A Race to Remember
After surviving a ruptured brain aneurysm, Beatriz Fritschler knew she needed to live a healthier life. She took up running and achieved her goal of finishing the New York City Marathon.
In March of 2018, Beatriz Fritschler experienced the worst headache of her life. A longtime resident of the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, Beatriz says she felt like her head had “imploded.”
“I got a headache around 9 p.m. and spent the whole night awake, staring at the ceiling and throwing up,” she recalls. “The next morning I still had a headache and a stiff neck, so I went to the hospital.”
After a trip to the Emergency Department at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, doctors discovered the cause of Beatriz’s painful headache: a ruptured brain aneurysm, which is fatal in about 50% of cases.
Dr. Sander Connolly, neurosurgeon-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, performed an emergency operation to seal the ruptured aneurysm, attaching a small clip to the blood vessels to stop the bleeding in her brain. After 20 days in the intensive care unit, and another operation to prevent a second, unruptured aneurysm from hemorrhaging, Beatriz was discharged. “Dr. Connolly and his incredible team took care of me. This surgery saved my life,” says Beatriz. “But it was a long road to recovery.”
Taking Charge of Her Health
The health scare motivated Beatriz to change her lifestyle. She started to eat better and to exercise. She lost 50 pounds and discovered something she never imagined: a love for running.
Prior to her brain aneurysm, Beatriz had never run a city block, but as she started to exercise, she was shocked at her own abilities, inspiring her to push herself more. She ran two half-marathons and had her sights set on the 2022 TCS New York City Marathon. “My body took me through the aneurysm journey, and it keeps showing up for me in amazing ways,” she says.
“My recovery has given me the confidence and willingness to try new things, reconnect with my body and my health in new ways, and take risks that I was unable to do before,” says Beatriz who also started weightlifting and cycling after her aneurysm.
Beatriz’s commitment to fitness isn’t just about her personal health. She is driven by a mission to raise awareness for brain aneurysms and healthy living. Beatriz is active in helping raise money for The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation and is passionate about spreading her message of wellness.
“What she’s accomplished since her aneurysm is truly impressive,” says Dr. Connolly. “She’s become a community leader for public health in Northern Manhattan, advocating for healthy living, supporting others whose lives have been impacted by brain aneurysms, and working with local leaders to make the neighborhood healthier. She’s one-of-a-kind, and NewYork-Presbyterian is deeply appreciative of her commitment to the hospital and inspiring others to live a healthy life.”
A Triumphant Finish
On a warm and muggy marathon Sunday, Beatriz wore her custom-made red T-shirt with her father’s portrait on the front and the names of her family members, including her cat, on the back. It was her way of making sure her family was with her every step of the way.
At 6:30 p.m. Beatriz achieved her dream, finishing the race in 6:56:11.
She raised her arms in triumph as she crossed the finish line. It was the conclusion of a four-year journey that took her from a hospital ICU to running 26.2 miles through all five boroughs of New York City.
“NewYork-Presbyterian has been amazing to me,” Beatriz said minutes after completing the race. “They (the neurology team) not only saved my life, but in March I thought I wasn’t going to meet this goal after I got injured. But thanks to the orthopedic doctors and the physical therapists, I did it.”
Beatriz shook her head in disbelief, and then it hit her. “Oh, wow,” she said. “I did it.”