A North Carolina family is reeling after the sudden death of a mother of four who died from a brain aneurysm after complaining of a severe migraine.
On April 1, Eric and Lee Broadway sat outside their home in Matthews, North Carolina, to enjoy a cup of coffee and discuss plans for Lee’s upcoming 42nd birthday before Eric had to head to work.
Just a few hours later, Lee texted Eric that she needed him to come home immediately because she was experiencing the worst headache of her life.
Lee had suffered from hereditary migraines since she was 8 years old, but this episode was different.
“I raced home and took her to the ER,” Eric, 43, tells PEOPLE. “I knew this couldn’t be good because I’ve seen her deal with pain before.”
Two days later, on April 3, Lee died from complications of what ended up being a brain aneurysm at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte.
Symptoms of migraines and brain aneurysms, which occur when a blood vessel in the brain weakens, can be similar, but the conditions are not related. The headache associated with a brain aneurysm is often described as the “worst headache” ever experienced, according to the Mayo Clinic, who advises seeking immediate medical attention if you develop a “sudden, extremely severe headache.”
A Lifelong Love
Eric and Lee’s love story began in middle school when they first became friends.
“I kept on setting her up with my friends in high school,” he says, “but then I realized I wanted her.”
Lee felt the same way. At 18, she became pregnant with the couple’s first child, Adair, who is now 22 and recently graduated from the Art Institute of Charlotte.
“Becoming a mom was the best thing to happen to her,” says Eric. “She was an awesome mom. She fell right into it and found something she loved.”
The couple expanded their family, welcoming two daughters —Averi, 16, Alex, 10 — and their son, Adrien, 8.
“She didn’t want to stop until we had a boy and we were able to make that happen,” says Eric, who owns a tile installation company. “We started young so there were some tough times, but we figured it out. We were happy.”
The weekend of Lee’s death, all four children were out of town.
“Adair was in Key West and the other three were with their grandparents in the mountains,” says Eric. “So on my way to the hospital, I called my mother-in-law to let her know her daughter was in the hospital.”
Eric says watching his wife in so much pain was the hardest thing he has ever gone through.
“She was begging to have the pain go away,” he says. “As a husband, you want to protect your wife and help her, but there was nothing I could do.”
His mother-in-law left the three kids with her brother and drove with her husband to be by her daughter’s side.
After Lee was transferred from a local hospital to one in Charlotte, Eric received some good news — he was told that Lee’s brain aneurysm was ranked a Grade 2 out of 5.
“One or two is what you want to have,” says Eric. “We were told she would be okay.”
“Still in Shock”
The next day, on April 2, doctors said they were able to fix the aneurysm after a procedure.
“The doctor came out and said everything looked good. We got the thumbs up and took a deep breath,” Eric recalls. “We knew she was going to be in some pain but that she’d be with us.”
But less than two hours later, while Eric was waiting for Lee in recovery, the doctor came out like her “hair was on fire” and said there had been a complication, according to Eric. Another 10 hours went by before the family heard any news. This time, the doctor told them she wanted to meet with the family in a conference room.
“She took us all in and all I heard was, ‘There is nothing we can for her,’ ” says Eric. “I ran out and lost it.”
Eric says Lee had bled out and was considered brain dead.
“We’re still in shock,” he says. “Especially for the kids. They’re all grieving in their own ways.”
Eric didn’t want to tell their oldest Adair — who was making a long drive back from Florida — that her mom was in the hospital until she got back.
After telling her, she broke down in tears. Since her tragic death, their 8-year-old son has had trouble processing the news and continues to ask if she’s still in the hospital.
“I’ve tried to explain, but it’s hard,” says Eric. “It’s difficult to say she’s no longer with us.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to help the family with medical expenses.
Since the tragedy, the entire Broadway family continues to grieve while making sure they keep the beloved wife and mother’s memory alive.
On Easter, which Eric describes as a “horrible day” because it was Lee’s favorite holiday, the family still had an Easter egg hunt for the kids. And on April 8, which would have been Lee’s 42nd birthday, they had over 100 people at their house to honor Lee.
“We let 42 balloons go and celebrated her life,” he says. “We talked about her and all of our memories.”