“I pretty much remember everything,” says 20-year-old Taylor Janssen about the July 2015 day that changed his life. The University of Michigan Ross School of Business student dove into the lake by his house after a volleyball, but a shallow spot in the water made for a much more complicated day.
Taylor’s friends pulled him out of the water, called his dad and they were on their way to the hospital, where U-M neurosurgeons worked to stabilize his cervical injury.
“I just went out for a day on the lake, and it changed my life,” Taylor says.
Taylor’s dad, Mark Janssen, now looks at the risks people take in a different way than he used to.
“It just takes one mistake to alter your life forever,” Mark says.
In her third trimester, Aimee Garrison finally became convinced the soreness and tension across her shoulder blades and into her back had to be more than just part of being pregnant.
“I had been running and lifting weights all the way up to 26 weeks,” the marathoner from Kalamazoo says, “so I slowed down, but it didn’t get better. Soon I was having trouble sleeping and keeping up with my toddler.”
Eventually, an MRI revealed Aimee was one of the less than 2,000 adults each year who find out they have a spinal cord ependymoma. A tumor the size of a baby carrot had been slowly growing in Aimee’s spinal cord, pushing her spinal cord against her vertebrae. Continue reading →
It can be difficult to see everything necessary, and in great detail, during brain tumor surgery. Often, a neurosurgeon is choosing between breadth (microscope glasses known as “loupes”) and depth (a microscope sitting outside the surgical field) as the surgery goes on.
A new technology coming to our new operating rooms in July combines the two views into one, mounted on a robot. The whole surgical team will be able to see everything the surgeon sees, in high definition on a large monitor.
“This type of technology can change our perspective to further refine and improve how we do surgery,” says Karin Muraszko, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at U-M.
It’s been 14 years and six surgeries since the Korcal family learned the phrase “Chiari malformation.”
The anomaly of the brain is characterized by a protrusion of a small part of the brain through the bottom of the skull and into the spinal canal.
First, eldest son Andrew Korcal was diagnosed at age 14, and then they realized it was also the reason for teen daughter Amanda’s lifelong struggle with headaches. Once her children were stable, mom Layna went to get her diagnosis, but her Chiari likely won’t require a surgery. She’s hoping her youngest son continues not to display any symptoms.
“Andrew and Amanda had different complications, but they both had really good outcomes,” Layna said.
Betsy Lehndorff sets up her exhibit in the Gifts of Art gallery
The U-M Health System’s Gifts of Art program presents an exhibition of sterling silver compositions with narrative style by Betsy Lehndorff, daughter of legendary U-M neurosurgeon Edgar Kahn and granddaughter of Albert Kahn, the architect whose firm designed U-M’s former Old Main Hospital, the current University Hospital and Hill Auditorium.
The work will be on display in the Gifts of Art Gallery in University Hospital’s Floor 2 Main Corridor through February 1.
Much of the work in Betsy Lehndorff’s exhibition is the result of a concentrated 30-day period of silversmithing in her garage studio on a lake in northeastern Michigan. Under the self-imposed pressure of the exhibition, her creativity went into full bloom as she designed and produced one piece after another.
Donna Poole, recovering from her aneurysm surgery at U-M early in 2013.
This is part 2 of a two-part blog entry submitted by U-M brain aneurysm patient Donna Poole. Read Part 1 here.
On the day of my aneurysm surgery, my family waited for many hours as Dr. Gregory Thompson and his crew took me apart and put me back together.
The big words for what happened in surgery are right-sided supraorbital craniotomy for aneurysm clipping. Essentially, it involved immobilizing my skull, cutting through skin and scalp, drilling through my skull, opening the protective membranes that surround the brain, and gently continuing down until they got to the aneurysm on the anterior communicating artery at the bottom of my brain.
Later, Dr. Thomspon told me later that the aneurysm was so close to rupturing he did something he seldom does. He used a temporary clip. He then used three permanent clips to deprive the aneurysm of its blood supply.
When the surgical team finished they backed their way out, using four way flashers. OK, kidding about the flashers. But when it was done, they closed the skin with temporary staples. Our daughter counted 48 of them. I wish I had saved them but didn’t think to ask for them at the time. They may have come in handy for deck repair.
The staples in my head looked like a zipper, making me a proud member of what our aneurysm support group calls the Zipperhead Club. I also have 13 pieces of permanent hardware in my head.
The surgical team sent me off to the ICU with instructions for frequent “neuro checks”: that’s hospital code for bug the patient with questions day and night. After repeatedly answering the same questions I decided the serious team of University of Michigan doctors and nurses needed a laugh.
So, when they asked for the umpteenth time if I knew what hospital I was in, I answered I was at Ohio State. There was a moment of shocked silence… before the room exploded with laughter. Dr. Thompson said, “I was going to tell you that you were one of my favorite patients, but not now!”
I loved the competent, compassionate U-M neuro nurses, especially the sweet, short one with the Scottish accent. She challenged me to do what I needed to do to get out of the hospital and sent me home with a hug and a kiss. Hug a nurse the next time you get a chance.
A mere 48 hours after surgery found me home in bed, with flowers, meals, calls, cards, gifts, and visits from family and church family surrounding me like a blanket of love.
A month ago, I marked six months since surgery. Unlike many aneurysm survivors I do not have serious handicaps, but I am not exactly as I was before.
Things that were simple before confuse me now. I cannot smell, which comes in handy because of the mountain of manure that sits behind our backyard. Nothing tastes the way I remember, but it doesn’t stop me from eating. My balance is still a bit off, and my short-term memory problems could give three comedians enough material for full-time work.
They tell me that it takes 18 months for complete healing, so I fully expect to make more progress.
Mostly, I am grateful. I am grateful to God, and to the skilled doctors and nurses, especially Dr. Thompson, my gifted and gracious surgeon. I am grateful to my husband who did so much for me when I could do so little. I am grateful to my children and grandchildren for their help and their humor. I am thankful for our church family. I am grateful to my online aneurysm family, the Facebook support group, 868 members strong and growing daily.
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Most of all I am happy to be alive. I celebrate love and laughter every day. My aneurysm was, in many ways, a gift to me. It reminded me, in a way I will never forget, that life is too short for anything but love.
It is love that makes me holler to you, “Watch out!” That aneurysm fast ball can hit you next. Be aware of the symptoms. You can learn more on the site of the Joe Niekro Foundation.
Take your loved ones out to a ball game. Hug them tightly and tell them you love them. If a fast ball reaches the stands, you decide what to do. Either catch it and get it autographed, or duck!
Read and share the brain aneurysm symptoms shared in this post.
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.
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