Cheryl’s story: ‘Doing everything’ after 3 aneurysms
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Faced with a potentially life-threatening condition, Cheryl Micolichek couldn’t resist a wry smile.
In November 2016, she was told she had not one, not two, but three aneurysms in her brain.
“I thought to myself, ‘Gee, Cheryl, you can’t just have one. You have to be the overachiever and have three,’” she says, giggling at the notion.
Though Cheryl turned that punch into a punch line, she knew the danger. An aneurysm is a weak area of a blood vessel that causes bulging or ballooning of the vessel wall. They’re life-threatening if they burst. She’d seen them while working with neurosurgeons at a trauma hospital in New Jersey. She’d seen a friend die that way.
Cheryl was diagnosed during a visit to an emergency room in Marinette. She went in on a Saturday, complaining of nausea that lingered after a routine injection for her rheumatoid arthritis.
“They said, ‘You know, we’re going to just cover our bases and send you for a CAT scan.’ And there they were. All three of the buggers,” she says.
Two days later, on the following Monday, Cheryl saw Dr. Ziad Darkhabani, an interventional neurologist at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. He immediately performed an angiogram to map the location of the aneurysms.
“They weren’t fooling around. There was a treatment plan made pretty much right then and there,” says Cheryl, who’s in her late 50s. A self-proclaimed “country girl,” she lives near Crivitz, her hometown.
Two small aneurysms behind her left eye were treated first, two weeks after her diagnosis. Darkhabani placed several small coils into the aneurysms through a large vessel in Cheryl’s groin. The procedure, known as coil embolization, causes blood to clot and close off the aneurysm, greatly reducing the risk of rupture.
Surgery on the third aneurysm was done two months later.
“The anxiety of waiting was hard because I wanted it done. I just wanted it done. Didn’t want to worry about the time bomb anymore,” Cheryl says.
In February 2017, Eckardt performed a craniotomy, opening Cheryl’s skull to clip a large aneurysm behind her right eye.
“That was hard because that was the big one,” Cheryl says. “They had to cut a 4-inch piece out of my skull and they had to cut my right jaw muscle. It was painful. The jaw was the most painful thing.”
Having Eckardt as her neurosurgeon helped ease Cheryl’s mind. Turns out, they’d worked at the same New Jersey trauma hospital, though not at the same time.
“Dr. Eckardt did part of his training with the people that I worked for. So we had mutual people that we both knew. And it was very comforting to be able to go back and ask people how is he, and they said ‘He’s wonderful, and he’s a nice guy.’ And that’s all true,” Cheryl says.
A year past her diagnosis and surgeries, Cheryl’s life in the country has returned to normal.
“I’m doing everything. I’m back walking with my dogs. I’m back taking care of my chickens,” she says. “I’m sewing. My biggest thing that I worried about was will I be able to sew and do my crafting things after my surgery, and I’m doing all of that wonderfully.”
For that, Cheryl credits her doctors.
“I believe that they saved my life,” she says of Eckardt and Darkhabani.
“They did an awesome job.”
Dr. Gerald W. Eckardt sees patients in Green Bay, Oshkosh and Kaukauna. For information, call 920-288-8350 or 888-376-3876. Dr. Ziad Darkhabani sees patients in Green Bay, Oshkosh and Manitowoc. For information, call 920-288-8044 or 855-819-9935.