More determined than ever

Regebija Ajvazi overcame a brain aneurysm and is now pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse. Early Tuesday morning she was part of a marketing shoot at her family’s restaurant, The Sunrise, for OSF HealthCare. She was treated at OSF Saint Anthony following her medical scare. (OSF HealthCare photo)

Regebija Ajvazi overcame a brain aneurysm and is now pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse.
Regebija Ajvazi, or Bika, as she is known to her family and friends, has always dreamed of becoming a nurse.
“My mom was really sick a couple of years ago, and I watched how her nurses cared for her,” said the 25-year-old Rochelle resident. “They provided my mom with continuous support and motivation to get better. That influenced my decision that nursing was the career I wanted to pursue.”
Ajvazi was on a fast track to reaching her dreams. Two years ago, she enrolled at Kishwaukee Community College to earn an associate degree. Friends encouraged her to apply at Saint Anthony College of Nursing, which she did and got accepted. She was due to start Jan. 14, 2018.
“I started crying when I was accepted. I was so excited,” she said.
Ajvazi, who had never been sick before, had much to look forward to. She was preparing to take her finals at Kishwaukee when a life-altering occurrence on Dec. 14, 2017, nearly took it all away.
That night, Ajvazi was studying with friends when she developed a terrible headache. She drove home to take a bath, hoping it would help her feel better. The last thing she remembered was grabbing for a towel.
“About an hour later, my brother, Sead, came up to check on me,” she said. “He opened the door and found me lying on the floor. He called 911 immediately.”

What was wrong was Ajvazi had a brain aneurysm, a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain. A brain aneurysm can leak or rupture, causing bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). Most often a ruptured brain aneurysm occurs in the space between the brain and the thin tissues covering the brain. A ruptured aneurysm quickly becomes life-threatening and requires prompt medical treatment.”
“It’s atypical for a young woman to have a ruptured aneurysm,” said Ayman Gheith, MD., a neurological intervention surgeon at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center, who, along with his partner, Akram Shhadeh, MD, was responsible for Ajvazi’s care. “Typically, the presenting age for an aneurysm starts around 40 to 50 years old.”
Hands of specialists
Ajvazi was rushed to Rochelle Community Hospital, where it was determined she needed additional expert care, so she was airlifted to OSF Saint Anthony, Rockford’s only Comprehensive Stroke and Brain Center. OSF Saint Anthony treats all types of strokes 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hospital has highly trained, highly specialized stroke care staff and the most advanced imaging methods.
Ajvazi had surgery and spent three weeks in the hospital, mostly in the intensive care unit. Following discharge, Ajvazi spent a few weeks working with physical therapists and speech pathologists, correcting problems with her walking and speech. The next two months she recovered at home before returning to work at her family’s restaurant.
These days, Ajvazi is enrolled at Saint Anthony College of Nursing and pursing her dreams again. “I had the best care at OSF,” she said. “My doctors and nurses were amazing. I’m going to a school that is affiliated with the hospital that saved my life. I can’t imagine a better situation.”
In Ajvazi’s case, it took a group effort between the patient and the care team. “I credit our comprehensive approach to the patients,” said Dr. Gheith. “It’s one of the key factors to make the difference in whether a person goes home or not. What I and my colleague do is very important, but it is a small part of what need to happen for someone to be able to survive and do well.”

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