Mom of 4 Tragically Dies From Brain Aneurysm She Thought Was a Migraine

woman with headache
Mom-of-four Lee Broadway thought she was having the worst migraine when she texted her husband Eric to come home immediately. As someone who suffered from migraines since the age of 8, Lee was used to severe headaches -- that's why Eric knew something was different this time and rushed her to the hospital. Tragically, Lee wasn't having a migraine at all; she was having a brain aneurysm ... and she passed away from complications two days later, leaving a devastated family behind. 


The North Carolina–based couple's four children -- Adair, 22, Averi, 16, Alex, 10, and Adrien, 8 -- were out of town when their mother died (the oldest was in Key West, and the others were with their grandparents). According to 43-year-old Eric, just a few hours before he received the text from his wife, the two of them were sitting outside, having a cup of coffee and making plans for Lee's upcoming 42nd birthday. 

"I raced home and took her to the ER," Eric told People. "I knew this couldn't be good because I've seen her deal with pain before."

"She was begging to have the pain go away," he said. "As a husband, you want to protect your wife and help her, but there was nothing I could do."

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Lee was transferred from the local hospital to one in Charlotte, and at first, the news was somewhat hopeful. Eric was told that Lee's aneurysm was ranked two out of five, and that she would be okay. Things seemed even brighter the next day when doctors said they were able to "fix" the aneurysm after a procedure. Then, two hours later, something went terribly wrong -- and after another 10 hours, Eric got the worst news possible.

"[The doctor] took us all in and all I heard was, 'There is nothing we can for her,'" he said. "I ran out and lost it."

Lee had bled out and was considered brain dead, Eric said.

Lee passed away on April 3, and Eric -- who met his wife in middle school -- said the family (pictured below) is having a hard time.

Lee Broadway GoFund Me

"We're still in shock," he said. "Especially for the kids. They're all grieving in their own ways."

His youngest, he said, is having a hard time understanding that his mom isn't coming home from the hospital.

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This is such an unbelievably sad story for so many reasons ... and it's a scary one, too. What happened to Lee could happen to anyone -- though, as Dr. Howard A. Riina, professor and vice chairman of neurosurgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, told People, ruptured brain aneurysms are extremely rare (between 30,000 and 50,000 cases per year). Migraines aren't actually associated with the condition; while the pain of migraines can be extremely intense, an aneurysm is like the "worst headache of someone's life," said Riina. (In fact, according to the Brian Aneurysm Foundation, those who suffer from migraines and are undergoing brain evaluations, like MRI, more frequently have the chance of discovering an aneurysm before it ruptures.)

"It's not surprising for someone to come into the emergency room -- even if they have a history of headaches or migraines -- and say they feel like they've been struck by lightening or have a headache that brought them to their knees," said Riina. "It's this severe, severe headache that's out of the ordinary."

In fact, Charles C. Park, MD, PhD, director of the Minimally Invasive Brain and Spine Center at Mercy Medical Center, also explained the pain to Self as a pounding, sudden headache: "A migraine is usually one-sided, whereas an aneurysm is on both sides and pain everywhere."

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So how do you know if you're at risk? Family history can play a role, as can certain conditions (namely polycystic kidney disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). Smoking can also increase your risk. 

"Unless you have a family history or one of these conditions, the likelihood that you'll have [an aneurysm] is pretty low," said Riina. "The average person doesn't need to run off and get a screening." 

A ruptured aneurysm doesn't necessarily have to be fatal, either -- there are treatments that can work, but time is a factor, so seek help immediately if you suspect one. Unfortunately, complications can arise, as they did in Lee's case. And now her family is left reeling from this sudden and completely unexpected death. Easter, which was Lee's favorite holiday, was particularly difficult for the family, according to Eric. On her birthday (April 8), they threw a big party where all of Lee's loved ones could honor her spirit.

"We let 42 balloons go and celebrated her life," said Eric. "We talked about her and all of our memories."

A GoFundMe page has been created to help with the family's medical expenses. Our thoughts are with them all, and we wish them the best during this most trying of times. 

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