heard when I woke up, ‘Wow, you are a miracle. You are a miracle — you made it through the surgery,’” Brooks said.

Maggie Brooks didn’t know she had been living with an intracranial aneurysm before it ruptured...
Maggie Brooks didn’t know she had been living with an intracranial aneurysm before it ruptured on June 14, 2021. Looking back on it now she acknowledged that the signs were there the whole time: frequent migraines and a history of high blood pressure. (Photo credit: Maggie Brooks)(Maggie Brooks)

Brooks didn’t know she had been living with an intracranial aneurysm before it ruptured on June 14, 2021. Looking back on it now, she acknowledged that the signs were there the whole time: frequent migraines and a history of high blood pressure. The doctors called it a miracle because the odds weren’t in her favor.

“I only had a 10% chance of survival, and out of that 5% to come back the way I am today,” Brooks stated.

Brooks believes that she survived because of her faith, which had now given her a new purpose to help spread awareness on a medical condition that too often goes undiagnosed.

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, one in 50 people has an unruptured brain aneurysm, with women being at increased risk over men. Risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, family history of aneurysms, age over 40, drug use, and traumatic head injury.

It’s also important to know the six main warning signs of a brain aneurysm: localized headaches, dilated pupils, blurred or double vision, pain above and behind the eye, weakness and numbness, and difficulty speaking.

Doctors were able to remove most of Brooks’ aneurysm, but not all of it. She considers herself lucky that she didn’t experience more neurological damage, but has suffered a number of seizures since and struggles with her peripheral vision and balance. She also experiences survivor’s guilt, wiping away tears when talking about how her husband, Damon Brooks, had to quit his job to give her round-the-clock care.

“We went through our savings so fast it was pathetic, and we’re just now starting to get back out of it again a little bit,” Brooks said. “But it’s okay, it’s okay. I’m alive and I’ve got a mission and I will keep going with it, you know? I will, I will do it.”

Brooks’ mission is to bring awareness to the often overlooked symptoms, both by individuals and their doctors, and encourage people to get a brain scan — something she believes should be as routine as mammograms and colonoscopies.

“I just want to save other people from having to go through this,” Brooks said.