Beating the Odds

In the back of a dimly lit ambulance, en route to the hospital, Gilbert Murugayah Palany stared at his unconscious son, trying to prepare himself for life after losing a child.

“The doctors told us that he probably wasn't going to make it,” said Gilbert, “so as a family we held hands and prepared to give him to God.”

His son, Christopher Gilbert Murugayah was a typical college student, attending UCO. He was brilliant at computer science, spent time playing video games and worked a part-time job to help pay tuition. Everything was normal until August 29, 2005.

After work, Christopher went home, complaining of a headache. Believing that everything was okay, he took medicine and went to bed early.

“In the middle of the night, Christopher got sick and immediately slipped into a coma,” said his father.

Christopher had suffered a brain aneurysm, a condition that causes a ballooning-out of the wall of an artery of the brain. When a weak spot develops in the artery, it usually bursts, resulting in bleeding on the brain.

What made Christopher's situation unique is that his condition was caused by an Arterio-Venous Malformation (AVM), which is an abnormal collection of blood vessels. Essentially this is a ball of blood vessels that have entangled, preventing the proper flow of oxygenated blood to the brain.

“Basically, this area of tangled blood vessels, on the left side of his brain, prevented the proper blood flow and as a result, backed up pressure in the vessels,” said Dr. Timothy Tytle, a vascular and interventional radiologist. “His condition could have been present for a number of years. Christopher could have even been born with this entanglement.”

After the bleeding had been contained and a tremendous amount of fluids removed from the brain to prevent swelling, Christopher began to stabilize.

The Murugayah family moved to Oklahoma from Malaysia in August of 1999. Gilbert is a minister and it was this faith that gave his family the strength they needed during their son’s illness.

“This was a very tough time for all of us. He was in the Intensive Care Unit twenty-one days,” Gilbert said. “There are a lot of things that are beyond man's comprehension. We have a finite mind and sooner or later we have to ask ourselves what more can we do? This is what we were facing.”

The solution was a fairly new procedure called embolization therapy, a method of plugging the blood vessels of the AVM. Under X-ray guidance, a small catheter is guided from the femoral artery in the leg up into the area to be treated. Once the area is reached, a type of glue is used to block off the area to blood flow, essentially preventing future aneurysms.

“This surgery was highly successful for Christopher,” said Doctor Tytle. “With the exception of one of the blood vessels that is kinked, and would not allow for us to properly attach the glue, we were able to conduct this procedure very successfully.”

As weeks passed, very basic therapy began. Christopher slowly had to learn to stand again. He also learned very small movements with his hands. Due to the early fluid build-up, pressure on the optic nerve severely damaged his eyesight, yet he still made progress in his rehabilitation.

Today, Christopher walks, dresses himself and will tell you how fortunate he is. A large smile speaks loudly that he is doing just fine.

“Very lucky. Yes. Very lucky to be alive,” Christopher said.

Gilbert has kept it all in perspective. He strongly believes that the Murugayah family has grown a stronger bond because of Christopher's situation. He also believes in not worrying about what each day will bring, and finds thankfulness in just being alive.

“I don't feel like we lost anything,” said Gilbert. “My son is right here and he's doing just fine.” 

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