Charu: Speaking up for others after a stroke

Charu Raheja, 42, didn’t want to make a big fuss. While on a trip with her husband and friends in February 2014, she started having excruciating headaches that caused vomiting and sweats. She told her husband, a pediatrician, that she was okay after the episode and refused to go to an emergency room away from home.

Once she returned to northeast Florida, she saw a neurologist who ordered an MRI and determined she had a small bleed from an AVM (arteriovenous malformation), an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins. The AVM had caused a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke.

In May 2014, Ricardo Hanel, MD, PhD,  director of the Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center at Baptist Health performed minimally invasive surgery to seal the area of her brain where the bleed occurred.

Dr. Hanel and his team did an embolization, running a narrow catheter through her groin and up through the femoral artery in her leg to access her brain. He then applied a special type of glue called Onyx that sealed her bleed.

Charu, a former college professor, and a native of Brazil, runs a medical triage company with her husband, Ravi, a pediatrician.

During recovery, and after a complication with the dye used during the procedure, Charu temporarily lost her speech, but by the next day, she began speaking again – although at first only in her native Portuguese. Dr. Hanel is also a native of Brazil.

She started recovering pretty quickly and regained all of her speech and language abilities. After her treatment, Charu became an advocate for other patients. She helped form a support group in Jacksonville for those who have experienced a brain aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation. They meet the third Tuesday of every month at 6 pm. The support group is a collaboration between Baptist Health and The Joe Niekro Foundation. For more information, contact

See and hear Charu’s story in her own words (video).

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