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For Retired Teacher, Washington Hospital's World-Class Neurovascular Care Was Just a Helicopter Ride Away

Rare combination of specialized treatments helped Clear Lake man survive life-threatening brain hemorrhage

John Carr may be a retired teacher, but his life is anything but sedentary. He can often be found working around the multi-acre property in Clear Lake where he and his wife Vicki live. He clears leaves and debris, chops firewood using a log splitter, works on the couple’s sail boat and does a myriad of other projects to maintain his home while enjoying the out-of-doors.

Not long ago, John strode around his acreage with a new appreciation for life and his good fortune. The reason? Just three weeks before, he had been struck by an event that could have left him seriously disabled or even dead. Without warning, a tiny bulge in the wall of an artery in his head had burst and began leaking blood into his brain. John had suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.

He was rushed to the local community hospital where the emergency department physician recognized the seriousness and urgency of his condition. But, as with many small, local hospitals, the life-saving treatment John needed was not available in his community.

Fortunately, the doctor knew about Washington Hospital’s highly sophisticated Neurovascular program with physicians specially trained to give John the advanced treatment he needed. Thanks to emergency medical transport services, these services were only a short helicopter flight away.

As an independent, district hospital serving southern Alameda County since 1958, Washington Hospital works to give Tri-City residents local access to leading edge medical care. Advanced services, like the Hospital’s Neurovascular program, are usually only located at large teaching institutions in the U.S. and are rarely found at community hospitals.

“We are building a Cerebrovascular Center of Excellence at Washington Hospital, and are working to make world-class care and treatment readily available to local residents when they need it,” said the Neurovascular program’s Medical Director Jeffrey Thomas, MD, FACS. Dr. Thomas is a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon and neurointerventionalist.

“Since these services are not available in most communities across the country, we knew we would also have the opportunity to treat people like John, who come from other areas,” he continued. Dr. Thomas led the highly trained medical team that performed John’s surgery.

There is another reason John was fortunate to come to Washington Hospital. The optimal treatment for his type of cerebral aneurysm required two separate surgeries. Dr. Thomas is one of only a few cerebrovascular neurosurgeons in the country who can perform both. This combination of two different procedures performed on the same day to treat a ruptured cerebral aneurysm successfully is exceptionally rare. It required 11 hours of surgery.

First, Dr. Thomas performed a procedure called coiling. This is a minimally invasive treatment that requires the surgeon to guide a tiny catheter through a small cut in the patient’s groin on a long, tortuous journey through the arterial system to the location of the aneurysm in the brain. Then, thin metal wires are placed into the aneurysm, forming a mesh ball that causes the blood to clot and stop leaking. John’s aneurysm met certain criteria about shape and location that made it a good candidate for the coiling procedure, but other features prevented its complete elimination by coils.

So, right after the coiling procedure, with John still under general anesthesia, Dr. Thomas performed a separate surgery called clipping. For this procedure, the patient’s scalp, skull and coverings of the brain are opened, and the surgeon places a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm to prevent the aneurysm breaking open again.

“Many surgeons perform only the coiling or the clipping procedure,” explained Dr. Thomas. “By doing both procedures, we eliminated the aneurysm entirely. Doing the coiling first also helped to avoid the risk of another rupture occurring during the clipping procedure.”

After surgery, John remained in the Hospital under the care of neurointensive care and cerebrovascular disease expert Jack Rose, MD, and his team of specialized nurses and other medical professionals. After a ruptured cerebral aneurysm is repaired, the patient continues to be in danger from the effects of the hemorrhage for the next several weeks. The Neurocritical care unit at Washington Hospital provides intensive, round-the-clock care to help patients get through the first critical weeks after surgery.

“Mr. Carr is an excellent example of what the Neurovascular program at Washington Hospital is all about,” concluded Dr. Thomas. “We are not focused on one technology or one type of procedure. Rather, we are prepared and dedicated to doing the safest and most effective things to ensure the well-being and survival of each individual patient.”

Learn more.

To learn more about the Neurovascular program at Washington Hospital, visit To learn more about Drs. Thomas and Rose, who are affiliated with the Washington Township Medical Foundation, go to