Doctors Urge People To Learn The Warning Signs Of Brain Aneurysms After Young Mother Dies Suddenly

The lives of one North Carolina family was turned upside down after the sudden death of a mother of four who died due to a brain aneurysm shortly after complaining about a severe migraine.

On April 1, 2017, Eric and Lee Broadway were sitting outside their home in Matthews, North Carolina, enjoying their coffee while discussing plans for Lee’s upcoming 42nd birthday before Eric had to leave for work.

Within a few hours, Lee sent Eric a text asking that he come home immediately because she was experiencing the worst headache of her life.

Lee had long suffered from hereditary migraines ever since she was eight years old, but this one felt different.

“I raced home and took her to the ER,” Eric, 43, tells PEOPLE. “I knew this couldn’t be good because I’ve seen her deal with pain before.”

Two days later, on April 3, Lee passed away at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte from complications of what ended up being a brain aneurysm.

A brain aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel in the brain weakens. And while the symptoms of migraines and brain aneurysms can be similar, the conditions are not related.

It’s common for people to describe the headache connected with a brain aneurysm as the “worst headache” they’ve ever experienced, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The clinic advises a person to seek immediate medical attention if they develop a “sudden extremely severe headache.”

A Lifelong Love

Eric and Lee’s love story began in middle school when the first met and became friends.

“I kept on setting her up with my friends in high school,” he says, “but then I realized I wanted her.”

And Lee felt the same way about Eric. At 18, she became pregnant with the couple’s first child, a girl named Adair, who is now 22 and is a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Charlotte.

“Becoming a mom was the best thing to happen to her,” says Eric. “She was an awesome mom. She fell right into it and found something she loved.”

The couple expanded their family to four, welcoming two more daughters, Averi, 16, and Alex, 10.  Then they welcomed another boy, Adrien 8.

“She didn’t want to stop until we had a boy and we were able to make that happen,” says Eric, who owns a tile installation company. “We started young so there were some tough times, but we figured it out. We were happy.”

On the weekend of Lee’s death, all four of her children were out of town.

“Adair was in Key West and the other three were with their grandparents in the mountains,” says Eric. “So on my way to the hospital, I called my mother-in-law to let her know her daughter was in the hospital.”

Eric said, watching his wife in so much pain was the hardest thing he’d ever gone through.

“She was begging to have the pain go away,” he says. “As a husband, you want to protect your wife and help her, but there was nothing I could do.”

His mother-in-law left the three kids with her brother and drove out with her husband to be by their daughter’s side.

After Lee was moved from a local hospital to one in Charlotte, Eric received what seemed like good news at the time. He was told that Lee’s brain aneurysm was ranked a Grade 2 out of 5.

“One or two is what you want to have,” says Eric. “We were told she would be okay.”

“Still in Shock”

The next day, on April 2, doctors told the family that they were able to fix the aneurysm after performing a procedure.

“The doctor came out and said everything looked good. We got the thumbs up and took a deep breath,” Eric recalls. “We knew she was going to be in some pain but that she’d be with us.”

Unfortunately, less than two hours later, while he was waiting for his wife in recovery, the doctor rushed out like “her hair was on fire” and said there had been a complication, according to Eric.

Another 10 hours passed before the family heard any news. This time, the doctor asked to meet the family in the conference room.

“She took us all in and all I heard was, ‘There is nothing we can for her,’ ” says Eric. “I ran out and lost it.”

Eric said that Lee bled out and was considered brain dead.

“We’re still in shock,” he says. “Especially for the kids. They’re all grieving in their own ways.”

Eric originally planned to wait on telling their old child, Adair, who was making a long drive back from Florida, that her mom was in the hospital until she got back.

But after he told her the grim news, she broke down in tears. Since his mom’s death, their 8-year-old son has had trouble processing the news and continues to ask if his mom’s still at the hospital.

“I’ve tried to explain, but it’s hard,” says Eric. “It’s difficult to say she’s no longer with us.”

On Easter, which Eric now calls a “horrible day” because it was Lee’s favorite holiday, the family still had an Easter egg hunt for the kids. And on April 8, which would have been his wife’s 42nd birthday, they had over 100 people at their house to honor Lee.

“We let 42 balloons go and celebrated her life,” he says. “We talked about her and all of our memories.”

Know the Signs of a Brain Aneurysm

Sadly, Lee isn’t the only woman to fall victim to this condition. Doctors are telling patients, especially women, whose pain more often goes underreported and untreated, to beware the signs of sudden and severe headaches.

Once an aneurysm ruptures, people will often experience sudden and agonizing headaches, unlike anything they’ve ever felt. Never ignore such a sudden headache, go to the nearest ER as soon as possible.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a few signs and symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm one can look for, they include:

  • Neck pain
  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • A drooping eyelid
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred or double vision

However, there are some cases, where an aneurysm hasn’t yet leaked or ruptured but can still cause symptoms that require immediate medical attention, especially if it’s grown large enough to press on nerves or brain tissue.

People need to see a doctor if they experience the following symptoms just in case they can detect the aneurysm before it becomes deadly.

  • Change in vision or double vision
  • Numbness of one side of the face
  • Pain above and behind one eye
  • A dilated pupil

Please make sure to share this story with your friends and family to get the word out about the dangers of brain aneurysms.