Husband creates foundation after wife dies from brain aneurysm - WNEM TV 5

Husband creates foundation after wife dies from brain aneurysm

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The world knew Lisa Colagrossi as a dependable, honest and driven journalist.

Viewers fell in love with her Midwestern charm as she hopped around the country pursuing her passion for TV news.

"No matter what she was doing - anchoring, reporting - it came across as very genuine and from the heart," said Todd Crawford, Lisa's husband.

Just like viewers, Frankenmuth native Crawford was charmed by the Ohio sweetheart while they were both working in Orlando, Fla. in 1996.

"I turned on the TV one day as I was preparing to go for a run and there she was," he said.

A wedding, two boys - Davis and Evan - and the big move to the Big Apple later, Colagrossi landed a job with WABC in 2001.

Over the years she became a devoted New York Rangers fan. They took family trips to Bronner's and she worked the graveyard shift as a morning reporter so she could be home for her boys after school.

On the night of March 18, 2015 the family crowded around the TV making their March Madness brackets and talking about what to have for dinner the next night.

That was Colagrossi's last cherished moments with Todd, Davis and Evan.

Crawford's phone rand about 9 a.m. the next day.

"I got a call from one of the top neurosurgeons at one of the top hospitals in the world in New York City and when you get that call, your life's changed forever," Crawford said.

Colagrossi suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm while reporting. She was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. She was gone at the age of 49.

"The really sad story that you often hear is a person, much like Lisa Colagrossi, who was young, healthy and had no idea that this was impending and had a sudden, severe bleed," said Dr. Greg Thompson, neurosurgeon at the University of Michigan Health System.

Thompson has operated on brain aneurysms for more than 20 years. Though they mostly affect women, especially those 35 to 60, he said they aren't exclusive to one group.

"The aneurysms occur at the base of the brain in what's called the Circle of Willis. A number of vessels that communicate with each other and distribute blood flow to the brain," Thompson said.

Aneurysms form when there's a weak spot on one of those major vessels, creating a balloon of bulge.

Over time they can grow and eventually leak or rupture, sending blood to press on your brain causing it to swell.

About three percent of the population will develop an aneurysm. Of those, roughly one in 10,000 will rupture and 55 percent of those ruptures will result in death, or about 16,000 Americans a year.

Thompson said removing one before it ruptures can mean a world of difference for a patient's outlook - far less time in the hospital, less risk of permanent disability and a chance at survival.

"It's amazing how well patients can do if they know about their aneurysm before it bleeds," Thompson said.

While brain aneurysms don't always show red flags, there are a few risk factors and symptoms to be conscious of before they rupture.

If you smoke, are a woman, or have a family history of brain aneurysms you have an increased risk.

A few signs of a brain aneurysm include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, blurry vision and severe headaches.

Thompson said the most common symptom is always described as the worst headache of one's life. He said it usually occurs behind the eyes, at the top of the head or at the back of the head, sometimes spreading down to the neck.

"Headache unlike any other. Starts suddenly, very severe. That's the kind of headache you cannot afford to ignore," Thompson said.

Colagrossi had severe headaches for weeks leading up to her death. Like many, she brushed them off, saying she was too busy to get checked out.

"Had we known then what we know now today, I would have insisted that we go seek the help of a medical professional to get diagnosed and maybe, things would have turned out differently in her case," Crawford said.

Crawford wants to ensure others know what they didn't.

Last year he established The Lisa Colagrossi Foundation to raise awareness, understanding and funding for research about brain aneurysms.

"What we're trying to do is turn our personal tragedy and pain into a big positive for others," Crawford said.

In the next few years Crawford hopes the foundation will be a household name for brain aneurysm research and awareness.

He said all of that will be thanks to the greatest wife, best mother and his true love Lisa.

"We will leave hopefully an indelible mark on this world," Crawford said.

If you'd like to learn more about The Lisa Colagrossi Foundation, click here. Dr. Greg Thompson says The Brain Aneurysm Foundation is also a great resource.

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