At the age of 23, actress Tamala Jones was diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm. After surviving a swollen and spouted blood vessel, she has made it her mission fourteen years later to be an advocate for educating children and young adults on the importance of health. There are so many malfunctions that occurr in the body that young people have the misconception that it only occurss in “old people.”
Tamala, recently opened up to Black Enterprise exclusively about her 14 year battle with brain aneurysm and why she kept it a secret for so long.
Check out Tamala’s moving story below:
“[I woke] up one morning with a massive headache; feeling like I had to use the bathroom, like I had to urinate really bad. When I got out of bed I had no balance. I was walking on my toes and I was stomping. When I got to the bathroom, I plopped down on the toilet. I had no control over my body weight. And when I couldn’t go I was like, Oh, my God, I just had to pee really bad and now I don’t have to. Then, I got up because my head was hurting, and I looked in the mirror and I’m telling you two seconds after I looked in that mirror I dropped and hit the floor.
I kept hearing myself tell myself, “Get up, get up now. Get up, get up, get up…,” and I kind of woke up as if somebody shook me out of a sleep, and the whole right side of my body was numb. I called work and I told them, “Something’s wrong with me. I can’t come in. I have to go to the hospital.” They told me, “You need to come into work. This is the last day of shooting for this season, and we don’t have time to wait for you to go to the doctor’s office.”
[At the time] I was working on For Your Love [a WB sitcom] and I went there and my right arm was stuck in a position. I could not move it. They kept throwing jackets and purses over it trying to cover it. They were like, “You can’t bend your arm?” I’m like, “No!” And my head was still pounding.
I went to the hospital after work and the doctor thought that it was a miracle that I was even alive, walking or talking, or that I even worked an entire day before I got to him. After that, I started having seizures. I had MRIs [and] cat scans, and they found out that my aneurysm actually burst. Had it been on another side of my brain I probably would have been paralyzed forever—it was on the left side of my brain and was the size of a 50-cent piece. They said once that blood dried up I would get my feeling back.
I really don’t remember anything other than my grandmother coming to get me from my apartment, and me laying in my old room at her house; waking up to use the bathroom and eat. That went on for like three months. The third month I was kind of feeling back to normal.
[My grandmother] took me to get shots of B-12, which I still get today, because B-12 really nourishes your nervous system and your brain is a giant nerve. So I tell people, get those B-12 shots, get yourself checked out, get a cat scan as part of your physical that you do once a year. Get everything checked out just to be on the up and up because, again, no one thinks someone 23 will have a brain aneurysm; and it’s hereditary in my family, so I always have to be careful.
I hid the fact that I had an aneurysm for a very long time. I was embarrassed and I just felt like no one needed to know because it made me look weak. Who would of thought someone my age, at 23, had a brain aneurysm? My friend’s sister was like 24 and died [from an aneurysm], [and] I’d been hearing about people dying from brain aneurysms. [But] once you get older and you’re in your 30s, all that stuff that doesn’t matter so much in your 20s starts to matter.
I had headaches for like three weeks. I took everything, and nothing helped—from sinus medicine to migraine medicine. I say that if you get it checked out right away when you have this headache and it’s continuously going and nothing works then you can save yourself. They can give you something to help you or they can remove it or whatever they need to do. But I felt like it was my duty as a survivor to speak about it.
I mention the aneurysm to anybody that I can. Whenever I have a platform for people there that are listening. Because it’s something that happened to me and something that can happen to anybody in this world, if you are given warning then you can probably save your own life. So, I tell anybody. It doesn’t matter why I’m there speaking. I always bring up health some type of way—I segue into having a brain aneurysm at an early age. Whether it’s your heart or your head or your legs or your arms, if it’s too much pain, the doctor’s the only place to go. Not staying at home and wondering if this is ever going to go away. I just thought it was selfish of me not to even say what I survived or what I felt.”
Make sure you get checked out!