Friends and teammates of a California softball player who has been on life support since suffering a brain aneurysm on the field Saturday continue to spread awareness by using the hashtag #PrayforDana on social media.
Dana Housley, 15, was up at bat for the California Thunder in Fontana when she suddenly complained of dizziness to her coach, Angelo Michaels.
“She turned to look at me, which I thought was kind of odd in the middle of the pitch, and she said, ‘Coach Angelo, I feel dizzy,” Michaels told KTLA 5. “As she was walking toward me, her knees started to give way and I caught her.”
Unbeknownst to those around her, Housley was suffering from a ruptured brain aneurysm, a type of stroke that can be difficult for an onlooker to identify. An aneurysm, which occurs in a weakened wall of a blood vessel’s artery, can happen in any part of the body. It’s a congenital condition that takes place during development in utero.
“There are a dozen types of strokes that someone can have, and it’s very difficult to recognize when someone is having a stroke, particularly a brain aneurysm,” Dr. Peter Rasmussen, director of the Cerebrovascular Center at Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute, who is not involved in Housley’s treatment, told FoxNews.com.
“The public needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke. This type usually causes a very severe headache, which is usually associated with nausea and vomiting, loss of consciousness and fainting,” Rasmussen said. Strokes may also cause paralysis and loss of speech or vision.
“We have excellent treatment options for stroke patients, but most have to be applied to them very early on,” Rasmussen said.
The tricky part about treating an aneurysm is that often they are detected incidentally while examining something else, Dr. Carolyn Brockington, director of the Stroke Center at Mount Sinai St Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital told FoxNews.com. Because symptoms typically do not present themselves until after the aneurysm bursts, there are no warning signs for doctors to look for.
“We don’t treat all aneurysms, but there’s a concern when it’s a rupture,” said Brockington, who is not involved in Housley’s treatment.
“You look at the size of the aneurysm, if there’s a big one you’re concerned about it maybe rupturing over time,” Brockington said. “You’re worried about the shape, if there’s a lot of irregularity on the dome that means there’s a lot of pressure inside.” Brockington said the location of the aneurysm is also taken into consideration when weighing treatment.
Treatment of an aneurysm can either be done in a neurosurgical manner or by an endovascular approach, depending on its location and size.
“Think of [the aneurysm] like a balloon coming off the wall of the artery. On the neck of the balloon they put a small clip in so blood can’t go into the aneurysm, which means the balloon will deflate,” Brockington said of the neurosurgical approach.
“The more newer approach is an endovascular approach using an angiogram. They go into the balloon itself and fill the balloon with small coil so blood can’t go into the balloon, and therefore the aneurysm deflates,” she said.
Rasmussen said 25-40 percent of patients of brain aneurysm patients will not survive or make it to the hospital in time for treatment. The risk of death increases if the aneurysm bleeds for a second time.
For Housley, being a young and active athlete didn’t either elevate or lower her risk for suffering from a brain aneurysm.
“Lesions develop from a variety of reasons,” Rasmussen said. “Why they choose to rupture when they do is still a great mystery.”