As a 19-year-old sophomore at Northern Arizona University, Anthony Veglia’s day-to-day life consisted of classes, studying and Jiu Jitsu. Until one evening, three years ago, when the unthinkable happened.
“I was leaving Jiu Jitsu and I felt a searing pain in my head that was worse than anything I had ever experienced,” recalls Anthony. He laid down at the gym and assumed the pain would subside. Instead, it only escalated and Anthony found himself losing balance and vomiting. It was alarmingly clear that something was very, very wrong.
Anthony somehow made his way back to his dorm and collapsed. It was then that he was rushed by ambulance to Flagstaff Medical Center. A CT scan of Anthony’s brain revealed that he had a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Blood was leaking into his brain. In order to survive, he would need surgery immediately.
“I had absolutely no symptoms,” said Anthony. “I was young and the picture of perfect health, and suddenly I was fighting to survive. It was both scary and surreal.”
Doctors explained, with urgency, to Anthony that he needed to be rushed to Barrow in Phoenix for emergency surgery to repair the aneurysm.
Minutes later Anthony found himself making the hardest phone calls of his life. At approximately 1 a.m., he called his mother, father, and brother to tell them the shocking news. Although they were alarmed to hear that their son was about to undergo a serious brain surgery, Anthony’s parents were able to rush to meet him at Barrow prior to the surgery to lend prayers, comfort and support.
More than 30,000 people per year experience a ruptured brain aneurysm. The scary fact about aneurysms and neurovascular disorders is that many, like Anthony, carry no symptoms until the problem is life threatening. Fortunately for Anthony, he was able to seek treatment a Barrow, where expert neurosurgeons like Dr. Zabramski, MD, treat more than 200 aneurysms per year. In fact, Barrow is considered the worldwide center of choice for complex aneurysm treatment.
Once at Barrow, Anthony was fortunate to be placed into the capable hands of neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Zabramski, MD, who skillfully placed a small clip across the base of Veglia’s aneurysm to prevent any recurrent bleeding and obliterate the aneurysm.
According to Dr. Zabramski, “It is extremely rare to see a patient as young as Anthony come in with a ruptured aneurysm. His youth, good health, and positivity contributed not only to his surviving, but also flourished since the surgery. His outcome is nothing short of a miracle.”
After spending just 10 days in the hospital, Anthony was eager to go home and resume his routine. “For me it was definitely mind over matter and having a positive attitude that helped speed up my recovery. In fact, the nurses in the hospital had to tell me to stop walking the floors so much and get back into bed!”
Having already missed a few weeks of classes, Anthony soon returned to school and threw himself into his schoolwork to catch up on the classes he had missed. He was also determined to gain back the 10 pounds he had lost while in recovery. While doctors urged him to refrain from Jiu Jitsu contact – a blow to the head was not exactly advisable! – Anthony still went to the gym. It wasn’t long before he gained back the 10 pounds and added muscle to his lean frame.
While the path to recovery has been overwhelmingly successful for Anthony, it hasn’t been without some roadblocks. Anthony’s post-op follow-up included a six-hour battery of tests administered by a neuropsychologist to check his brain function. While, amazingly, Anthony passed nearly every area with flying colors, the tests did reveal a slight deficit in his short-term, or “working memory.” To compensate for this, Anthony finds himself jotting down notes and reminders throughout the day to stay on track.
Since his surgery and subsequent recovery, Anthony graduated from college – on time – with a degree in biology. He is currently a student in Northern Arizona University’s competitive Doctor of Physical Therapy program and he is also fulfilling his dream of writing a novel. In his spare time, Anthony continues to practice Jiu Jitsu and has climbed from white belt to purple belt with the goal of soon achieving his black belt!
As his numerous successes indicate, the experience of surviving a ruptured aneurysm at just 19-years-old has only made Anthony more positive and determined to take on new adventures in life.
“If a new opportunity presents itself, I take it. If there’s something I’ve never done, I give it a shot. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted and to live life to the fullest. I owe Dr. Zabramski and Barrow everything for getting me to a place whereI am fortunate to be able to enjoy life, achieve my goals, and also help inspire others to live life to the fullest.”
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