Margaret’s Legacy: Raising Awareness about Screening for Brain Aneurysm to Save Lives
Throughout her life, Margaret Krumholz made an impact on everyone she met. So it is only fitting that she should continue to touch lives, even after her untimely passing. It is to that legacy that her husband, Tom, and their four grown children have committed their energy, sharing her story in the hope of preventing other families from suffering the same devastating loss as theirs after Margaret died of an undiagnosed brain aneurysm in 2018.
Devoted to her family and her faith, Margaret was also an accomplished businesswoman and civic leader. A CPA with an impressive resume, Margaret was President of Disc Graphics, Inc., a thriving printing and packaging company. At 58, she was fit, healthy, and in her prime.
She was sitting on the front porch of her Smithtown home on a typical Friday evening after work, enjoying a glass of wine with Tom, when tragedy struck. She put her wine glass down and collapsed into her seat.
“She was there one minute and gone the next,” Tom said. An ambulance took her to the local hospital, where physicians confirmed that an aneurysm had burst. They arranged for her to be transported to Good Samaritan Hospital, home of the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island. Under the direction of Kimon Bekelis, MD, the Center features an expert staff, specialized facilities including a neuro-intensive care unit, and expertise in treating brain injuries, making it one of the most comprehensive treatment centers of its kind in the region.
“Good Sam did everything they could,” recalled Tom, who stayed by Margaret’s side for six days and nights. “I could not speak more highly about them, especially the nurses in the neuro-ICU and Dr. Bekelis who was extraordinary.”
Despite the staff’s heroic efforts, after three procedures, Margaret could not be saved.
Talking with Dr. Bekelis, Tom remembered that Margaret had a cousin who had suffered and survived a ruptured aneurysm more than two decades earlier. At that time, doctors had not determined that there could be a genetic predisposition to the condition. Today they know that family history often plays a role. For this reason, the couple’s children are being screened on a regular basis, and the Krumholz family is determined to spread the word about the importance of screening for those who may have a family history of aneurysm.
An aneurysm is a bulging or weakness in a blood vessel in the brain. It can leak or rupture, causing a life-threatening stroke that requires immediate medical treatment. In most cases aneurysms cause no symptoms prior to rupturing. Occasionally they are diagnosed incidentally when patients are undergoing tests for other conditions.
An estimated one in 50 people may have an undiagnosed brain aneurysm. Aneurysms affect women more than men, and the risk for aneurysm increases with age. Other risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, alcohol or drug abuse, and certain medical conditions, as well as family history. When aneurysms are diagnosed prior to rupture, doctors can use one of several techniques to treat them in order to prevent rupture.
Screening involves a magnetic resonance angiography, or MRA exam. This is similar to an MRI, but with contrast dye to allow clinicians to image the blood vessels in the brain. Margaret and Tom’s daughter, Meghan, said the procedure was relatively fast and painless.
“It takes maybe 30 minutes total. The scan itself is maybe 10 minutes,” she said. “Within a short time I received the results of what that scan showed.”
She and her siblings were screened soon after Margaret died, and none of them showed signs of aneurysm. They will continue to be screened every two years or so, and their future children will likely undergo periodic screening as they grow up as well.
“Margaret wasn’t finished with life. She had a lot left to do,” Tom said. “Our hope is that we can spread awareness about this condition so that other people’s lives are not cut short in their prime as she was.”
Through donations to the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, Tom is committed to funding outreach and education around this issue. Already a room at Good Samaritan has been named in Margaret’s memory, but the family is not stopping there.
“Something as simple as a screening can be the difference for another person or another family,” said Meghan. “We want to be part of that solution and be a voice for others in our community by working with Good Sam to make screening accessible to more people.”
Margaret’s dedication and commitment continue to inspire her family. Although her life was cut short, she accomplished a remarkable amount. In addition to raising four children, Meghan says her mother as a pioneer and trailblazer, mentoring other businessmen and women. Margaret and Tom’s son, Ryan, recalled that Margaret served on the Board of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, sat on a federal magistrate selection committee and for several years held a position with the New York Federal Reserve Board.
“In some ways my mom was a very private person,” Meghan said. “But knowing how she viewed the world and her values, I think she would want us to take what’s been such a tragic situation for our family and use it as an opportunity to help others.”
For additional information on screening, contact the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center at Good Samaritan at (631) 983-7072.
Click here to make a donation to support the program or contact the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation at (631) 376-4365.