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TeamCindy and battling brain aneurysms

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Seven years ago our friend Elaine Schaller lost her daughter Cindy to a brain aneurysm. In the ensuing years, Elaine and her family have started TeamCindy, an organization dedicated to raising widespread public awareness of the dangers of a ruptured brain aneurysm. On Oct. 18, TeamCindy will be hosting a 5K run for awareness in New York’s Riverside Park. Here are the details. Here, Elaine offers some thoughts on the loss of a daughter and the need for help. One can read more about TeamCindy here.

My daughter Cindy Sherwin died of a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2007. She was 33.

The week before she died, she called my husband on a Wednesday afternoon while she walked to her next appointment. Cindy was a personal trainer. She got the meaning of “keeping fit” with a passion. “I have the worst headache of my life,” she said to Earle.

Who knew that was the telltale sign, the kiss of death? Go look it up. You’ll see. “The worst headache of my life” is what most people describe when they talk about their ruptures. That is, if they’re lucky enough to survive.

Cindy must have felt better. On the weekend, she cracked jokes at a rehearsal dinner, and danced all night at a wedding. On Monday morning, she got on her bike to train for her first Ironman competition.

But she crashed into a tree on Riverside Drive.

The hospital called. “Your daughter has been in a grave accident.”

We figured she conked herself in the head. Good thing she was wearing a helmet. We hurried to her side. Well, the helmet didn’t help. Nothing did. Because it wasn’t the crash that caused the fall … it was the rupture and the bleed and the end.

So I ask myself, “Why we don’t know more about aneurysms?” They seem to fly under the radar. Unless Martha Stewart’s sister dies of one, or Joe Biden talks about the two he’s sustained, not many of us are aware of their potential deadliness.

I started TeamCindy, a fundraising arm of The Brain Aneurysm Foundation, to raise awareness to fund research grants for the early detection and prevention of brain aneurysms. No one should have to suffer this loss. Brain aneurysms are more common than you think. About 6 million people in the United States walk around with unruptured aneurysms. That’s one in 50 people. About 30,000 people suffer a rupture and 40 percent of those die. The ones who live often suffer with terrible disabilities.