Rare surgery saves pregnant woman with blood clot in brain

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan woman is lucky to be alive after doctors drained a blood clot in her brain using a technique performed only once before anywhere in the world, saving her and her unborn child.

At the end of November, Mindy Simon started experiencing strong headaches and nausea.

“Actually walked out of the bathroom with tears in my eyes because I’m like, ‘This headache is awful and I can’t take ibuprofen now for it,’” Simon says.

That was because she was pregnant and ibuprofen has been linked to some pregnancy complications and birth defects.

Simon, a physical therapist, took the day off from work and decided she would try to go back the next day.

“I got up and was taking a shower and basically was reaching up with my arms, both of them, or trying to wash my hair when I noticed left arm was weaker,” Simon says.

A scan showing the surgery to drain the blood clot in Mindy Simon’s brain. (WOOD)
A scan showing the surgery to drain the blood clot in Mindy Simon’s brain. (WOOD)

That was a major red flag. She and her family rushed to the hospital.

There, doctors told her there was a blood clot in her brain.

“The clot involved the entirety of the superior sagittal sinus and then extended into the transverse and sigmoid sinuses,” says Dr. Bryan Figueroa of Great Lakes Neurological Associates.

He explains that the superior sagittal sinus is responsible for pumping blood back to the heart.

He says according to the American Heart Association, the condition Simon was diagnosed with is seen in only three or four times per every 1 million people each year. But there were 12 cases in every 100,000 pregnancies because blood clots are more likely during pregnancy.

Doctors tried blood thinners, but the clot was too large. Next, on Dec. 1, they went the traditional route of trying to break up the clot by going up through the jugular vein, but it was unsuccessful.

After the first surgery, Simon was in and out of consciousness. Doctors didn’t know if she would make it, so the next day, they took a chance with a new procedure.

A scan showing the surgery to drain the blood clot in Mindy Simon’s brain. (WOOD)
A scan showing the surgery to drain the blood clot in Mindy Simon’s brain. (WOOD)

“It occurred to us to get past the clot and start where the clot ends and go backwards,” Figueroa says.

The surgery had only been performed one other time — in California in 2014.

It worked. Doctors used a special device to break up the clot.

Simon has made nearly a full recovery. That was evident Thursday as she pushed herself in physical therapy, which she attends at the same office where she works. She has most of her motor and cognitive skills back, and the second trimester of her pregnancy is going well. Her unborn child is healthy.

She already has two sons, ages 3 and 8.

“There are some days I’m fine and there are other days that I absolutely tear up because I think of my husband, our kids. They could’ve had not a mom come last Christmas,” Simon says.

She had a miscarriage earlier in 2016, which doctors say could have been caused by the clot. It’s unclear if the condition will be passed on to her unborn child.

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