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Minimally Invasive Brain Procedure Saves Mother And Baby

By Kathy Walsh

LAFAYETTE, Colo. (CBS4) - A mother from Lafayette has a new outlook after surviving a brain aneurysm that blinded her in one eye. Doctors were able to restore her sight and save her baby with a procedure done through just a tiny puncture in her groin.

Adorable Asher House-Rhoda is four months old.

stent-coiling-5pkg House-Rhoda
Asher House-Rhoda

"When I look at him every day, I think 'I'm glad you're here,'" said Julie House-Rhoda, Asher's mother.

That's because just five months before Asher's birth, his mother had brain surgery.

"Right about this time a year ago, I was losing vision in my left eye. I just noticed it out of the blue," House-Rhoda told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Julie House-Rhoda pregant with Asher (credit: CBS)

She had a brain aneurysm pressing on her optic nerve. It's a balloon-like bulge in a blood vessel, what some call a tiny ticking time bomb.

"We didn't know if we both were going to make it, if he was going to make it, all of that, " explained House-Rhoda.

"Treating aneurysms, whether they're ruptured or not, is a dangerous thing," said Dr. Christopher Roark, a neurosurgeon at the University of Colorado Hospital.

stent-coiling-5p7kg brain aneurysm
Dr. Christopher Roark shows CBS4's Kathy Walsh the brain aneurysm (credit: CBS)

And House-Rhoda's pregnancy complicated things.

"You can induce pre-term labor. There are also concerns about harming the fetus," said Roark.

At UCH, House-Rhoda's multidisciplinary team consisted of neurology, Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists, and neuro-ophthalmology. They met regularly to ensure she could deliver her baby in the safest way possible.

In April, when House-Rhoda was 20 weeks pregnant, Roark threaded two micro-catheters through her groin up into the artery with the aneurysm. Using X-ray guidance, the neurosurgeon placed a Medtronic's tiny Pipeline embolization device -- a braided stent composed of 48 wire strands woven together -- across the aneurysm and a platinum coil inside it. The Pipeline embolization device diverts the blood flow away from the aneurysm. The coil promotes clotting.

No aneurysm in Julie House-Rhoda's latest scan (credit: CBS)

"There's no aneurysm there," Roark said pointing to House-Rhoda's latest brain scan.

Her vision returned. Baby Asher was born without complications.

"I mean grateful doesn't even begin to sum it up," said House-Rhoda.

stent-coiling-5pkg Julie House-Rhoda
Julie House-Rhoda with Asher (credit: CBS)

House-Rhoda is a hospice nurse. She believes what she's been through has made her a better mother, but also a better nurse. This time, she was in the bed experiencing the fear and other emotions. Now, she better understands the patients she cares for.

LINK: Pipeline Embolization Device Information

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.


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