Todd Crawford has an air of determination in his voice, pragmatism even. To hear him talk about what he was doing on Capitol Hill last week, you might not know the extent of his pain.
But eight weeks ago he faced the biggest blow of his life – his wife, Lisa Colagrossi, a TV journalist for WABC-TV in New York City – died from an aneurysm just before 9 a.m. on a Wednesday.
That was her shift. She’d wake at 1:30 a.m., start work by 3 a.m. She’d arrive home at 2 p.m. in time to spend time with the couple’s two sons. She was in bed by 7 p.m.
Last week, Crawford visited Capitol Hill with The Brain Aneurysm Foundation to lobby lawmakers on what he said can be a preventable health condition. Before her death, his wife had been complaining of headaches. He wishes he had pushed harder for her to seek medical help.
“The goal is to try to get an increase in funding, additional research and increased research around the country,” he told The Mirror in a phone interview. “This is something at the bottom of the radar. It’s at the bottom of the radar when you compare it to heart disease and cancer. This is a silent killer — it’s something that kills you instantly.”
He said the condition can be tested by a CT scan or an MRI.
Rattling off statistics, he explained, “There are six million Americans in the country that have brain aneurysms.”
The symptoms are headaches, pain behind the eyes. “Of the 40,000 [that seek medical attention] only 50 percent will survive,” he said. “Some will have permanent neurological disability. Brain aneurysms are 50 percent more likely in women than men.”
The signs that Todd’s wife was in trouble weren’t obvious.
“My wife was physically healthy,” he said. “For about 5 weeks, she came home twice a week and walked through the door saying my head is killing me.”
That patterned repeated over and over.
Like many people, she’d only get six hours a sleep at night. “She thought it was stress,” he said.
Crawford can’t help but second guess himself.
“I was not forceful enough,” he said. “But even if she had gone, our doctor would have said you’re a perfectly healthy 49-year-old woman. Even doctors are not educated on the signs and symptoms.”
Crawford’s motive for lobbying Capitol Hill was to prevent other families from going through what he is.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “It’s a new way of life for me and my two boys — 11 and 15 — who will no longer have their mother for the rest of their lives. We have to, we have no choice but to put the pieces together.”
He said Colagrossi became a journalists because it was “something that was in her. She was someone who was down-to-earth. She was a go getter, an extrovert and not afraid of the camera. She wanted to be in a position that she could help others and inform the news.”
The day the tragic struck was March 18, 2015. “Everything was fine,” Crawford recalled. They were preparing March madness brackets. She was on the job. She’d gone into work at 1:30 in the morning and just before 9 a.m., the aneurysm ruptured. She suffered from cardiac arrest. “They did resuscitate her,” he said.
Two days later they took her off life support.
“There was no chance,” he said. “She was gone for 9 or 10 minutes. It was too severe and there were too many complications.
Crawford can’t say enough about his wife: “Hockey mom, big huge New York Rangers fan, she collected maple syrup and raised chickens in the backyard for eggs. Words cannot describe what an amazing human being she was.”
He said the day on Capitol Hill is an “emotional” and “bittersweet” endeavor.
“At the end of the day, she should be here with this,” he said. “She’ll never be replaced. It would take 4 or 5 people to replace one Lisa.”