Rachel Yates, a member of the Bertha Ambulance team, rose from bed at around 1 p.m. on March 27. It was like any other day. She conversed with her husband, a firefighter, about the training sessions he would be tasked with that night. He was excited because they would be practicing extraction and he would get to use the jaws of life. All was as it should be and soon Yates would start looking for something to eat and perhaps go shopping for groceries ... until the unexpected happened and she received a distressed phone call.
Her daughter, Elizabeth Smith, called in tears. "Chuck just came out of the shower crying, holding his head, he has a really bad headache and he wants you," said Smith. Charles Allen also known as Chuck, is a big part of the family. His mother passed away many years ago and Yates thinks of him as a son. He and Smith are engaged to be married. At that moment, he was in desperate need of his EMT mother. Yates explained, she's supposed to be able to fix everything. She is the mother, the mother always has a solution to every problem.
Yates proceeded believing his head pain is simply a migraine. A painful ailment but not life threatening. While quickly getting dressed she would receive another frantic phone call from Smith. "Hurry, he is laying on the floor crying, he won't answer me," Smith said. Yates rushed out the door to help. She drove to the house, which is about a block away, a trip that seemed like an eternity. She darted into the home and scaled the steep stairs to the young mans bedroom and discovered him sitting crossed legged at the edge of the bed. His head drooped at an angle with his arms dangling at his sides. He was making a strange snoring sound.
That day, Charles Allen suffered from a ruptured brain anyerseum. According to Yates the rupture was approximately 10 cm, typically they are around 5 cm. He would be transported to Tri-County Health Care in Wadena. Shortly after his arrival he was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital. Allen would eventually have a portion of his skull removed to relieve pressure and to access the afflicted area for treatment. The rupture occurred on the left side of his brain.
The doctors tried to give Allen a chance at survival, but he was too far gone. He scored a three on the Glasgow coma scale. He didn't respond to pain or stimulus. The ruptured aneurysm had done too much damage and on March 29, Allen passed away.
Allen was 31 years old and worked at Lund Boats in the parts department. He was a tattoo artist and enjoyed fishing. He left behind a heart broken family and a 5 year old son, Gage.
"He still thinks daddy is sick and has his own room," said Yates when asked how the boy was faring with his father's passing.
Smith had been with Allen for nine years. Much like Yates, she thought it was just a really bad headache. Her perspective on the situation changed drastically when Allen went down and would no longer respond. The nightmarish evening came out of nowhere and surprised everyone.
"He always cared about everyone before himself," Smith said.
Allen had been diagnosed with hypertension many years ago. He was on medication but stopped taking it due to having allergic reactions. Yates described the allergic reaction as a severe swelling of the face. Allen believed the worst thing to happen would be a heart attack. However, untreated hypertension can also lead to life ending complications like ruptured aneurysms.
Rachel Redig, M.D. is an Emergency Department physician at Tri-County Health Care. According to Redig, a brain aneurysm is an outpouching or bulging of blood vessels in the brain. Some people are genetically predisposed to form these aneurysms but others are often caused by hypertension, cholesterol, and smoking. Aneurysms can usually be detected incidentally by doing an MRI. When detected, health care professionals must conduct tests and examine the size of the aneurysm to determine if removing it is necessary. Large anyersuems are usually removed. There really aren't any underlying symptoms of such an issue, they are found or they rupture.
When they do rupture, the individual can experience excruciating pain. They are experiencing what Redig describes as a "thunderclap headache." The pain is off the charts and this, unfortunately appears to be the only symptom of a ruptured aneurysm. A subarachnoid hemorrhage takes place and blood leaks into the subarachnoid space, which is the area between the brain and the skull. The blood damages the lining of the brain while increasing pressure, which further affects brain cells. Also, the vessel affected by the ruptured aneurysm can no longer deliver oxygenated blood to the brain, causing further complications.
A brain aneurysm is a somewhat rare occurrence. Redig stated, she's only dealt with around 10 cases in the almost decade that she's been working in the emergency room. They grow silently and burst without warning. Everything is as it should be until the skull cracking pain renders a person unresponsive. Some come out of it alright but many do not. Rachel Yates submitted her story to the Wadena Pioneer Journal in hopes that it would spread awareness and encourage anyone experiencing high blood pressure to seek help.
"Well the moral of the story is, please, if you have high blood pressure, treat it. Most men think they are invincible, but the truth is that hypertension is a silent killer. I hope you read this, then read this again. Because if just one person is saved from the moral of this story, it will make what seems like a surreal nightmare to me, a blessing in disguise," explained Yates in her final paragraph of the submitted story about Allen. She signed this story, a broken hearted mother, Rachel Yates.
Currently a GoFundMe account was set up to help cover the funeral costs of Charles Allen. For more information visit the GoFundMe page here.