by Nikki Batts

Hi there! My name is Nicole (Nikki) Batts. I’m married and have 2 beautiful daughters who are now attending ECU…Go Pirates! I recently discovered that I need brain surgery. It is scheduled for July 2nd, 2019. To bring awareness to such a silent issue, I’d like to share my story with you.

In January, I began having noticeable pressure in my left eye and stabbing pain in the back of my head on the left side. Everyone kept saying it sounded like a migraine headache. I made a couple trips to the ER as it had gotten excruciatingly bad, only to be told that, more than likely, it was a migraine.

You know how your gut instinct kicks in? That little voice says, “Nope, be persistent.” Well, I did just that. I requested it be looked further into. I had a CT Scan, with and without contrast, which noted something in the left area of my brain. For some reason, it was not alarming enough for any doctor’s attention. 

Having a radiography specialist review the scan in depth was the next option presented to me. Once reviewed, it still came back inconclusive. Further investigation with an angiogram of the brain was the next step.

In the meantime, I was still experiencing indescribable pressure and head pain off and on. It fit the standard description of a migraine and physicians insisted that it more than likely was a migraine. I just couldn’t get comfortable with that diagnosis.

I had the angiogram at Duke Medical Center on February 5th. Immediately following the procedure, I was told the Left Middle Cerebral Artery in my brain is abnormal, preventing proper blood flow (severe stenosis) and creating bulges along the artery (called aneurysms).

There are limited as to how to fix this. Option 1:  A stent procedure to insert a device to secure the inside of the artery (a 1:20) chance of working. Option 2: Have an Extracranial-Intracranial (EC IC) Bypass. I chose option one and the procedure was scheduled for June 3rd. 

Due to risk of stroke while insertion of the stent and allowing proper blood flow, the procedure was unsuccessful. Everything was retracted at that point. The doctor informed me the only remaining intervention was the EC IC Bypass or the aneurysm or artery could rupture at some point. Statistically, once a rupture occurs it is always nearly fatal. 

This brings me to July 2nd, the date for this enormous surgery. Brain surgery. Sometimes I catch myself saying that out loud as it sounds so encompassing of life or death.

This is where the awareness comes in. First and foremost, you know your bodies better than anyone. I knew this wasn’t a typical headache. Symptoms and signs to watch for which may indicate a bigger problem are: 

• Visual disturbance, such as loss of vision or double vision

• Pain above or around your eye

• Numbness or weakness on 1 side of your face

• Difficulty speaking

• Headaches

• Loss of balance

• Difficulty concentrating or problems with short term memory

• A headache that is described as the worst headache of your life would require an immediate 911 call as this could potentially be a hemorrhage requiring immediate attention. 

EC IC bypass is a very intricate surgery requiring a craniotomy to expose the region housing the artery. The surgeon will harvest an artery from my arm to replace the weakened artery in my head. All of this is done delicately and precisely to avoid damaging the area of the brain responsible for speech and memory. 

The advice I have for anyone else going through this is to stay positive. Be around positive and supportive people. I can honestly say my dear husband, daughters, family, friends, and my job at Children’s World Learning Center have been my support system. I could not ask for a better community of people more like family right here in Greenville, NC and I am beyond humble. 

If you find yourself facing an illness, research and become familiar with it. Ask your family and friends for help when you need it. Sometimes, it’s ok to lean rather than lead.

If you would like to follow my journey please view my page at