Northwell Health doctors help save the life of a retired firefighter who suffered a brain aneurysm

Manhasset, L.I.—Steve Calzolano was a New York City firefighter.

He had just retired, when his doctor said he had a textbook case brain aneurysm.

"Had the worst headache of his life. Out of nowhere. I think right after he retired. Healthy, robust individual," Dr. David Chalif explained.

Steve recalls what was an average day, when things took a sudden turn for the worse.

"I was out cleaning my gutters on a rainy Sunday morning. Felt a little dizzy. I put one foot down and that’s all I remember," Calzolano recalled.

He was rushed to the emergency room where doctors determined it was a burst aneurysm.

He was immediately taken to North Shore University Hospital, under the care of Dr. Chalif, who clipped the aneurysm and saved Steve's life.

Dr. Chalif, a neurosurgeon for Northwell Health, says the biggest concern for aneurysms is that they can come out of nowhere and take a life.

"Anyone can have it. You don’t have to be a smoker or hypertensive. If there is a family history of aneurysms, we will tell the patient to be checked," Dr. Chalif said.

Aneurysms often strike people in their 50's.

Many times, what's called a warning leak, or a severe headache, will occur before the aneurysm bursts.

Dr. Chalif explained the difference between a migraine or a regular headache and the headache you get just before an aneurysm bursts.

"Everyone has headaches. Everyone has tension, stress headaches, migraines. A headaches from a neurological problem, particularly an aneurysm that’s ruptured, is a completely different experience. And it is a very typical type of response from the patient that it's the worst headache of their life," Dr. Chalif said.

Despite the seriousness of the disease, the one thing Dr. Chalif says keeps him motivated as a neurosurgeon is that if you can clip a burst aneurysm, the chance of a patient ever developing another one is slim to none.

For Steve, it's been ten months since his aneurysm burst.

He says he is grateful for his second chance and the care he received from the staff at Northwell Health.

He's planning to participate in Northwell's 10th annual Brain Aneurysm Awareness Walk this September 22nd.

"Let's try to raise awareness. You get a headache, don't ignore it," Calzolano said.

For more on the walk, click here.

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