June 13 will be a date that lives in Litchfield resident Terri (Gutormson) Hopp's memory. It's the day she underwent surgery for a brain aneurysm at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
An aneurysm is a weakened area in the wall of an artery. Without treatment, it can burst, creating a life-threatening problem.
Rather than cutting into her skull, Dr. Josser Delgado used a less invasive procedure called endovascular embolization, also known as "coiling."
It allows the surgeon — in Hopp's case — to access the aneurysm through two less-than-one-quarter-inch incisions in her groin. Delgado was able to pack four platinum embolic coils, which are small implantable devices that look like springs into the aneurysm. The coils help with clot formation thus preventing blood from entering. The procedure stabilizes the aneurysm and prevents it from rupturing.
What set Hopp's surgery apart from others was that her procedure was filmed for a Star Tribune story about Minnesota's role in the growing market for less-invasive tools for treating aneurysms and strokes.
Hopp, 63, signed all the releases and the cameraman and reporter were in the surgical suite during the 2.5-hour procedure. She also did phone interviews with the reporter before and after the surgery.
"I did it because I thought I'd get the very best care with the cameras there," she said.
HOW IT STARTED
Hopp's health journey began in early May when she found a dent in her head. It sounds silly, but like we all do, she happened to touch her head and what she found surprised her. There was a dent in her skull.
She asked friends and family about it. Some had experienced similar things but thought nothing of it. For others, a dent was there and then had gone away.
What set this dent apart for the Litchfield resident was the headache that followed it.
"I had headaches for about a week in the front forehead area," she said. "The headache influenced my decision to see a doctor. I had never had a headache like that. It just felt weird."
Hopp made an appointment with her doctor at Hutchinson Health, where she underwent a magnetic resonance imaging scan or MRI.
"I knew something was wrong right away because the technician asked me, 'Are you going to see the doctor now?'"
The doctor called Hopp at 6:30 p.m. that night. From there, Hopp was referred to Abbott Northwestern Hospital, where she underwent a magnetic resonance angiogram, which uses dye to view the condition of her blood vessels.
Afterward, she met with Dr. Yasha Kayan, who gave her three options for treatment of the aneurysm:
- leave it alone and wait for it to rupture;
- undergo the less invasive procedure of coiling; or
- undergo brain surgery to have it clipped with a clothespin-like metal device.
The treatment depends on the location of the aneurysm. In Hopp's case, coiling would work. She didn't want to wait for it to rupture, so she scheduled the procedure for June 13.
Prior to surgery, Hopp was prescribed blood thinners for three weeks. The procedure is not without potential risks, which includes allergy to metal implantable devices, rupture and bleeding of the blood vessel, headache and death.
"I was nervous wreck waiting for surgery," she said. "I didn't know what could bring on a rupture. I wanted it done now. The Star Tribune article was secondary (in my thinking)."
The actual surgery took 2.5 hours. She was kept overnight due to the possibility of stroke during the first 24 hours.
"I was a little sore from the incisions in my groin," she said, "but I could drive. I had a 10-pound weight limit for one week."
She returned to her job at Minnesota Rubber in Litchfield, where she has worked for eight years.
Hopp is a 1972 graduate of Hutchinson High School. Following graduation, she worked 24 years at 3M in Hutchinson.
"I felt normal (after surgery)," she said. "The dent must have always been there. It didn't have anything to do with the aneurysm."
Hopp had her one-month check up earlier this month, which she passed with flying colors. Her next check will be at the six-month mark in December. If all is well, she will continue to have annual exams.
To reward herself after this health crisis, Hopp got a kitten from the Humane Society of Meeker and Kandiyohi counties. The new addition to her family is named Cheezit due to its orange color.
Looking back, Hopp said the longest wait was the time it took to get into Abbott.
"That was hard," she said. "I was afraid to do anything. I had no symptoms other than the headache. The doctor said lots of people are walking with an aneurysm and have no symptoms. I'm so glad I found that dent. I have a new beginning at 63."