How Calling In Sick Saved This Woman's Life

An attentive colleague and lucky medical treatment advance let her beat the odds.

Sharon Dajon had a headache and hadn't felt well most of the day. Dajon knew she was healthy -- training for the October Marine Corps Marathon should have put doubts aside -- so the president and managing director of American Health Consulting wrote it off as the luck of the draw. "I just brushed it aside," she told WTVR-TV, and called in sick.

That single call saved her life. A co-worker who took it noticed something strange about Dajon's voice and got her to treat the situation as potentially more serious. It was. An emergency trip to the hospital revealed a brain aneurysm.

An aneurysm is a "balloon-like bulge in an artery" that carries oxygen-rich blood to a part of the body, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. A brain aneurysm happens in a blood vessel in the brain. As the Mayo Clinic explains, if the brain aneurysm leaks or ruptures, the person has a stroke, which can lead to long-term problems or death.

Most brain aneurysms don't leak or rupture and show no symptoms. They're stealth problems and doctors usually come across them by accident. Dajon had one: a previously-hidden brain aneurysm that suddenly ruptured. A fifth of people with a ruptured brain aneurysm die before they can get to the hospital, Dr. John Gaughen, a neuro interventional surgeon with the University of Virginia Medical Center told WTVR-TV.

Luckily for Dajon, she was taken to Bon Secours St. Mary's hospital in Richmond, Virginia. The hospital had been working with UVA Medical Center on a new type of aneurysm treatment only approved by the FDA since 2011.

The treatment involved a minimally invasive technique, notes the Bon Secours website. Rather than literally opening part of the skull to perform open brain surgery, the new technology involves a small incision on an artery. A catheter is inserted and routed up to the damaged vessel in the brain.

In Dajon's case, Gaughen inserted the catheter with a flow-diverter stent, which can bypass the weakened wall of the blood vessel, into an artery in her hip. The medical team then threaded the catheter up to the brain and positioned the stent.

It's been six months since the procedure. "We're going to consider her cured," Gaughen told WTVR-TV. "That the stent is going to be open, and for all intents and purposes will be cured of this, and she can go on and live the life she was living before."

Speaking of going on with life, after a short recovery, Dajon plans to get back on the road to train for the Myrtle Beach Marathon on Valentine's Day. She told the station, "I like that endorphin high."

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