Valarie: waking up to a new life

Valarie Sturgeon, 48, does not remember ever smoking. In fact, she was surprised to learn that she had been a smoker for 30 years, prior to her stroke last year. Not only does she not remember the cigarettes, she has not wanted one since the surgery that brought her back.

Valarie, had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in her brain. An AVM is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins that can cause headaches, seizures and bleeding. Eventually it can lead to a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke, as it did in Valarie’s case.

On the afternoon of April 14, 2014, she was working on her job as a dispatcher for a transportation company when she became extremely dizzy. She was rushed to Baptist South where it was determined she had heavy bleeding in her brain.

She was taken by Life Flight to Baptist Medical Center downtown where Ricardo Hanel, MD, PhD, and Eric Sauvageau, MD, performed surgery early the next morning, opening  a section of her skull and removing the AVM.

“I had just gotten through treatment for breast cancer,” she said. “With cancer, you can at least mentally prepare for it. This takes you by surprise and knocks you on your butt.”

Sturgeon’s vision was affected and she has memory issues. She does remember that the doctors and staff at Baptist Health treated her “like family.”

See and hear Valarie’s story in her own words.

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