Yvette Kennedy thought her headaches were normal — until she was diagnosed with an aneurysm

Forty-year-old Yvette Kennedy thought her headaches were normal until she was diagnosed with an aneurysm.

It's a terrible situation. You can't make yourself ready for something like this because everything happens so fast.

In my 30s, while I was busy having children, I suffered from headaches. Life was hectic. I worked full time — always have. I thought, “When you have a stressful life, of course you’re going to have a headache.”

After my fourth child was born in 2010, my headaches got worse. I was taking four to six Aleve a day. I put up with this for a long time, but two years later, I finally decided to get checked out. My primary care doctor recommended that I get an MRI, which I did.

The next day the results came in. I had an aneurysm on the brain. My doctor recommended that I contact a neurosurgeon to have this taken care of immediately, but I didn’t know of any. Neurosurgeons aren’t the type of doctors you keep in your contact list.

I was so shaken up. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, professional colleagues knew of Dr. Fady Charbel at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System. They said he was the best of the best. They stepped right in and contacted him. I’d never been a patient at UI Health. But they made an appointment for me, and he saw me that afternoon.

Once I talked to Dr. Charbel, I was calm again and knew I was going to be okay. He didn’t just come in and say, “Here is the procedure and here are the forms.” He took the time to make sure I understood my situation. He answered every question I had and was so patient.

Because my aneurysm was detected early, I had many options. As Dr. Charbel told me, “I was on the right side of an aneurysm.” Headaches actually did me a favor because they revealed a situation that could have become a lot worse.

The next day I was in the hospital. Another wonderful UI Health neurosurgeon, Dr. Ali Alaraj, put metal coils in my aneurysm to prevent it from bursting. Everything was done laproscopically — they insert surgical instruments through a vein the groin and treat the aneurysm without even having to make an incision. I recovered at home for about a month, and now I’m completely back to normal.

Every few years, I have to go back for a cerebral angiogram to make sure the coils are still doing their job and to look for other aneurysms. I have no restrictions or complications.

The procedure I had at UI Health saved my life — in more ways than one. The life I had before aneurysm and the life I have now is very different. I spend more time with my family than ever before. I rest. I learned the hard way that stress can kill you. My aneurysm was the “reset” button.