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Rebounding On and Off the Court

Chuck Hanson

Patient Chuck Hansen

Chuck Hanson was playing pickleball, a sport similar to tennis, when a sudden neck ache cramped his game. He drove to a nearby pharmacy to treat his severe headache, but by the time he arrived, the pain was so consuming he said, "Call 911."

The Kansas City, Kansas, man was taken to a nearby hospital emergency room. Once the physicians saw the excessive amount of blood in his brain, they immediately transferred him to The University of Kansas Health System.

Chuck doesn’t remember much after that. But his wife, Debra, has vivid recall. She was by his side in the health system’s Neurosciences Intensive Care for 30 days.

During that time Chuck was adrift and confused – thinking he was at the grocery store, recognizing his children but not his wife. His health so deteriorated at one point that Debra called the family to his bedside.

It was frightening déjà vu for Debra. Only 11 months earlier, Chuck had survived a quadruple heart bypass after doctors discovered an artery blockage known as the "widow maker."

Complex diagnosis

Endovascular neurosurgeon Koji Ebersole, MD, said Chuck’s rocky recovery resulted from substantial bleeding in his brain. It was thought to be excessive because the anti-inflammatory Chuck had taken for severe headache pain thinned his blood.

Ebersole and a team of neuroscience specialists first suspected the bleeding was from a brain aneurysm, but that wasn’t the case. The team ultimately deduced that the cause of his subarachnoid hemorrhage, or SAH, was likely from a vein suspended between Chuck’s skull and his brain.

"There are different types of brain bleeding. Bleeding from a vein is less common but can produce the same type of bleeding pattern as an aneurysm,” says Dr. Ebersole. "An angiogram cannot detect this type of bleed."

This type of SAH – unrelated to aneurysm – occurs in only 10 percent of patients. “We are learning more and more about high blood volume subarachnoid hemorrhage because so many patients take blood thinners,” Dr. Ebersole said. “We can often help these patients have a fantastic outcome by applying what we’ve learned from treating brain aneurysms.”

Back in the game

After leaving the hospital, Chuck, 68, spent a month in a rehabilitation facility before returning home. He has since reclaimed his active life. He resumed his private practice as a mental health therapist, and he and Debra travel and take leisurely spins in their vintage Corvette convertible. Most importantly, Chuck is back on the pickleball court, and he says his game is pretty good.

When it comes to a philosophy on life, he quotes from the Ziggy® cartoon: "We should enjoy here while we’re here ‘cause there’s no here, there!"

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