Unbelievable Survival: Pregnant AR mom healthy after headache turns into health scare

What started as a headache turned into a horrific health scare for an Arkansas family. How it ended has even doctors describing it as a story of almost unbelievable survival—not just for one person but for two.

Passers-by in the hospital might have noticed this quiet reunion between a doctor and his patients, but it would be hard to imagine the story behind it. Sasha Belcher grew up having headaches: "I had really bad migraines when I was like twelve or eleven, but that was 20 years ago. I had a CT scan then and they didn't find anything wrong with me."

One morning—four months into her pregnancy—she woke up with a pain down the center of her head. Her husband, Nathan, decided to take her to the nearest hospital in Russellville. By the time they arrived, Sasha was unresponsive. So doctors made the decision to airlift her to UAMS.

"[I] had coded a few times—which means my heart stopped," explains Sasha. They told Nathan to meet her there. He arrived as surgeons were rushing Sasha into an operating room: "They had already cut her hair, they had all the tubes in her, I was terrified out of mind... I didn't know what was going on."

Dr. Abla was in charge of the surgery, and quickly identified the source of the problem: "She has this tangle of blood vessels here called arteriovenous malformation." Those blood vessels had burst resulting in a two inch clot in her brain.

"Blood here, blood here, blood here," points out Dr. Abla. Doctors went in to drain the clot, and remove the vessels that had caused it.

"They said the surgery was going to take six to eight hours or so, and they came in after one, and said they weren't able to proceed," explains Nathan. She was too unstable, so they drained her brain of excess fluid, but were unable to remove the mass.

"I told them I didn't think she would survive the night, I had done everything I could to help her, but the rest was up to God at that point," says Dr. Abla. "I remember talking to people who were in my operating who went home and cried—nurses in our operating room—after this surgery."

He advised them to contact friends and family, but Nathan felt he couldn't: "I couldn't finish the text message, I couldn't send it... Because it felt like, if I would have, told them that my wife is dying, then that was me giving up on her."

Nathan thought he might lose his best friend: "We met in tenth grade—geometry class—she told me I had horrible hair... She kind of gives me direction, she's made me a much better person."

In spite of everything, Sasha pulled through. A week later, she had a second surgery: "Just like the first time, they came back after an hour, we were terrified," recalls Nathan. "The last time they did that they told us she wasn't going to make it. but it was the polar opposite." This time, the surgery went perfectly, and Sasha began to recover.

Dr. Abla broke the news. Nathan remembers, "You could see that he was ecstatic to be able to give us that news, that he was really confident, and his confidence gave me confidence."

But there were still questions about the child's future--he had been without oxygen. But he was born healthy a few months later. While anyone looking at the case knows their health is due in no small part to the UAMS, Dr. Abla believes there is something special about Sasha.

"This is someone who definitely has a will to live, who subconsciously is thinking about her baby, as soon as she came around, you could tell that she was touching her stomach. You could tell this was someone who was fighting not only for her life, but for the life of her child."

While she is still in recovery, the Belcher family - Sasha, Nathan, their daughter Lily, and newborn son Jack - are still together. "This is someone who was meant to get through this and did."

For more information on UAMS neurology department, click here. The Belcher family has a GoFundMe page you can donate to here.

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