Chris Nowakowski Story

In 2011, I began experiencing a shooting sensation from my neck up the left side of my head and behind my ear.  For most of my life I had suffered from migraine headaches, but had not experienced this pain before.  After seeing my primary care physician Dr. Mark Lyons, D.O., he recommended that I have an MRI done.  The report of the MRI showed that the pain I was experiencing was caused by a pinched nerve as well as arthritis in my neck.  The MRI also showed what the doctor described as a “spot.”  At that point Dr. Lyons referred me to what was then Community Medical Center’s neurology center to be seen by a neurologist.  At the time it was too difficult to determine what the “spot” actually was.  After seeing the neurologist it was determined that I would go through periodic MRIs/MRAs to monitor the “spot.”  Follow up scans showed no significant change. 

In 2014 after my yearly routine scans, Dr. Lyons asked if I would be interested in being seen by the neurology center at what is now Geisinger Community Medical Center.  After initially being seen by Dr. Leslie Lyness, D.O., she explained to myself and my wife that she did not specialize in my particular case and referred me to Dr. Clemens Schirmer at Geisinger Wyoming Valley for a diagnostic angiogram in order to diagnose fully what the “spot” was.  After meeting with Dr. Schirmer, my wife and I decided that we would like to have the angiogram done to truly know what was wrong.  In November 2014, the angiogram was performed by Dr. Shirmer at Geisinger Wyoming Valley and that day my wife and I found out that the “spot” was an aneurysm.  This was extremely scary for both of us to hear, all along we hoped that maybe it was nothing at all, but there was also a sense of relief that we finally knew what the “spot” was.  At a follow up appointment Dr. Shirmer explained to my wife and me that I had an un-ruptured intracranial aneurysm.  Dr. Shirmer explained two options to my wife and me.  The first option was to continue as we had previously, continue with routine scans to watch for further growth or bleeding.  If we chose this option and I began to experience what I felt was the worst headache I ever had I was instructed to immediately go to the ER as it could mean the aneurysm ruptured.  As someone who experienced migraine headaches that explanation could fit any one of my headaches.  The second option was for Dr. Shirmer to insert a pipeline embolization device in the artery where the aneurysm is located.  This procedure basically slows the flow of blood to the aneurysm and eventually stops the flow completely, therefore decreasing the risk of the aneurysm rupturing.  As with any medical procedure you have various risks to consider, but knowing I have this “ticking bomb” in my head was very nerve wracking.  Having two young children and a choice to have the issue corrected, I made the decision to have the procedure done.  Dr. Shirmer supported my decision and performed the procedure in January of 2015. 

Dr. Shirmer continues to follow the placement of the device as well as the blood flow to the aneurysm with follow-up angiograms.  After hearing Tim’s story and meeting him in person, my wife and I decided to join his efforts to raise funds and awareness for the treatment and early detection of brain aneurysms.  Tim’s willingness to share his story helped me to feel more comfortable with sharing my story and my journey with my family and friends.   

Chris Nowakowski