MB Mayor champions awareness of brain aneurysms

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – It happens across the country every 18minutes, the rupture of a brain aneurysm, resulting in 12,000 deaths a year.

But unless you know a victim or a survivor, you've probably notpaid much attention to the term or the warning signs.

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes is one of those survivors and nowhe's hoping his awakening could do the same for you.

If you know the Beach Ball Classic Tournament, you know secondterm Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes never misses a game as organizer. But last December,while preparing to honor former Myrtle Beach quarterback Everett Golson –something put everything on hold.

"He says are you nervous. I said why?" the mayor recalls. "Youlook flushed and sweaty," he remembers Golson saying, and his wife Terri sawsshe saw it too.

"His face was very red and when his blood pressure spikes,that's what happens," Terri explains.

On the following day, the pain Mayor Rhodes felt wasoverwhelming. "When I sat down, it was like two lightning bolts goingthrough my head. It was just like a massive, massive headache."

But it wasn't just the pain. The mayor was having vision problemstoo. Rhodes says the payers on the court looked out of focus.

"They said we need to get your blood pressure checked, I said noit's a headache, they said your face is red. I did and he read it and he saidit was 240 over 130."

His normal count is 130/80. He tried his blood pressure medicationfirst.

"And EMS took my pressure again and it hadn't budged andhe said you need to go to the hospital. For the first time I listened tosomebody and I said, you really think this and he said yes," Mayor Rhodesrecalls.

But the test they performed at Grand Strand Regional MedicalCenter showed this was no typical headache.

"Dr. Beldon happened to call me by the time we got to theroom and said John we got a problem. I said what and he said you got a brainaneurysm," the mayor sighed.

WMBF News Anchor Michael Maely asked the mayor, "You pickup that phone and they say you've got an aneurysm, what is going through yourmind?"

"Honestly, I think I sort of went into some type oflittle shock.. but I knew I was in trouble," the mayor replied.

"And how scary is that, how do you put it into words?"Maely inquires.

To which the mayor could only say, "Pretty scary."

Holding back tears at just the thought of it all comingto an end, Rhodes says he tried to stay positive. He even joked with theEmergency Medical Technician on the ride to Charleston and laughed with theWest Virginia fan who would operate on his brain.

"I said I hope you're better than your football team was,"Mayor Rhodes laughs.

His wife Terri looked for levity too, despite losing tworelatives to aneurysms and knowing John's father has an aneurysm on his aorta.She says she never lost focus.

"My faith means a lot to me and I was told that John wasgoing to be fine," Terri assures.

But the pictures showed a haunting obstacle.

"John's aneurysm had an aneurysm, it was a deformedaneurysm. Which means he had a double weakness, which made doctors moreconcerned about his situation. And that's why they operated on him immediately,"Terri details.

Doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina wouldgo in through the leg to repair the expanding artery. If that failed they'dneed to go in through the head.

"They told us what could possibly happen, all of it bad. Youhit something wrong in the brain and you could be a vegetable," Terri says.

The couple says doctors told them typically 90 percent ofpeople with the condition do not survive; however, the surgery appeared towork.

"I kept whispering, you're back in your room, everythingis beautiful and you're fine," Terri whispers.

"How do you put into words your feelings when you sawthat he was coming to?" Michael Maely asks.

"We had more to do together," Terri replies.

But there were serious complications. A coil – like the one seen in thisvideo – used to seal off the aneurysm slipped out of place. Then a test ofthe mayor's spinal cord fluid showed his aneurysm had ruptured even beforesurgery, sending blood into his brain and spinal fluid that can cause vesselsto spasm.

It's an unthinkable scenario, but blood thinningmedication and an extra ten days of testing at MUSC gave doctors the confidenceto send Mayor Rhodes home. His check up in February showed no problems.

"Theoretically, I shouldn't be here. But I am and I'mgoing to make the best of it," boasts Mayor Rhodes.

And that means spending more time with his family, andwith their new dog River.

"A rescue dog brought to me a week after I was home andso I thought I was rescued, now we're gonna rescue him," Mayor Rhodes says.

But the couple wants to rescue others by giving them awarning that could save another life. Rhodes hasn't removed his brain aneurysmfoundation bracelet since he got it.

"You think brain aneurysms, strokes, older people, thereis no age criteria on this," Mayor Rhodes explains. And his wife continues tosay they are actually more common in women between the age of 30 and 40.

Among the warnings Mayor Rhodes missed? Even before thatsplitting headache in December there were vision problems – and there wereother headaches.

"November, city council workshop, everything went dark infront of my eyes for like 10 seconds and basically it was like a sugar spike,"the mayor recalls.

Then a short time later, "My granddaughter come runningup and I picked her up and thought I had pulled a muscle, right in the base ofmy neck. But then when I would cough, my head would hurt.

That's when the mayor believes his aneurysm started torupture, and offers this advice. "If you have high blood pressure and you havethis problem, now you're gambling, you're taking a big chance if you don't goand see a doctor.

Smoking for decades the 69-year-old says he had cut backon smoking in the past two years. But now he says he's done.

It's a second chance thousands of aneurysm victims neverget, a chance Mayor John Rhodes says he won't take lightly.

"Hopefully I can do something, things that will berewarding to people, to help save lives," Mayor Rhodes says.

Rhodes says his surgery hasn't slowed down his desire toserve Myrtle Beach. He plans to seek re-election for a third term this year.

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