Aneurysms In the News

The astute reader will not be at all surprised to learn that I am a longtime fan of both BattleBots* and Mythbusters**, and so the unexpected death of former BattleBots competitor and Mythbusters host Grant Imahara did not escape my notice.

News of Grant’s death broke after I was done with the Internet for the day, and while I would no doubt have come across the story on my own, my attention was directed to it overnight after information about his cause of death—namely, a ruptured cerebral aneurysm—was released. Having learned more than I really cared to know about such things, I now take note, including retroactively, when I hear that other people have suffered them, such as:

You know how, when you buy a car, you suddenly start seeing the same car everywhere? It’s sort of like that. Only with, uh, fewer survivors.

Anyway, like I said, I have watched every episode of BattleBots and most episodes of Mythbusters, so the news about what happened to Grant was an especial shock. Plus he’s just about my age, although I would have guessed he was a little younger. Must be all that boyish enthusiasm he had.

Eat your heart out Roman candles.

Now of course this isn’t The Ruptured Cerebral Aneurysm blog*** but there’s one important point about what happened to Grant Imahara, which is this:

Grant Imahara, the MythBusters host who died Monday after suffering a brain aneurysm, had reportedly been suffering from painful headaches in the days leading up to his death. Sources close to the Discovery Channel star’s family told TMZ Imahara had been experiencing migraines for a few days before Saturday night when he was having dinner with his fiancée at a home in Los Angeles.

What Grant Imahara was experiencing sounds like what are referred to as “sentinel headaches“. These are headaches that can occur with aneurysms when they bleed a little prior to a full-on rupture. Percentages vary; I’ve seen estimates of between 15% up to 60%. I didn’t mention them in my series about The Event because I didn’t have them, but if I had, I, like Grant Imahara, most likely would not have sought treatment for them.

Me (after reading story about Grant to wife): “I think he was having sentinel headaches. If I had had those, I probably would have ignored them****.”
Wife: “Yes, you would have.”

So to the list of reasons why I was the luckiest unlucky person in California last year, we can add the fact that when my aneurysm ruptured it hit me hard enough that I couldn’t possibly ignore it*****, but not hard enough to, you know, kill me.

Sadly, it’s too late for Grant, but for everyone else: If you suddenly start getting headaches of unusual intensity, duration, or frequency, pay attention. Your brain may be trying to tell you something.

* Favorite BattleBot: Wtich Doctor
** Favorite myth: Tesla’s Earthquake Machine. But that Hwacha was a close second.
*** It’s actually The Jim Isn’t Very Good at Peddling His Books blog.
**** I used to get migraines at least a few times a year, and regular headaches much more frequently.
***** Not that I didn’t try, for the first few minutes.

8 thoughts on “Aneurysms In the News

  1. It does seem as if we’re seeing more of this lately, I think because we’re more aware of it, thanks to you. I hope that, because of your experience, some lives will be saved.


  2. Several years ago, I had the most awful headache ever…like there were a million peeps inside my head all trying to get out using jackhammers. I was at work, and at first I thought it was stress induced…my vitals were rather normal, but since I couldn’t function like that I went to urgent care. Who did a stat CT scan…which thankfully was negative…turns out I had mono. Yup, nothing to do with my head, but plain old Mono, which plagued me like that for about 10 days. Ugh. Would you believe, triggered by a flu shot? (Way back in 2013, I think…not had one of those since, and have not had more than minor colds since then either…the doc thinks I contracted the mono virus when I was on Chemo, back in 2006/7.)

    Yes, if peeps are more aware of things, and read about other’s experiences it might save their own lives later.


  3. How painfully sad. I would imagine, if I were in your shoes, cases of aneurisms would be something I’d be more alert to, a bit like if I see anything about chronic pain, migraines or stomas in the news. It’s an interesting note on the ‘sentinel’ headaches and migraines. It’s just how on earth would you know, especially if you get migraines anyway, whether they’re something to be concerned of to a greater degree, that rather than ‘just’ regular migraines they’re warning signs? If intervention could be improved around aneurisms, that would be a good time to insert further support and investigation once someone either starts getting sudden migraines or notices some kind of difference in regular ones perhaps. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly right, and it’s why I would likely have ignored sentinel headaches, if I’d had them; I used to get migraines (and regular headaches) all the time, to the extent that, years ago, my doctor sent me for CAT scans to check out what was going on inside my head. Those turned up nothing, though, so apparently my aneurysm was a more recent phenomenon.

      Treating aneurysms, even when they’re found, is a tricky business. A lot of the time they just take a wait-and-see approach, since most of them never rupture, and interventions can actually trigger the hemorrhage they’re trying to prevent. If they’d known about mine, they would have just kept an eye on it, since at 3mm it was pretty small. But as my neurosurgeon said, when I mentioned that I’d read aneurysms that size usually don’t rupture, “That’s true. But it turns out yours had a 100% chance of rupturing.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a sad, and sobering post, James, but useful. I’ve listened, and I hope I’d do as you advise. Since hearing about your experiences it’s certainly a lot more likely I’d think that migraines could need checking out, rather than just waiting for them to go away. So thank you, for telling us.


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