Yotam Yonatan, a 48-year-old resident of a small town in Northern Israel, could not believe it when a serious bicycle accident that caused him to lose consciousness actually saved his life.
If you ask Yonatan, a resident of Beit Shean in Northern Israel, what the best day of his life was, his answer will surprise you. He will recount the day he had a bicycle accident on his way to work. Although he was unconscious for three days, he will tell you that the accident saved his life.
For the last twelve years, Yonatan has been cycling to work: “A section of the road that I ride on is very steep. Suddenly, I flew off my bicycle and hit a railing on the side of the road. I don’t know what happened exactly, but three days later, I woke up in Rambam Health Care Campus.”
Minutes after his accident, Yonatan, now unconscious, was evacuated by helicopter to Rambam, the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region, for treatment and observation of a severe head injury.
Yonatan survived the life-threatening head injury but no sooner was he out of danger, then Rambam doctors gave him some bad news – his life was still in danger! Surprisingly, the almost-fatal cycling accident became a positive event, and within a few short weeks, Rambam’s medical teams had saved his life for a second time.
Although Yonatan’s head injury had been successfully treated, further tests revealed a region in his brain with abnormal interconnections between the cerebral arteries and veins – known as a fistula. They are considered to be ticking time bombs; over time, they can cause life-threatening brain hemorrhages.
Dr. Eytan Abergel, director of the Invasive Neuroradiology Unit (Brain Catheterization) at Rambam explained, “The very large nature of the fistula required immediate treatment. It was causing swelling and increased pressure within the arteries and veins of his brain. This increased arterial-venous pressure could have lead to a brain hemorrhage and sudden-death. In the absence of treatment, the probability of a brain hemorrhage is high. Yonatan’s accident led to the early detection of his fistula, meaning that he could be treated and prevent its dangers.”
After recovering from his accident and head-injury, Yonatan returned to Rambam for further treatment – a brain catheterization. Dr. Abergel inserted a thin catheter into an artery in Yonatan’s groin. The catheter was gently guided up into his brain, as close to the fistula as possible. Dr. Abergel then injected a special “glue” to close off the joined vessels, thereby preventing any abnormal blood flow. The catheterization procedure was successful and, following observation, Yonatan was discharged two days later.
“Our patient can certainly, be thankful,” said Dr. Abergel. “We don’t always know why a fistula develops, but in this case, the patient’s head injury had nothing to do with the condition that was (silently) threatening his life. Treating his head-injury led to discovery of the fistula and enabled immediate life-saving treatment.”
In a period of weeks, Yonatan had been saved for a second time. A man-of-faith, Yonatan believes that fate played an important role in his story. “I owe you my thanks, not once, but twice,” he said, before being discharged to home. “The first time, I recovered without pain or suffering. The second time, I happily returned to Rambam for treatment because I knew I was in good hands. God hears our prayers, and the prayers for me! Rambam did what they were supposed to do and they saved my life on two occasions. I owe them a big thank you, not only once, but twice,” Yonatan concluded.