Former NBA Commissioner David Stern (L), pictured in 2014 with former NBA player Yao Ming, has been … [+]
On Thursday, David Stern, the 77-year-old former commissioner of the NBA suffered a brain hemorrhage, underwent emergency surgery, and is now in a hospital in New York City.
This is the David Stern who for 30 years had been Commissioner of the NBA. That was from 1984, when a guy named Michael Jordan entered the league, to 2014. Under his watch, the league went from a set of 23 teams worth about $400 million to 30 teams worth $19 billion, a bit of a jump. This accompanied a surge in the growth and popularity of the game, with the NBA’s presence and operations expanding significantly worldwide.
Stern was clearly a towering figure in a sport that has had many towering people. But for now, the concern is for Stern’s health. ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski offered a few more details on what happened yesterday with the following tweet:
Others on social media expressed support for Stern and hoped that he would be able to pull through, such as the Magic Man himself:
The, there was this segment on TNT’s Inside the NBA:
At this time, it is difficult to tell exactly how Stern is doing or will do. A brain hemorrhage is a very general term for any type of bleeding that occurs somewhere in or around the brain. Other names for brain hemorrhage are intracerebral hemorrhage or cerebral hemorrhage, because the word cerebrum is more fancy medical-speak for brain. Your brain has lots of blood vessels because it needs lots of oxygen to do all that it does, ranging from keeping your vital body functions running to allowing you to text.
That round hard object that sits on top of your body is your skull, otherwise known as your cranium. Bleeding that occurs inside your skull is considered an intracranial hemorrhage. Any such bleeding is a medical emergency because your cranium is like New York City real estate. Many valuable things are packed very tightly together without too much extra room. Any type of bleeding can not only interrupt blood flow to certain areas but also build up pressure inside your cranium that can in turn damage your brain as well.
Therefore, it is important to know if any bleeding is occurring. However, your brain is not like your hand. You can’t look at it periodically to see if it is bleeding. Therefore, typically you won’t realize that a brain hemorrhage is happening until symptoms arise. This can mean that damage is occurring before you even notice that anything has gone awry. Such symptoms can include:
- Tingling in various parts of your body,
- A headache, especially one that’s much worse than you have ever had
- Numbness of weakness
- Loss of function in different parts of your body
- Coordination or balance problems
- Problems comprehending what someone is saying
- Speaking , reading, or writing difficulties
- A change or loss of consciousness
If there is any suspicion of a brain hemorrhage, time is of the essence. Your brain cells can’t survive for longer than six minutes without oxygen. Again, blood is the source of oxygen for them. Therefore, the key is to stop the bleeding and restore normal blood flow as soon as possible.
While all brain cells are like your children, you should love each and every one of them, some parts of your brain are more vital to maintaining life and function than others, such as the parts that control your breathing. Therefore, the location of the bleed does matter in terms of survival and loss of function. So does the size of the bleed. The bigger the bleed, the worse the prognosis, of course.
What caused the bleeding in the first place matters as well. Think of the blood vessels in your brain as pipes, or more like hoses since they are more flexible than pipes. These pipes or hoses carry blood to different locations of your noggin. Blood can leak or flood out if the walls of the vessels are compromised in any way. This can happen your blood pressure is too high for the walls to handle, sort of like trying to force too much water through a pipe. A blood vessel can also leak or burst when its walls become too thin and weak, as in the case of an aneurysm, which is when that part of the vessel starts to bulge like a balloon animal. Another possible cause is when the blood vessel gets blocked by something like a blood clot or a tumor. Thus, a brain hemorrhage can be the consequence of another problem that needs to be fixed as well.
Stern’s surgery was presumably to fix the blood vessel that either leaked or burst and potentially anything that might have led to the blood vessel being compromised. After surgery, he should be receiving medications and fluids to make sure that his blood pressure doesn’t get too high or too low and other medications to prevent and treat possible complications of brain injury such as seizures and anxiety. Typically, after such surgeries, patients will remain on a breathing machine until they are able to breathe on their own. The main question is how much function has been lost and how much can be restored through physical therapy and other types of therapy.
As you can tell, a brain hemorrhage is a very, very serious medical emergency. No one should ever say that they just had a minor brain hemorrhage. The hope is that doctors got to Stern quickly enough to prevent major damage. I will try to provide updates on his condition as they emerge.