First-of-its-kind surgery in W MI heals local man

Kirk Norwood developed a fusiform aneurysm after being assaulted

Kirk Norwood. (March 28, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Kirk Norwood learned he had a rare brain aneurysm, the outlook doctors gave him was bleak.

“‘There’s no procedure known to man that can help you,'” Norwood said he was told. “‘We can’t put a stint on it, we can’t do nothing for you. Your aneurysm is very rare.'”

But after going under the knife in a first-of-its-kind surgery in West Michigan, he’s no longer living with the constant fear that the aneurysm could kill him.

Several years ago, Norwood was enjoying a summer afternoon when he was brutally attacked. It happened so fast, he remembered — three men hit him repeatedly in the head with a bat.

“The last person hit me hit me right here over the head with a baseball bat. When I woke up, it was people all around me,” recalled Norwood, now 51. “I was laying on the curb, blood, everything. People all over the place. I was rushed to the hospital, and that’s when all the problems started.”

He had headaches, memory loss and was blacking out — symptoms of the head trauma. Later, he learned he had what’s called a fusiform aneurysm, a type that makes up less than 1 percent of all brain aneurysms.

“When you have significant trauma to your head, that can cause that blood vessel to push up against that piece of tissue and cause damage and potentially this aneurysm to form,” said Dr. Justin Clark of Great Lakes Neurological Associates.

The fear was that it could rupture and kill Norwood. Up to 50 percent of patients who have aneurysm rupture die before they get to the hospital.

But he found the doctors trained to operate on cases like his right here in West Michigan.

“It involves using again a high-powered microscope and then a suture that is half the diameter of a human hair to sew these blood vessels together,” Dr. Clark explained.

The procedure — an intracranial-to-intracranial artery direct bypass for trapping of aneurysm — is a surgery that had never been done before in West Michigan.

Dr. Clark and his team performed the surgery in February 2015, and it seems to have worked. Doctors are monitoring Norwood’s recovery, but the outlook is positive.

Monday, Norwood said he’s thankful to be alive.

“You got to keep faith because if you don’t have faith, you’re not going to be here,” he said.

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