‘I’m lucky to be alive’: Uncommon surgery saves dad’s life

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 12:21 PM CDT
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(CNN) – One dad is thankful to be alive after developing a rare form of brain aneurysm. Doctors rushed to save him through an uncommon surgery.

In July 2021, Jay Keller knew something wasn’t right.

“I thought I was just maybe getting older a little bit,” he said.

When headaches and other symptoms continued, Keller was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for testing.

Blood work showed the 48-year-old had an infected heart valve caused by bacteria from his mouth.

Doctors said the bacteria stuck to his valve easily because Keller had a congenital heart defect. Each beat of his heart would push blood through the infected valve to his brain.

It led to a rare form of brain aneurysm caused by bacteria in the arterial wall.

Dr. Babak Jahromi, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said mycotic brain aneurysms tend to form rapidly.

“They’re rare but a lot more dangerous and more likely to bleed than a regular brain aneurysm,” he said.

Jahromi said traditional treatments don’t work well on this form of aneurysm.

In Keller’s brain, a crucial vessel was infected, one that helps supply his motor cortex.

“On one hand we save your life; on the other hand, you’re going to be paralyzed in a wheelchair,” Jahromi said.

Instead of typical surgery, Jahromi said he did a rare internal bypass procedure, essentially replumbing the inside of Keller’s brain.

“The purpose of the operation was to cut out the infected segments and then reattach the remaining stumps to normal blood vessels,” Jahromi said.

One day after surgery, Keller was up and walking. He later had surgery to fix a hole in his heart.

“At this point, he has dodged two bullets,” Jahromi said.

Keller, however, said he is just happy to still be here.

“I feel great. I’m lucky to be alive,” he said.

Keller said he hopes others won’t wait to see their doctor if something doesn’t feel right.

Thanks to the procedure, his neurosurgeon said Keller now has a normal life expectancy.

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