Stacie J. is a fighter. Some of us may remember seeing her duking it out on Season 2 of NBC’s ‘The Apprentice.’ But that was nothing compared to how she would have to battle her way back from a near fatal brain aneurysm rupture, just two years ago. When you know the statistics it becomes clear just how blessed Stacie is.

Statistics from the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, show that 40 percent of all brain aneurysm cases end in death, and 66 percent of those who survive suffer permanent neurological disabilities. That this happened to Stacie, an African-American woman in her 40’s, is not uncommon given that African-Americans are twice as likely to have a brain aneurysm rupture than Whites, and Black women are at the highest risk. And while it’s been a long road to recovery for this mother of two, it’s nothing short of a miracle that she is alive and in a position to share her story. Today, Stacie is passionate about spreading awareness about the risk factors, warning signs and ways that we might be able to prevent something like this from happening to us or someone we love.

EBONY: What happened two years ago?

Stacie: I was going to bed like I would any other night, when an aneurysm ruptured in my brain. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 1 in 50 people have an aneurysm, but most don’t rupture. Of the 30,000 or so a year that do rupture, I happened to hit the jackpot.

EBONY: Were there any warning signs?

Stacie: Yes. I actually had a headache that started almost two weeks before the rupture that I dismissed, thinking that it had something to with with some wine I drank one night. But when I really think about it, I had a premonition of it. A few months before, I was running in the park and I had to stop because of a ringing in my head. If I would have slowed down and listened to my body I would have read the signs.

EBONY: Why didn’t you get checked immediately?

Stacie: For one, I never took any prescription drugs, I always worked out…I had no health issues so I never even considered that it could be something serious. And then just being in New York and being busy all the time, you just get used to powering through. There was a newscaster, Lisa Colagrossi, that died last year and she had her headache for about six weeks. Unfortunately, she didn’t stop reporting and being a mom, which is very common. But, I did get an MRI brain scan a few days before the rupture and they missed it. An MRA scan may have been more conclusive. Later, I was told that it was a medium-sized aneurysm that had probably been growing for 25 years.

Stacie J.
Photo Credit: Sharon Daniels

EBONY: Do they know where they come from?

Stacie: Research points to smoking, heavy drug use, high blood pressure and family history as possible causes. But, I don’t do any of those things. The only symptom I had was the worst headache of my life, which is a major warning sign. If it’s genetic I wouldn’t know because neither of my parents or anyone else in my family have been tested. I’m not sure why they never did, people have their priorities. Eventually, they probably will.

EBONY: What physical toll did the rupture have on you?

Stacie: I had my first seizure at my house when the first rupture occurred, and then I had a series of strokes at the hospital when it ruptured again and I lost oxygen to the brain. I was in the hospital for a month and four days, and I’ve come a long way from the time when I couldn’t walk, my left eye was completely shut, I couldn’t remember things, or take care of my two kids. Today, my brain is functioning at a much faster pace, and I work on myself everyday. I’m not the Stacie that I was before the strokes, but I’m really happy to be alive, and blessed to be here for my daughters.

EBONY: Any positives to come out of this?

Stacie: Yes, I feel a huge responsibility as a brain aneurysm survivor to spread awareness. I also have The Jones Insurance Agency that sells life and disability insurance to families and individuals. Until something like this happens, you have no idea the financial toll it can take on you and your family so I’m making sure that people are protected. Lastly, I used to worry about a lot of things and now those things don’t bother me anymore. It’s amazing!

To learn more about brain aneurysms visit The Brain Aneurysm Foundation

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