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It started with a tingle in his left arm as Ryan Tressel was placing a 285-pound barbell back on the rack in his high school’s weight room. He mentioned it to his coach, who dismissed it as most likely a pinched nerve. As he headed back to where he’d been exercising, the then 16-year-old tripped over a bench and fell flat on his face. That’s when everything started spiraling out of control.


His head hurt. He felt nauseous. He was drifting in and out of consciousness. An alarmed head football coach sent everyone out of the room and summoned an ambulance. By the time Tressel arrived at Genesys Regional Medical Center’s emergency department, his condition had deteriorated so rapidly that “on the (Glasgow) Coma Score 15 is normal and 3 to 4 is like a piece of wood, Ryan was a 4 to 5,” recalls Dr. Avery Jackson.


A CT scan showed a large, right front temporal hemorrhage that was displacing the young man’s brain. Death seemed imminent. “This type of hemorrhage is highly unusual for someone his age,” Dr. Jackson notes, adding that Tressel was fortunate to have been transported to Genesys, since it has the region’s only Advanced Primary Stroke Center.


Tressel’s next memory after Dr. Jackson performed the delicate surgery that saved his life was waking up in a recovery room, feeling confused, and seeing his parents, grandmother, coach, and athletic trainer by his bedside. It wasn’t until days later that he learned what happened to him. The damage done to his brain by the hemorrhage affected his speech and vision.


Tressel’s come a long way since then, especially with the help of a physical therapy group recommended by Dr. Jackson. “The first place told me they’d done all they could,” he says. “But I’ve been improving by leaps and bounds with the physical therapists he recommended.”


“Michigan Neurosurgical Institute does more than treat spinal problems. I partner with the stroke center at Genesys doing intracranial surgery,” says Dr. Jackson.


The fact that Tressel now has his whole life ahead of him was brought home to Dr. Jackson when his former patient stopped by to drop off his high school senior picture. “He’s come back with very intensive therapy,” says Dr. Jackson. “He had a life-threatening medical episode and I was happy to be part of saving his life.”