Surviving double disaster: Young SoCal mother had near-fatal complications during delivery, then was injured in crash


GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) — An extraordinary story of survival: A woman in her 30s faced near-death disasters almost back-to-back.

Christina Alexsonian survived her first life-threatening challenge hours after delivering her daughter Stephanie – undergoing emergency surgery for a stroke linked to a congenital heart defect.

Then it was only six weeks later when the family was driving in Granada Hills and an out-of-control car careened off the freeway and landed on their vehicle.

“Tragedy hit out of nowhere,” said her husband Gary Galfayan.

Their daughters were in the vehicle along with Christina who was left unconscious and bleeding profusely.

A multi-vehicle crash in Granada Hills has injured six people, one of whom had to be extricated on Tuesday.

“I thought she wasn’t alive,” Galfayan said.

Their baby daughter Stephanie was only six weeks old. The 31-year-old mom remembered that day.

“It was life or death, I wouldn’t have been here to enjoy my children,” she said.

Hours after delivery at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital, Alexsonian asked for headache medication and complained of numbness in her feet.

“I was pinching her really hard. She’s really not feeling any of this,” Galfayan said.

At that moment, their pediatrician Dr. Lelanie Luna came in to check on their newborn, and immediately recognized the signs.

“Slurred speech, weakness in your right side of the body, numbness,” Luna said.

An emergency team responded within seconds. Doctors performed sophisticated scanning to find the blood clot. Then Galfayan heard the heart-wrenching news.

“She’s having a stroke. She pretty much has eight hours to live,” he said.

In the catheter lab, neuro interventionists went into action.

“So he was able to go up with catheters and suck that clot out and bring it out. Basically clear the passage and re-establish blood flow to the brain,” said interventional cardiologist Dr. Onkarjit Marwah.

Rare condition

But why would someone so young have a stroke?

While pregnancy increases the risk of having a stroke, it’s actually quite rare. It happens in about 30 out of 100,000 births.

Marwah said scans revealed why this happened to Alexsonian. Doctors identified a small hole in her heart called a patent foramen ovale or PFO. A clot the body would normally clear crossed through that hole during delivery.

“As she strained this clot pushed through that little hole to the left side of her heart and went to the brain,” he said.

Marwah surgically closed the PFO in Alexsonian’s heart. He said one in four adults have PFOs, but in most people it doesn’t cause problems.

‘Guardian angels’

Now, recovered from the crash and the stroke, Christina reunited with the doctor who saved her life the first time.

“I just did what I’m supposed to do,” Luna said.

After everything she’s been through, Alexsonian is grateful for her heroes.

“We are blessed to have guardian angels everywhere and for us to be alive and to be in one piece,” she said.

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