Courtesy of Jennifer Reilly
Jennifer Reilly was living the life of a single 28-year-old woman in Southern California. Sharing an apartment with friends, with a career as an event planner in the fast-paced Los Angeles area, she seemed to have it all.
Things began to change one night as she was reading in her room. “The first sign that something was wrong was complete numbness in half of my left hand. I could not feel my middle ring and pinkie finger,” Jennifer said in an interview.
This was followed by a severe headache that woke her up in the middle of the night and would not go away. The piercing pain lasted for a while before she could get back to sleep. She said, “The next day it was still lingering and even a sneeze brought it back.”
That first stroke occurred during the summer. She was diagnosed by late October and much of her testing went on into November. She was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease and continued to suffer transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes.
Just before Christmas of 2008 at her appointment with her neurosurgeon at UCLA Reilly says she was told, “You need surgery and you need to be admitted right now.”
One of her doctors, Dr. David Liebeskind, professor of neurology and director of outpatient stroke and neurovascular programs, described her condition on the UCLA website. “She had no idea the danger she was in. The worst and a very likely possibility is that she would have had a significant stroke,” he said, “one that could have been extremely debilitating or even fatal.”
She had surgery the next day. When Jennifer was finally released from the hospital in time for Christmas, she was excited to be home with her family. However, she says on Christmas morning she suffered another stroke.
She was rushed back into the hospital where she stayed until New Year’s Day. On January 12th it was back in for another surgery, this time on the right side.
Two nine-hour brain surgeries were performed by Dr. Nestor Gonzalez, an associate professor of neurosurgery and radiology. This was necessary to reroute arteries to supply blood to her brain. Eventually those arteries created new branches. Blood supply was restored to the brain.