It was a usual spring day in 1999 for Shannon Bible, and the bubbly 27-year-old, who lives in Lebanon, Tennessee, was in the middle of her work day at Ingram Book Group. Then events took an unexpected turn.
“I went out on a break with the girls,” Bible remembers. “We were just talking, and I started to feel light-headed, so I sat down. I was complaining that my head was hurting.” To her co-workers’ utter dismay, Bible then passed out.
Frightened and unsure of what was happening, her co-workers called for an ambulance. Bible was rushed to Baptist Hospital in Nashville, where she spent the next several days in a mental fog. She was referred to Memphis’ Baptist Hospital, but it wasn’t until the end of her stay there—one week later—that she learned what had happened.
A wife and mother who was not yet 30 years old, Bible had a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, a condition that is 50% fatal at one month. While the aneurysm self-stabilized for the short-term, getting proper ongoing treatment was essential. Rather than resorting to traditional brain surgery, which carries substantial risks, Bible’s doctor tried to treat the aneurysm by implanting detachable platinum coils. But the aneurysm had a wide neck, and the coil wouldn’t lodge. Bible’s doctor wasn’t ready to quit the minimally invasive coiling procedure, though. “I can’t do this,” he explained candidly to Bible, “but I know someone who can.”
That someone was Scott Williams, M.D., Ph.D., a popular interventional neuroradiologist with The Regional Medical Center at the University of Tennessee, Memphis. Dr. Williams was one of a handful of physicians who had experience with microstent technology, which can help stabilize coils.
“I was told that Dr. Williams was a good doctor and didn’t mind trying new things,” Bible says. “Then I met him, and you couldn’t meet a better person in the world.”
As Bible prepared for her procedure, her family struggled with another health crisis—her grandfather had colon cancer and, having taken a turn for the worse, had also been admitted to the hospital. “He was touch-and-go,” Bible says. “My mom was thinking, ‘What do I do? I have a daughter here who’s just been diagnosed with an aneurysm, and my father could pass away at any time.’”
Bible’s mother ultimately stayed with her, and the rest of the family, including her husband and son, gathered around to offer their support.
Bible’s aneurysm, besides lacking a neck to fortify the coils, would be challenging to treat for another reason: It was multi-lobed, and involved nearly the entire circumference of the artery. Dr. Williams decided to perform the coiling in two stages. During the first session, he packed the coils into the dome of the aneurysm (called occlusion) to prevent recurrent hemorrhage in the short-term and to allow safe anticoagulation in preparation for the second coil placement. Then, he brought Bible back the next day to complete the procedure.
Anticoagulation allowed safe stabilization for the second coil placement, which also permitted completing the coil occlusion by protecting the underlying “parent” vessel from the coils. Bible’s family was concerned about the outcome, but throughout the ordeal, her 12-year-old son, Lee, proved to be a pillar of strength. “He was the backbone of support for everybody,” she observes with pride. “He kept telling everyone, ‘My mom’s going to be just fine. She’s got good doctors. Don’t worry.’ That really surprised me. He was a rock.”
Lee’s confidence was well placed: His mother’s surgery went smoothly, without complications. In fact, it wasn’t long before she was able to return to her normal activities. And her grandfather survived until she returned home and could visit him one last time.
Seeing Bible today, you’d never suspect she once faced a life-threatening aneurysm. She lives a full and active life, whether camping with her family or cheering Lee’s basketball team, the Wilson County Wildcats. (Incidentally, her cheering paid off—the team made it to the finals last year.) And Dr. Williams says her prognosis couldn’t be better. “We have done angiographic follow-ups through October of 2003,” he reports, “and her aneurysm is stably occluded.”
She may have put the crisis behind her, but Bible says she’ll never forget her journey back to health. “My life could have ended just like that,” Bible says. “If it wasn’t for that surgery, I would not be here today, and I would miss out on so much with my family and friends. I really appreciate the little things that I never really thought much of before, like being able to cook for my family, or just sitting on the porch and having a cola and watching the sunset.”