Strong willed, smart and stubborn – "in a good way," his son laughs – Sam Shanmugam, PhD, built a distinguished résumé of accomplishments.
In the late 1960s, Sam and his wife, Radha, emigrated from India to the United States. They settled in Lawrence, Kansas, where they raised two sons, Kannon and Ravi, and where Sam fostered an impressive 30+-year career as a highly respected professor of electrical engineering at the University of Kansas. Devoted to both teaching and research, Sam published numerous papers and books and was widely recognized for his commitment to his work.
In his free time, Sam, described by Kannon as "a vigorous athlete," rode mile after mile on his bicycle, determined to conquer Biking Across Kansas, an 8-day, 500-mile bicycle excursion. He crossed that finish line in 2005.
A sudden turn
In Sam's retirement in 2014, this full and well-rounded life was threatened. While on a long bike ride, Sam suffered a rupture from a rare form of brain aneurysm resulting in cerebral hemorrhage and fell to the ground. Passersby noticed the then 71-year-old's obvious distress and promptly called for medical assistance.
Sam was taken by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where medical staff instantly understood his critical condition demanded specialty care. He was airlifted to The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City.
Endovascular neurosurgeon Koji Ebersole, MD, quickly realized that Sam's brain continued to bleed and that the professor required immediate lifesaving surgery.
"At the moment of emergency, I knew we had the medical capability to save Sam's life, but I also knew that, despite all available technologies, we could not reverse the injury Sam's brain had already suffered," said Dr. Ebersole. "Fortunately, Sam's family was exceptionally close and exceptionally sophisticated in their understanding of the medical challenge we faced. They were prepared to address any obstacles with full resolve."
Dr. Ebersole performed an emergency craniotomy for treatment of the aneurysm and removal of the hemorrhage. Sam spent a week in a coma before he began to progress.
"My family cannot say enough about Dr. Ebersole," said Kannon, a Washington, DC-based attorney. "He possesses incredible surgical skill, but also is highly attentive in terms of emotional support. He took care not only of my father, but of our whole family during an extremely traumatic time."