Kerry Roberts

Kerry Roberts

On Friday Oct. 9, Sen. Kerry Roberts was on a Zoom call. While on the Zoom call, when he was overcome with a severe headache and pressure in his head. It was so severe that Roberts put the Zoom call on hold, and went to find his wife to get some medicine.

“I don’t ever get headaches. When I get a headache, I always have to ask my wife, ‘now what is it I’m supposed to take, is it Tylenol or is it Advil? Which one works for headaches?’ So for me to have a situation where I’m like, ‘hey hold on a minute I need to go get something,’ that’s pretty unusual for me,” said Roberts.

Roberts found his wife and told her about the headache and pressure. They began ruling out the fact that it wasn't a heart attack, it wasn't a stroke. Roberts is 59 years old, and he’s in excellent health. He doesn’t have any health problems, and he's not on any medication. As they continued running through the possibilities, Roberts said he needed to go to the hospital. Something was terribly wrong.

He and his wife got in the car and headed to the hospital. Not more than a mile from home, Roberts thought he was dying.

“When I say I thought I was dying, you know you hear people all the time say wow I could’ve died or wow that was a close call or I’m lucky I didn’t die or whatever. This was actually, I am dying, to the point that I reached over and I put my hand on my wifes’ hand, and I said, regardless of what happens, I'm at peace,” said Roberts.

Roberts just wanted to close his eyes and sleep, that’s how bad it hurt, and if he died, he died. Of course, as Roberts began closing his eyes, his wife demanded he stay awake.

Roberts did so, and called 911. They meet an EMT at a fire station.

“I can’t say enough about how professional the EMT was. People a lot of times think because one is an elected official, they get special treatment. Well, most people don’t know who their state senator is, or they don’t recognize them if they see them. I can assure you, they didn’t know or didn’t care, they just knew, here’s somebody who’s in grave danger and we need to find out what’s going on and we need to stabilize him.

“That is a testimony to them. It didn’t matter, it was just here’s an opportunity to try and save a life. They were brave,” said Roberts.

Roberts, his wife and the EMT got to Northcrest Medical Center in Springfield.

The Northcrest doctors immediately did a CT scan. The emergency room doctor went to Roberts, with a real serious look on his face, and told him that he was having a brain hemorrhage and that he needed to be flown to Skyline Medical Center in Nashville.

There, the doctors immediately rushed Roberts in for another CT scan. Miraculously, the doctor went to Roberts and told him that the brain bleeding had stopped.

Later, neurosurgeons came in and did an angiogram. Afterwards, Roberts was moved to the ICU.

At the ICU, Dr. Mericle told Roberts that during the angiogram, he thoroughly looked from the neck up and couldn’t find an aneurysm anywhere. In fact, everything looked good, looked healthy.

According to Mericle, brain bleeding can happen for other reasons beside a ruptured aneurysm. It’s very rare, but it can happen. Despite this, the doctors planned to continue to do tests.

Roberts was kept in the Neuro ICU because one is at risk of stroke after having a brain bleed. He stayed in the Neuro ICU for two weeks. During that time, he had two more CT scans.

“Everything was good. I was always able to talk through things. I was able to get up, I was able to walk around,” said Roberts.

On Sunday Oct. 25, he was released.

Being a state senator is technically a part-time job. Roberts’ full-time job is teaching continuing education to CPAs. His teaching days were canceled because of COVID-19, so he didn’t have anything he had to do during the month of November.

“I got home. I walked around the farm, sat on the front porch a lot, kept my phone off,” said Roberts.

The doctors’ instructions were to stay out of stress, and if Roberts was tired, he should sleep and take some medicine. After having a brain bleed, a person must keep blood from being outside their blood vessels. Roberts was able to do this.

“I was conscious of the fact that people in and around state government, they know someone that’s had something like this happen to them, and they know that they’re permanently affected by it, and they may have some cognitive deficit. It was important for me to let people know that wasn’t the case with me,” said Roberts.

On Wednesday Nov. 18, Roberts showed up in downtown Nashville by surprise, and shared a joint House and Senate hearing for the committee he’s chairman of.

“I walked in from the back door and took my seat and called the meeting to order,” said Roberts.

Everyone was surprised and shocked to see Roberts, and stood up and gave him a standing ovation.

On Friday Nov. 20, Roberts had his follow-up angiogram. The angiogram was completely clear.

He wondered what caused all of this. The doctor who performed the follow-up angiogram told him he doesn’t have any risk of anything like this happening again. The risk isn’t any greater than or less than the general population.

Altogether, Roberts’ diagnosis was a non-aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. On the same day, Roberts was released. 

Today, Roberts still gets headaches. They diminish overtime.

He did have some teaching dates in December. Beyond that, Roberts has been working from home.

For people who experience brain bleeding and non-aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhages, the psychological aspect of it is what often has a longer time impact on them. They live in fear that it will happen again. The doctors had talked to Roberts at length about this. 

However, Roberts is a believer, and he has a long-term philosophy - he would rather die living than live dying.