A Patient Story – Martina

In February of 2019, Martina Gary was enjoying a video call with her friend Shay when she suddenly experienced a terrible pain in her head. Martina shared that her headache was very bad. Shay urged her to ask her kids to bring her medicine. Within a few moments, Martina began vomiting and fell to the floor. Shay began yelling her name, but never received a response. She promptly called 911 and drove to her home. When she arrived police were knocking on her front door – with no response. When they entered the home, they found Martina unresponsive on the floor.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Martina had already suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm resulting in several strokes – and was nearly in a coma. Dr. H. Robert Hixson, a Neurointerventional Radiologist (a physician who specializes in minimally invasive treatment of conditions affecting the arteries of the brain) with Vista Radiology, performed a procedure called an “aneurysm embolization” in which Dr. Hixson placed small pieces of platinum wires called “coils” into the ruptured aneurysm to stabilize it and prevent it from rupturing again, but this was just the beginning.

According to Martina, she had 13 treatments in which her doctors accessed an artery in her thigh to address vasospasm in the arteries of her brain. Vasospasm is a condition that can be caused by ruptured brain aneurysms in which the arteries of the brain literally spasm due to irritation from bleeding caused by the ruptured aneurysm. “In some cases, including Ms. Gary’s, it can be so severe as to result in additional strokes due to the restriction of blood flow,” explained Dr. Hixson. Doctors use long tubes called catheters to administer medications into the arteries to relax them and also use small balloons, at times, to gently stretch the constricted arteries.

As Martina recalls, “Dr. Hixson advised my family to give me a hug, because he wasn’t sure I’d be back.” Dr. Hixson admitted that she required the most repeated treatments of vasospasm that he had experienced (sometimes requiring treatment twice a day) – that is how severe her vasospasm was.
To say that Martina is a walking miracle is an understatement. She is especially emotional as she recalls the stress and uncertainty the event caused her two, then, teenage boys. “I just kept thinking about how they leave for school on the bus every morning without disturbing me in my room. When they returned home that afternoon, they would have found me dead,” shared Martina. Martina experienced mental trauma from the episode, faces some mobility issues and challenges with focus; however, she is so thankful to be alive and watching her sons Jamal and Cary thrive. She explained, “There are some situations, especially with our health, that we just don’t have control over.”

When asked about her experience, she shared, “The ambulance could have taken me anywhere. I am so thankful God led me to Dr. Hixson.” Martina continued, “The people at Vista are amazing. The amount of passion for what they do is unmatched. I am so appreciative for Dr. Hixson’s care for me.”

Ms. Gray is expecting her first grandchild, a little girl, this December and attends Canaan Baptist Church.

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