WHEN Noel Mooney woke at two o'clock one morning with a cracking headache which made him feel sick, he thought he might have had food poisoning.
But what the Coolum real estate agent thought might have been a dodgy dinner was actually a time bomb days away from killing him.
Two days later, he was undergoing surgery at the Royal Brisbane Hospital for a brain aneurysm and facing the very real possibility that he could die on the operating table.
"It was a touch-and-go thing - they tell you that," Mr Mooney said
"I just had to get operated on and hopefully, I was coming out.
"But I was very, very concerned for my family. I didn't want to come out a vegetable or worse. I didn't want to come out and be a burden on my family."
Mr Mooney can be grateful the aneurysm flared when it did in July, the weekend before he and his wife had been due to fly out on a United States holiday.
Doctors have told him the changes in air pressure aboard the plane could cause a fatal burst of the aneurysm.
"They reckon if I'd got on that plane, I wouldn't have got off," he said.
Mr Mooney was well aware of the potential consequences when he was told he had an aneurysm - a close friend of his died from one a few years ago.
When he woke from surgery, he feared he was partially blind because he was unable to open his left eye but he regained movement and control as the days passed.
After a fortnight in hospital, he returned home to recuperate.
Mr Mooney stood down from his position as chairman of Coolum Business and Tourism but, having watched his fill of Netflix, he returned to work at North Shore Realty a month ago.
"Everyone told me I shouldn't be back at work but what do you do? I'm not doing anything strenuous," he said.
Mr Mooney is still struggling with occasional double vision and pain but he said it was "nothing like the pain when I had the aneurysm."
"It was like having a knife blade in your head and someone twisting it.
"It didn't matter what they gave me, I could feel it."
Doctors have told him he had probably had the aneurysm a long time because his skull was starting to "grow" around it.
"There's probably heaps of people walking around with these things and they don't know it," he said.
After learning there may be a genetic predisposition towards aneurysms, one of Mr Mooney's siblings underwent tests which determined she also has one.
A course of action is still being determined.
Rather than attempt to remove Mr Mooney's aneurysm, which was pressing against his skull, doctors "corked" and diverted the affected blood vessel.
Reflecting on his brush with death, Mr Mooney thinks he was simply "tapped on the head" and told he was not needed yet.
The affable father of three said he had always been laid-back but the experience had changed his perspective on life.
"You definitely think about life differently after something like that.
"I'm learning not to stress so much and be a bit more 'light and easy'. Little things don't worry you as much."
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