Jeff Donato, a jazz guitarist and personal trainer, in the gym on July 3, 2014. He had none of the characteristics that might predispose him to a brain aneurysm, but he survived slim odds after a blood vessel suddenly ballooned and burst. Following a lengthy recovery, he is back to his life-long weightlifting regimen and is reteaching himself jazz guitar. (D.A. Robin/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/MCT)
Brain aneurysms can go undetected for years. But for patients who have been blind-sided by it, there are support programmes.
Ten days after signing the lease on Resurrection Fitness, in Carnegie, Philadelphia, Jeff Donato was found lying in a pool of blood. At a local hospital, doctors ordered a CT scan and, as they were wheeling him into surgery, they told his wife that he had had a ruptured brain aneurysm. A blood vessel in the left side of his brain had ballooned out and burst. He had been lying on his bedroom floor for almost 12 hours.
His chances of survival were slim.
Donato, 60, is a personal trainer who lives and works in Carnegie. He has been lifting weights since the age of eight, and he doesn't smoke, have high blood pressure or use artery-damaging drugs like cocaine. He had none of the characteristics that might predispose him to such an emergency.
Donato knew nothing about aneurysms until he had one. The same goes for most brain aneurysm patients. “There was no sign, there was no warning,” says his wife, Theresa Donato, 52. “That’s what a lot of people say.”
For the past three years, there has been a support group at University Of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) for brain aneurysm patients and their families. Recently a walk and run was held to raise awareness in the wider community.
Robert Friedlander, chairman of neurosurgery at UPMC, explains that brain aneurysms can be caught before or after they rupture. In patients whose aneurysms rupture, he says, “there’s a ton of blood under high pressure that goes into the brain and causes severe brain damage. A lot of them die on the spot.”
A ruptured aneurysm often manifests itself as the worst headache of your life, he added. “Approximately 50% of people die within 30 days.” But an unruptured aneurysm can go undetected for years.