By Phil Corso
Floral Park teenager Miele Alexander will never forget the summer of 2013.
The 13-year-old said she was lucky to be alive after suffering a ruptured brain aneurysm — a highly unlikely occurrence in young people. She sat beside her parents and doctors Tuesday with an ear-to-ear smile at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park to say thank you and share her story.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, I would not be sitting here,” Alexander told the doctors at her side with tears welling up in her eyes.
The Floral Park teen was packing for a high school senior trip June 9 when she suddenly collapsed from the pain of an excruciating headache. She called for help from mother, Lorrie Mckie, who knew something was wrong.
The mother said she noticed her daughter’s red eyes and could tell immediately that it was not a typical headache.
“She said something happened to her head,” Mckie said, bringing herself to the verge of tears as she relived the tale. “That was when I knew.”
Mckie rushed her weak and nauseous 13-year-old daughter to the emergency room at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, where she was seen almost immediately.
Dr. Mark Mittler, a pediatric brain neurosurgeon, ordered a CT head scan and found Alexander had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, or a weak area in a blood vessel wall of the brain that causes the vessel to bulge. He was unable to determine the exact cause of the problem, but did know how to treat it, he said.
Mittler teamed up with Dr. David Chalif, codirector of the Brain Aneurysm Center at North Shore-LIJ, to perform the brain surgery, in which they had to make a small opening in the girl’s skull and cut blood flow to the aneurysm. If not done swiftly and correctly, Alexander could have had a stroke.
“We knew we were under the gun,” Mittler said. “We had under 10 minutes to get it done.”
The procedure was a success and Miele was discharged after 10 days in the hospital without any permanent damage or trauma.
“If someone asked me why I became a doctor, I would say it is for something like this,” Chalif said. “This is a story that really touched me as a doctor. It’s a big deal for me.”
Chalif said it was a huge success for the LIJ health system to bring the doctors together to treat a case as rare as Miele’s. About 30,000 people in the United States suffer from ruptured brain aneurysms each year, but only 5 percent of those cases occur in children.
Alexander was alert and smiling at her Tuesday press conference to share her story. And just one month after her surgery, the 13-year-old said she wanted to spread awareness of early detection and swift action for anyone experiencing what she did.
“My aunt told me that God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers,” Miele said, “so I know I am blessed.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.