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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Ellen Fogleman’s brain aneurysm diagnosis was a shock. Luckily, her surgeon knew exactly what to do.

When she has free time, Ellen Fogleman spends it in the great outdoors. Sometimes she gardens, sometimes she hikes, sometimes she plays cornhole in the backyard with her husband, Greg.

So it’s no surprise that it happened on a walk with her sister: She started seeing black spots. Ms. Fogleman, 60, of Mountain Top, thought she might be getting a migraine. Back home, she was startled to see that her sister’s face looked fragmented.

“There was a big black square,” she says. “And it covered a large portion of my sister’s face.”

Ellen Fogleman sits on the couch and enjoys a moment with her dog.

Concerned by the sudden vision problems, Ms. Fogleman messaged her primary care doctor on MyChart. Imaging tests showed an aneurysm in her brain. Ms. Fogleman was referred to Geisinger neurosurgeon Clemens Schirmer, MD, PhD.

“It was heartbreaking. You don’t know if you’re going to come out okay,” she says. “The diagnosis was frightening, but Dr. Schirmer and his staff were wonderful. He explained everything, answered all my questions and waited to make sure that I understood everything. He made me feel comfortable and confident that I’d be okay.”

Treat the aneurysm or not? The choice was hers.

During an initial consultation, Dr. Schirmer discussed Ms. Fogleman’s two treatment options: They could observe the aneurysm and watch to see if symptoms developed, or treat it right away.

“Some of our patients perceive an aneurysm as a significant problem that is really disruptive to their life, and it’s akin to a death sentence,” says Dr. Schirmer. “That is not the case. We do have a number of highly sophisticated techniques, and we can take care of you. We treat around 160 aneurysms at Geisinger per year, and we are very proud to stand behind our positive outcomes.”

While Dr. Schirmer believed the brain aneurysm had been there for a while and had nothing to do with Ms. Fogleman’s headache, he recommended she undergo a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.

Ms. Fogleman agreed it was the right path for her. “I wasn’t comfortable with leaving the aneurysm untreated,” she says. “I’d always be worrying about it being there.”

On the day of the procedure in Wilkes-Barre, just minutes from Ms. Fogleman’s home, Dr. Schirmer inserted a catheter through a blood vessel in her arm. He implanted a flow-diverting stent to reconstruct and heal the artery in her brain where he’d found the aneurysm.

Ellen Fogleman and her husband Greg, enjoy time outdoors with their dog.
Ellen and her husband, Greg, at their Mountain Top home.

Back at work and thankful for great care

Ms. Fogleman is thankful she found all the care she needed at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, close to her home. She didn’t need to travel for diagnostic testing, surgery or follow-up appointments. 

“It was all done right at Geisinger,” she says. “Anyone who thinks they need to leave northeast Pennsylvania for great medical care should think again. It’s right in our backyard.” 

After being a UPS driver for 20 years, Ms. Fogleman is glad to be back at work. It’s a job she loves, even though it’s physically demanding. Her brain aneurysm procedure was done in March 2021. Regulations require drivers to take three months off after this type of surgery, so she was back on the road that summer. 

“I’m doing amazingly well,” she says. “I was shocked when they found the aneurysm, but they repaired it and I’ve had no problems since. Greg and I don’t have to worry.”

Watch Ellen Fogleman’s story in her own words.

This story originally appeared in PA Health, our quarterly full-color magazine filled with wellness tips, inspiring stories and more.

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