EL RENO — Mario Guzman was ready to pack his bags and head to Argentina or Turkey.
He had an inoperable aneurysm that could burst, five children to raise, and not a lot of time.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wasn't moving fast enough on approving the device that could save his life. Even though a trip to another country for the surgery would be costly, it was starting to look appealing.
“If it wasn't for Dr. Tytle constantly calling me and ensuring me it would go through, I might have gone to Argentina or Turkey a year before,” Guzman said. “But I'm glad we waited.”
In March, Dr. Timothy Tytle, an interventional radiologist at Mercy Health Center, used a newly approved pipeline stent to repair Guzman's aneurysm.
About a month ago, Tytle brought Guzman in to see how his aneurysm had changed since the surgery.
“We were very surprised to see the aneurysm, as large, as complex as it was, is totally gone,” Tytle said. “We don't anticipate the aneurysm will ever recur and fortunately for him, as is not the case for everyone, he only had one aneurysm so there's nothing else we have to address.”
An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery because of weakness in the wall of a blood vessel, according to the National Library of Medicine. A fusiform aneurysm is commonly defined as an elongated, spindle-shaped dilation of an artery.
Guzman was diagnosed about two years ago with a fusiform aneurysm. He initially went to the doctor because of repeated headaches. Doctors initially thought his allergies were bothering him but discovered he had viral meningitis and the aneurysm behind his right eye.
The base of his aneurysm was the size of his eye socket and was several inches long. Doctors did not want to take the risk of operating, and at the time of his diagnosis, the stent eventually used in Guzman's surgery was not yet available.
Guzman and his wife, Alisa Guzman, discussed going to another country for the procedure, but the trip and surgery would cost the family about $50,000. Thankfully, in April 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the pipeline stent.
According to the FDA, the Pipeline Embolization Device is a flexible mesh tube made of platinum and a nickel-cobalt-chromium alloy. It can be used to block off large or giant wide-necked aneurysms in the internal carotid artery, a major blood vessel supplying blood to the front of the brain.
So far, Tytle has performed five procedures using the pipeline stent and has two more scheduled. Guzman's remains the most dramatic aneurysm Tytle has repaired using the pipeline stent.
Early prognosis poor
Guzman's prognosis was poor without surgery. The aneurysm was likely to have continued growing and it also could have burst, causing internal hemorrhaging.
Tytle said he had a patient two years ago with an expanding aneurysm who was in a lot of pain. Like Guzman, he was planning to go to Argentina or Turkey for the procedure. But before he could get his passport, he died.
Before the surgery, there were two times when Guzman thought his aneurysm was going to burst. Once, during a stressful work day, he thought he could feel the aneurysm throbbing, he said.
“It was scary because I knew what could happen, and the best thing I could do was relax,” Guzman said.
Since the surgery, Guzman has experienced a renewed sense of positivity and a strengthening of his faith.
Guzman, a member of the Cheyenne tribe, goes to an American Indian ceremony known as a sweat every two weeks. During the sweat, he and other tribe members pray in a sealed hut for a few hours. Before the aneurysm and the surgery, he only went once a year.
Guzman said he believes his American Indian heritage also played a role in his recovery.
Three years ago, Guzman's brother took a vow to cure him. He started participating in a sun dance, a three-day ritual that Guzman's tribe holds every summer in Seiling.
During the ritual, Guzman's brother must dance for three days and three nights without food or water.
“The whole time he's dancing, you're praying,” Guzman said. “I feel like that had a lot to do with my success because he sacrificed for me, and my prayer was answered.”