Houston doctor who suffered brain aneurysm celebrating her gift of life

How many Christmas miracles have you witnessed this holiday season? Here’s one that's certainly worth sharing. A Houston doctor who has helped patients rehab at TIRR Memorial Hermann for 30 years became a patient herself, and she says it truly is a miracle that she’s still here. 

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Sometimes it takes something big to truly enjoy small moments like a mother-daughter day in the park. For Dr. Tina Oliver and her daughter Martina that ’something’ came on Easter Sunday as they were getting ready for church.

"I had seasonal allergies, a little sniffle. So I blew my nose and when I did, I felt something pop in my head," explains Dr. Oliver. 

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As it turns out, Dr. Oliver had a brain aneurysm and what she felt was it rupturing. 

"And that causes a blockage of the way spinal fluid circulates in the head, causes a condition called Acute Hydrocephalus which can raise the pressure in the head and take your life," explains Dr. Arthur Day, a Neurosurgeon with Memorial Hermann Hospital and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth who performed Dr. Oliver’s brain surgery. "You can go rapidly unconscious and then die." 

"I mean when I felt it I didn’t believe it," Dr. Oliver said. "Then as I started to feel the pain. I had the worst headache ever. I had all the classic symptoms. I had the stiffness of the neck," she says and with that, this doctor was rushed to the hospital as a critically ill patient.

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Dr. Oliver's then 18-year-old daughter, who was a college freshman was soon told she had 10 minutes to decide on a procedure and how doctors would proceed. 

"I guess I’m not like other teenagers. I didn’t feel like overly emotional. I just felt 'OK, time to get into action," explained the now-19-year-old Martina Oliver.   

"Close to a third of people who have an aneurysm rupture will die in a very short time after the rupture," says Dr. Day.

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However, Dr. Oliver isn’t one of them; she had successful brain surgery.

"We actually opened her skull," Dr. Day explained.

"Yes, he removed this section of skull and did a clip and got rid of the aneurysm," Dr. Oliver added while gesturing to the right side of her head. 


After brain surgery, a stay in ICU, being in a wheelchair, and learning to walk again at TIRR Memorial Hermann where Dr. Oliver has worked for three decades helping others rehab, her Easter ordeal has now turned into a Christmastime survival story. 

"I’m just really thankful that she’s still here," Martina said.  "She’s my best friend…I know that she brings love and joy to other people as well. So that’s why I think she’s a miracle and this is a whole Christmas miracle."

Dr. Oliver also said this holiday season she hopes her miracle will become your inspiration to value what’s truly important, the gift of life and loved ones.