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Runny nose ended up being a brain fluid leak for Nebraska woman

OMAHA, Nebraska (KETV) — Allergies? Head cold? Winter congestion?

Kendra Jackson says doctors gave her lots of reasons for her continuously runny nose.

Jackson says the coughing, sneezing and blowing of her nose started a couple of years after a traumatic car accident in 2013. Jackson was hit from behind, and remembers hitting her face hard on the dashboard.

Initially, Jackson thought the runny nose was a cold symptom.

“[It was] like a waterfall, continuously, and then it would run to the back of my throat,” Jackson said.

For years, doctor after doctor suggested the runny nose was from allergies. But Jackson said she knew something else was wrong.

At Nebraska Medicine, Jackson was diagnosed with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. Essentially, doctors told Jackson her brain fluid was leaking through her nose; approximately a half-pint per day.

In addition to the constant headaches, Jackson said the condition was severely impacting her life.

“I couldn’t sleep, I was like a zombie,” Jackson said.

If left untreated, brain fluid leaks can lead to serious infections.

In the past, doctors would have to perform brain surgery to repair CSF leaks, but today’s technology yields much less invasive methods.

“We go through the nostrils, through the nose,” Nebraska Medicine Rhinologist Dr. Christie Barnes said. “We use angled cameras, angled instruments to get us up to where we need to go.”

Dr. Barnes explained that she and her team used some of Jackson’s own fatty tissue to plug up the leak source, a very small hole between her skull and nostrils.

Jackson says the surgery made a world of difference.

“I don’t have to carry around the tissue anymore,” Jackson said with a laugh, “and I’m getting some sleep.”

Jackson will have a few follow-up appointments to monitor the pressure in her head, but doctors expect her to make a full recovery.