Cause & Effect

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and we’ve started it off with another celebrity death due to a ruptured cerebral aneurysm ― arguably even higher profile than Grant Imahara’s sudden death in 2020, at least for those who never watched Battlebots or Mythbusters. I’m referring of course to Tom Sizemore, who was hospitalized on February 18th, 2023, and apparently never regained consciousness before passing away on March 3rd, 2023.

Although Tom Sizemore had a troubled personal life (including arrests for methamphetamine, which can contribute to aneurysms), in the late 1990s through the early 2000s he gave excellent performances in a number of top-notch films, such as Heat, Saving Private Ryan, and my personal favorite entry in his filmography, Strange Days, featuring Voldemort himself, Ralph Fiennes:

Now, unfortunately, Tom Sizemore’s medical trouble also proved to be the occasion for some inaccurate/questionable reporting, starting with the initial stories, which generally said something to the effect of “Tom Sizemore has been hospitalized after suffering an aneurysm“. This is a fairly typical way to see the condition described—in fact, I did it myself in one of my books—but the truth is, you don’t get hospitalized after suffering an aneurysm. You get hospitalized after an aneurysm you already have, which has almost certainly gone undetected and has very likely presented no symptoms, ruptures. I did see some commentary on this mischaracterization, and even finally joined Reddit just so I could upvote a neurologist who commented on the subject, but mostly I just waited for updates. When they didn’t come after several days, I didn’t figure there was going to be a good outcome, as indeed there was not. And this is when the reporting got really bad.

The Hollywood Reporter was far from the only offender here. It was just the first one I encountered.

So once this news broke, just about every story I saw about it repeated the same error, stating that Tom Sizemore had suffered a brain aneurysm from a stroke. But this is not how it works. Strokes don’t cause aneurysms; ruptured aneurysms cause subarachnoid hemorrhages or hemorrhagic strokes. (Don’t take my word for it; ask the experts, or the other experts, or the other other experts, or …) When even The New York Times repeated this error, I felt compelled to comment:

This is just bad information to be giving people. No doubt the Times and other sources were just repeating what they were told by Mr. Sizemore’s publicists/family/doctors (well, one hopes the doctors would know better), but it’s important to get this kind of thing right because such incorrect reporting may worry stroke patients for no good reason (and they already have plenty to worry about), and it may give people who haven’t had strokes the false impression that there’s no way they could have an aneurysm, when in reality up to one person in fifty is walking around with an aneurysm and hasn’t got the faintest idea about it.

Lord knows I didn’t.

9 thoughts on “Cause & Effect

  1. You are one of the lucky ( or should I say “blessed”?) few who have survived a ruptured aneurysm with no impairment, but it has given you a mission, and that’s good. You have a platform from which I believe you are saving lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for clarification about Tom Sizemore….I was confused as to what happened. I truly wish the Media would get their facts correct.
    I am so sorry Tom Sizemore did not survive; it was very shocking to hear of his death.
    After your ‘event’ James I went to Neurologist & asked for a Head Scan. Up until I’d asked for this test; he was a GOOD Doctor. When I stated my request he snickered at me & said in a sarcastic tone “Why do you want THAT done? You think you have an Aneurysm?”
    My reply in my head was “Well D”UH?? Of course I am worried I have one with all the knocks to my head from Seizures….) I replied out loud I was concerned about the trauma to my head from the Seizures & felt it was appropriate. I DID have Head Scan & it showed nothing……..I mean my brain is there but NO damages or tumors or other sketchy stuff present.
    You taught me alot about head health & I am so grateful to you for sharing your journey with us your followers!
    {{{hugs}}} Sherri-Ellen aka BellaSita Mum an **purrss** BellaDharma

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad your scan didn’t turn up anything sketchy! They don’t always elect to treat an unruptured aneurysm (they probably wouldn’t have treated mine, if they had found it, because it was so small) but it’s a good thing to be aware of, and an even better thing to know you haven’t got one! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The media are not medical people, so gthey just spout out whtever info thwey *think* is the right thing, and it does lead to some false facts…only they are not the facts. Sheesh!

    I hope one day they will research what they send to the public before they publish.
    Thanks for being sch a good advocate for ‘the cause’!

    My hubby has had a head CT scan and an MRI to determine why he had a seizure back last fall, but at least it did not reveal any aneurysms. Phew!
    My mother and I have some AV malformations, she had a large one on her spinal column, and I have one on my wrist. and in my nose… Not sure if I should ask for a head scan to rule out one in my brain…something to discuss with my doc, sooner or later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AVMs come up from time to time in the aneurysm group I’m in on Facebook. I gather brain ones are pretty rare, but I tend to fall into the “more information is better” camp so I would probably get scanned if it were me. If you do go, here’s hoping it doesn’t turn anything up!


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