Belinda Cordery survived a brain aneurysm after she experienced a thunder clap headache and an ambulance called.
Belinda Cordery survived a brain aneurysm after she experienced a thunder clap headache and an ambulance called. Marc Stapelberg

'My brain exploded': Headache turned into a fight for life

WHEN a "thunderclap" headache struck Lismore's Belinda Cordery at work on August 16, 2016, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Within hours, the 49-year-old woman was fighting for her life in hospital as doctors operated on a ruptured brain aneurysm.

"My headache was very extreme. I lost the hearing in my left ear, my vision was blurred, I knew something really bad had happened straight away," Ms Cordery said.

"This is an extreme pain that you experience and it feels like your brain has exploded."

Ms Cordery's colleagues at the Summerland Credit Union in Ballina had called emergency services when she went into shock while experiencing immense pain through her shoulders and neck from her spinal fluid diminishing.

"They laid me down into the recovery position and put an ice pack on my back which I think saved my life," she said.

Paramedics transferred her between three different hospitals - Ballina, Lismore Base Hospital and the Gold Coast University Hospital - before surgeons operated on her brain bleed.

"It was a pretty amazing operation that they did," Ms Cordery said. "They had to come up through my groin, up through the main artery, through my heart, into my brain and they put 15mm of titanium which coiled and packed the bleed and that will stay in there forever.

"I don't have any superpowers yet, but I think they could kick in any day."

According to the Brain Foundation, one in six Australians are at risk of a brain disorder, from a migraine to debilitating and life-threatening illness like a stroke, Parkinson's, dementia or aneurysms.

One in 50 people has an unruptured aneurysm that could burst due to a range of factors.

Ms Cordery still tears up while recalling how scared she felt and how much pain she was in at the time.

"If you have that sort of thing I think ring the health direct line or emergency and get checked out because if (I had) gone home, (laid) down and take a Panadol, I would not be here," she said.

After 16 months of recovery and seven months participating in a Return to Work Program, Mr Cordery has finally returned to her previous full-time job this month and said she felt grateful to be alive.

"Especially at this time of year, coming into Christmas, I want to get that message out there for people to focus on what is important and don't let the little things stress you out," Ms Cordery said.

She is running a Mycause fundraising page for the Brain Foundation.

Since launching her fundraising efforts in September during Brain Aneurysm month, she has received more than $1300 from Northern Rivers businesses.

"The Alstonville businesses donated prizes towards a raffle, which raised $400, the Alstonville Lions Club donated a $500 cheque towards the cause and Summerland Credit Union staff wore red for awareness day and they raised about $400 as well," Ms Cordery said.

If you would like to donate, visit or donate directly to the Brain Foundation.

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