Dan and Linda Maffei

The call that Dan Maffei made to 911 likely saved the life of his wife, Linda.

KENNETT SQUARE—A few days after Christmas, Linda Maffei was dusting, and her husband Dan was vacuuming, preparing for a family get-together, when Linda suddenly got a pain in her neck. Then she started to get a headache.

She thought it was just a pinched nerve, but her decision to have her husband call 911 likely saved her life.

“I asked her if I should call an ambulance and I fully expected her to say no,” said Dan Maffei, a former Kennett Square council president and member of the borough’s historic commission. “I have never called 911 before. I never thought there was such an emergency that I couldn’t take care of it myself or drive to urgent care. I thought ambulances were for people who have heart attacks, broken veins, gushing blood, all of that stuff. I don’t overreact.”

Dan knows now that the call he made saved his wife’s life.

It turned out that Linda suffered from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of stroke caused by a ruptured brain aneurysm. Symptoms are very sudden and involve a very intense headache, stiff neck and vomiting. Linda had two of the three symptoms, though she did vomit while she was in the ambulance.

"Kennett Fire Co. BLA (Basic Life Service) came and she managed to walk downstairs and sit in a chair,” Dan said. “EMTs asked her questions and they were fantastic, super professional. But still, as I walked out the door to the ambulance, I was thinking this was just a pinched nerve that is really bad. I thought it would be over in a few hours after they do some tests and give her Tylenol.”

Without immediate treatment, Linda would likely have died before the day’s end because the only way to detect her condition is by a CT/CAT scan. According to medical professionals at the Mayfield Brain and Spine Clinic, one-third of patients survive with good recovery; one-third will survive with a disability; and one-third will die.

Her condition was diagnosed at Chester County Hospital, and a helicopter was called in to transport her to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

“When they called for a helicopter, now I am thinking this is really serious,” Dan said. “I realized this is a life-threatening condition that needs to be treated immediately.”

Doctors managed to stop the bleeding from a ruptured blood vessel wall while in ICU, and Dan lived in the hospital for the next three days. Linda wouldn’t leave HUP for the next 16 days.

Dan Maffei, who recently celebrated a birthday, said wants people to know that it’s OK to call 911 if you feel something just isn’t right.

“We were fortunate we acted quickly,” he said. “Many of the people who ignore the headache and stiffness will die or suffer permanent brain damage. They take some Tylenol and lay down to rest and that is the end. This can happen to anyone, at any age. Risk factors include smoking, drug use and high blood pressure. Linda had none of those factors and doctors said she was probably born with it.”

Dan, whose grandmother died of a stroke 20 years ago, said people should pay attention to changes in their body.

“If you even suspect that something is not right with your body, especially if there is a sudden onset, just call 911,” he said. “Gen an ambulance. Get immediate professional care. Don’t drive yourself or your loved one to the hospital. Emergency medical services from Kennett Fire Company, Chester County Hospital and HUP, all brought to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, saved my wife. And that is the best birthday present ever.”

Dan said doctors have told him his wife will make a 100 percent recovery by this summer.

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