I felt my brain 'POP' and suffered a stroke after just bending down to pick up my daughter

WHEN mum Bridget Chiovari was out on a hike with friends and their children she didn’t think anything of having to stop for a break.

The 30-year-old took her 18-month-old daughter Liliana out of her carrier for a bit of respite and felt a popping sensation in her head.

Bridget, who was also 24 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time, felt an intense dizziness and horrific headache, but decided to hike home in the hope that the strange sensation would go away.

But that evening her headache continued to get worse and the Arizona, US mum said her husband Chris, 33 took her to hospital.

She said that she explained to medics there that she felt a pop and then experienced an awful headache.

Bridget added: "I even said 'I've never had a brain aneurysm before but I imagine that this is what it must feel like.'

"They hooked me up to an IV bag, gave me some Tylenol, told me it was dehydration, then sent me home to 'sleep it off'.

"Within 12 minutes of leaving the hospital, I had lost my ability to form words."

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The family returned to the hospital once more where her husband demanded that she was given a CT scan.

The scan revealed that Bridget actually had an arteriovenous malformation – a tangle of abnormal blood vessels which had become so tangled, one had burst, causing a massive stroke.

She had been born with the condition and had no idea it had been there until it popped.

Bridget said: "I had an intraventricular drain placed into my skull. This allows that excess blood and fluids to leave your body while they wait for the swelling of the brain to go down. This is the part that saved my life."

Bridget said she wasn’t aware that what had happened to her had been a stroke, until she joined a Facebook group of people who had suffered her condition.

It was another member who explained that a rupture is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

She said: "I was completely thrown off by it. Prior to my stroke, I thought that only elderly people had strokes, and I also thought that strokes were something that happened to your heart… not your brain.

"I was very confused by the whole thing for a while."

Bridget spent three weeks in hospital and the location of the bleed luckily meant that her mobility had not been affected.

She does however continue to suffer with dizziness and nausea.


Bridget had been pregnant at the time of the incident and another miracle was that her baby was fine and baby Roman was born on 14 November, weighing in at 5lb and 14oz.

She said: "It definitely made the rest of my pregnancy very uncomfortable to me, but my baby stayed perfectly happy and healthy in my belly.

"My doctors all agreed that delivering naturally shouldn't be attempted, so I did have to have a C-section at 37 weeks."

Five years on, Bridget is still impacted by the stroke and has been undergoing treatment to remove the rest of the AVM.

She said: "It affects me every day, in all sorts of ways. I still suffer with the side effects of having a brain injury, and depression and PTSD doesn't make it any easier

"The rupture happened in my cerebellum, so my balance is affected. I get dizzy incredibly easily and walking in a straight line isn't always doable.

"Tasks take a lot more energy than they used to, and keeping up with my two kids is a constant battle.

"I really try not to focus on my deficits… because at this point.. I have learned what that can do to one's mind.

What are arteriovenous malformations?

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) happen when a group of blood vessels in your body forms incorrectly.

In these malformations, arteries and veins are unusually tangled and form direct connections, bypassing normal tissues.

This usually happens during development before birth or shortly after.

Most people with AVMs have no initial symptoms or problems.

Instead, the problem is discovered when health care providers treat another unrelated health concern.

Sometimes the rupture of one of the blood vessels in an AVM will bring the issue to medical attention.

Most people with AVMs will never have any problems.

If symptoms have not appeared by the time a person is 50, they may never appear.

Women sometimes have symptoms as a result of the burden that pregnancy places on the blood vessels.

Nearly 12 percent of people with AVMs do have some symptoms, however.

No one knows why AVMs form. Some experts believe that the risk of developing AVMs could be genetic.

AVMs can form anywhere in the body. Those that form in the brain or close to the spinal cord, called neurological AVMs, are most likely to have long-term effects.

The biggest concern related to AVMs is that they will cause uncontrolled bleeding, or hemorrhage.

Fewer than four per cent of AVMs haemorrhage, but those that do can have severe, even fatal, effects.

Death as a direct result of an AVM happens in about one per cent of people with AVMs.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

"However, I have also been privileged enough to see life from an incredibly unique perspective. I see things differently, feel things more deeply, and live everyday life with such great intention."

Bridget had been having regular treatment but just a few months ago she was told her AVM was gone.

She explained how the last treatment she had was linear radiation, where they have a plastic mask which is made to custom fit your face.

Bridget said: "They then use this mask to bolt your face down to the table, so that you aren't able to move your head. They zap you with some kind of radiation, and slowly over time it obliterates the AVM.

"They estimated it would take 1-2 years for the radiation to get rid of my AVM. I would go in twice a year to get scans and procedures done to check on the size of it.

"It took a little bit longer than expected, (3.5 yrs) but they finally declared it treated in November 2021."

Now Bridget has been sharing her story on TikTok with one video getting over 1.2 million views.

Many followers have praised how strong she had been for continuing on the hike after experiencing the pop, with many saying more awareness was needed of the condition.

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