Patient Thriving After Life-Saving Procedure

It all started with a bad headache

Author: Sherry Farney


Last year, Joey Loper, 43, of Boyne Falls, went to the doctor with a very bad headache. They gave him a shot and sent him home. The next morning, his headache was still there and not improving. At this point, Joey’s wife, Barb, decided to take him to the ER at McLaren Northern Michigan.

“We were walking into the ER and Joey collapsed on the floor due to a seizure,” said Barb. The doctors quickly did CT scans, which showed a brain bleed. At that point, he was evaluated by Bharath Naravetla, MD, an interventional neurologist at McLaren Flint, using a telemedicine robot. He also reviewed the CT scans and diagnosed Joey with a brain bleed.”


Dr. Naravetla had several things to explain to Barb about Joey’s condition. He discussed the brain bleed, called a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), which is caused by the rupture of an aneurysm. He then described that an aneurysm of the brain forms when a part of an artery wall weakens and starts enlarging like a balloon. Aneurysms slowly grow and eventually rupture causing a serious life-threatening type of stroke by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. After Dr. Naravetla covered all of this, and the treatment options, Barb decided that the pipeline embolization device was the best choice for her husband.

“This interventional procedure is performed through a small incision made in the femoral artery in the groin,” said Dr. Naravetla. “A catheter is inserted into the blood vessel and carefully brought up to the brain.

“Next, another small catheter is advanced through the first catheter and brought across the aneurysm under X-ray guidance. The Pipeline™ Flex embolization device, which is a braided mesh-like stent, is inserted into the small catheter and across the aneurysm in need of repair. Then, the Pipeline™ Flex embolization device is deployed across the site of entry of the aneurysm and released. It diverts the blood flow away from entering the aneurysm, and there by helps to decrease the pressure inside of it, reduces the size and eventually disappears over time.”

SAH is a serious condition and only one-third of patients will survive with a good recovery, experts say.

“The procedure took a while, but when Joey came in the recovery room, he smiled and I could see the light come back into his life,” said Barb. “He was in the ICU for a month, so the nurses became family to us. They were wonderful, answered all our questions, and always took great care of us both.

“I stayed at the Hospitality House at McLaren just down the road from the hospital, which was an absolute blessing. It meant so much to be so close to my husband every day as he recovered in the hospital.”

After about a month in Flint, Joey returned to McLaren Northern Michigan for recovery in their Acute Rehab Center. Although he had some deficits and had to build his strength back up, he recovered very well. About a week after his discharge, Joey was having some memory loss, so he returned to McLaren Flint and it was discovered that his brain had been swelling, a common complication of a SAH. To help take the pressure off his brain, Joey had a shunt put in. This allows fluid to pass normally from one part of the body to another. After this surgery, his memory began to improve. 

“Joey is doing very well today and is back to his work full-time as head of maintenance at Boyne Falls Public Schools,” said Barb. “Some things are difficult for him, but overall, he is doing really well. He doesn’t let anything stop him. He has even gotten back to working on small engines, which has always been a hobby he enjoys.

“I am so grateful for the McLaren Flint and McLaren Northern Michigan medical teams. Their amazing care is the reason my husband is still here today.”

Information about McLaren Flint’s Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center and the McLaren Stroke Network is available here.