Jeff Swift still isn’t sure why he called the receptionist at his office on the afternoon of May 8, 2015; he just felt something was wrong. The next thing the 64-year-old remembers is waking up 10 days later in a hospital bed with his son at his side.
“When I called the receptionist I had given her the indication that something was wrong. She immediately got some colleagues of mine and and came to my office. When they arrived, I was slumped over. They called 911 and within about 20 minutes I was at the hospital.”
Swift was taken to Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center where an emergency procedure was performed to relieve the pressure on his brain caused by excessive bleeding. Through a computed tomography (CT) scan and an angiogram, doctors there determined Swift had a ruptured aneurysm. He was later transferred to Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
Dr. P. Roc Chen, a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon at Mischer Neuroscience Institute and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, immediately went to work on Swift. “Neurologically, when he arrived he was not quite stable so we decided to treat the aneurysm with a minimally invasive endovascular technique called coiling,” said Dr. Chen. “In these types of scenarios in which a patient is still unstable neurologically, a more invasive procedure can create further damage to the brain and reduce chances for a good recovery. Coil embolization allowed us to secure the aneurysm without causing any more stress on the brain.”
Coil embolization is a procedure in which a catheter is inserted through the groin into the vessel in the brain affected by the aneurysm allowing small, thin platinum coils to be placed and packed into the aneurysm. These thin coils packed into the aneurysm are able to stop blood flow into the aneurysm and eliminate the risk of rupture or re-rupture.
“It’s not uncommon for an aneurysm to return after coil embolization but at the time, because Mr. Swift was still neurologically unstable, it was the best option to prevent the aneurysm from re-bleeding which is almost always fatal,” said Dr. Chen.
Swift spent a few days recovering in the intensive care unit (ICU) following the procedure and slowly woke from the coma. After a few more days in the hospital, he was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital where he began rehabilitation and about three weeks after he collapsed in his office, Swift was on his way home. He continued his recovery and rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center-Outpatient. In early July, just eight weeks after the aneurysm had burst, he was back to work.
Fast-forward to early November (six months after the initial treatment) when Swift was on his way back to see Dr. Chen for a routine follow-up appointment. “I thought it was just going to be one of those ‘check the box’ kind of appointments but Dr. Chen could tell from my scans that there were some changes in the coil mass and it appeared the aneurysm had recurred.”
This time Dr. Chen was going to use a technique called clipping to fix the aneurysm. Clipping is a surgical procedure in which a section of the skull is opened, allowing the surgeon to access the aneurysm directly. A small, titanium clip is placed at the neck or base of the aneurysm which keeps blood from flowing into the aneurysm. The aneurysm typically will scar over permanently after clipping.
“At this stage in his recovery considering the brain was much less traumatized, clipping was the best option and will provide a long-term fix,” said Dr. Chen.
Swift had the clipping procedure done in early December and was home to enjoy Christmas with his family. “I feel great; I exercise and try to eat properly and watch the weight gain,” said Swift. “I feel more like a kid at 40 than a senior citizen.”
“This is exactly the kind of outcome we want for our patients,” said Dr. Chen. “We don’t want them to just live, we want them to live and enjoy life, return to work and return to life without any deficit. That’s our goal.”
This holiday season, Swift is especially grateful to be spending it with his wife of 41 years, his children and his grandchildren. “I know when my dad passed away it left a tremendous hole in our family that you can’t fill. I’m enjoying things I might not have been able to enjoy without Dr. Chen and his team,” said Swift.