An opera singer treated at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi returned to the hospital to perform for patients and staff on Wednesday, October 16, in a gesture of thanks to the people she credits with saving her life and in advance of World Stroke Day on October 29.
Louise Ryan suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, an uncommon form of stroke caused by a burst aneurysm in her brain in February 2018.
An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery caused by a weakening in the blood vessel wall. A burst aneurysm is fatal in around half of all cases and can lead to permanent disability such as paralysis or a loss of vision or speech, which could have ended her singing career.
She had a stroke
“I was at the gym with my husband and I suddenly felt this terrible pain from the top of my neck going up all the way to the front of my head. I could tell this was something serious: I felt nauseous and had a weird sensation all over the left side of my body,” says Ryan, who most recently performed with Emirati composer Hamad Altee for his first solo show at Manarat Al Sadiyat.
Concerned, she sought treatment at a nearby hospital.
By the time she arrived, she was having trouble walking and seeing properly. After being evaluated, she was transferred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, the official stroke center for Abu Dhabi city.
Upon arrival, the hospital’s specialist stroke team stabilized her condition and performed an angiogram to determine the cause of her symptoms.
Lucky to be alive
“Louise was certainly one of the lucky ones, since around 15 percent of people who suffer a burst aneurysm pass away before reaching a hospital. Although her aneurysm had burst, she arrived at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi awake and alert with no neurological deficit.
After we stabilized her in our ICU, we were able to treat her using a minimally invasive, endovascular procedure before it could lead to further complications,” explains Dr. Khalil Zahra, a neurointerventional surgeon at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Neurological Institute.
Surgeons treated her aneurysm using a procedure called endovascular coiling. The minimally invasive procedure uses a catheter to reach the aneurysm through the patient’s arteries, removing the need to perform open surgery on the brain.
Once the catheter reaches the aneurysm, a platinum coil is released to encourage the blood to clot and the aneurysm to scar over.
Following her treatment, Louise was admitted for observation. She was in the hospital for three weeks to allow the care team to monitor her recovery and ensure that she was not suffering from any complications such as a re-bleed of the aneurysm or brain damage.
Back to her passion
Less than three months after suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage, she returned to her passion, performing as a mezzo soprano with the National Symphony Orchestra at a concert in Abu Dhabi. A passionate singer, Louise now teaches children’s singing classes across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
She sang in the gallery of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for a lunchtime performance on Wednesday, October 16 at 12:30. Open to the public, the theme of her performance was love and gratitude in recognition of the life-saving care she received at the hospital.
“I felt I couldn’t do enough for the staff that did so much to care for me during my illness. Every single caregiver went above and beyond. Since my stroke, I have a much deeper appreciation of life and of everything I’m able to do. I saw the piano in the lobby, and I thought it would be a beautiful way to say thank you. If you’re caring for people, the best thing you can see is them fully recovered and going back to doing something they love,” concludes Ryan.