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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014

News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Decorated veteran overcomes new challenge

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Upper St. Clair man undergoes new aneurysm surgery

By Janice Crompton

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Having nearly lost his life 40 years ago and again this summer, Patrick Keally knows what it means to be thankful.

"Every day is pretty much a Thanksgiving for me since 1969," said the Upper St. Clair police corporal, referencing his time as a wounded Vietnam War veteran.

Though he received some staggering injuries in that war, including spending five days in a coma, it was a brain aneurysm -- smaller than a centimeter -- that nearly downed the former Marine corporal and gunnery sergeant.

But, with the help of Allegheny General Hospital neurosurgeon Khaled Aziz and Upper St. Clair ophthalmologist Erik Happ, the Peters resident underwent a radical new aneurysm repair surgery and is on the road to recovery.

Dr. Aziz, who began developing a minimally invasive technique for intracranial surgery during his time as a medical resident at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, has teamed up to perform the surgery with Dr. Happ on 32 occasions during the past four years.

"We're like a well-oiled machine," Dr. Happ said. "The patients have just been very pleased and happy."

"It has been fantastic teamwork," Dr. Aziz said.

Cpl. Keally was referred to the doctors after he suffered a mysterious mini-stroke this summer. After ruling out a heart or lung problem, doctors discovered the aneurysm, a weak spot on his carotid artery that had ballooned outward and filled with blood, putting pressure on his brain and entangling with the bone of his skull.

Cpl. Keally, who has been with the Upper St. Clair police department for 25 years, suffered shrapnel and other wounds in Vietnam. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star that included the "Combat V," a special award for valor during direct combat.

He has continued to reinjure bones that were broken during the war and has suffered ongoing side effects from his exposure to Agent Orange, such as skin problems and vein damage.

For those reasons and because of an injury to his brain from a rocket-propelled grenade explosion, Cpl. Keally suspected he had a brain tumor.

"I thought maybe it was an old head injury coming back," said Cpl. Keally, who was shocked to find that he had an aneurysm instead, especially because no one else in his family had ever had one.

Doctors have told him they don't know what caused the aneurysm, but finding it in the nick of time saved his life.

"They found it to be a lot worse when they got in there," he said of the surgery, which revealed a larger aneurysm than doctors previously suspected.

Certain patients with brain tumors and aneurysms may qualify for the surgery based on the location and size of the mass, which is removed through a small incision in the fold of the eyelid.

Dr. Happ, who specializes in oculoplastics at AGH, which includes surgery of the eye socket, eyelids and tear ducts, exposes the brain through the tiny incision and removal of the bone above the eyebrow.

Dr. Aziz then takes over, removing the mass before Dr. Happ restores the bone with the use of plates and cement.

The result? A much shorter recovery time than traditional surgical methods and a nearly perfect cosmetic outcome.

 

To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site.

 

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