Miracle surgery saves man with rare brain bubble at NYU Langone

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Ivor Parker and Karen Palaza have been together for 20 years and treat each day as if it were Valentine's Day. One day recently, Karen realized something was very wrong with her partner when suddenly Ivor could barely speak and couldn't recognize her while otherwise seeming to be fully conscious and mobile.

Karen rushed Ivor to the Emergency Department at Long Island Community Hospital, which is affiliated with NYU Langone. What NYU Langone neurosurgeon Donald Krieff, DO, discovered was something he had never seen in more than 25 years of being a surgeon—a bubble on the brain.

After having a CT scan and an MRI, Ivor was diagnosed with a 6-to-7-centimeter air bubble near the left temporal lobe of his brain, a relatively rare condition known as pneumocephalus. Ivor had emergency surgery, and when Dr. Krieff opened the covering to the brain, the bubble completely dissipated. When Ivor woke up in the recovery room, he was fully able to speak.

"When I first saw the bubble on the scan, I thought, 'This is crazy. It has to be something else,' but that wasn't the case," said Dr. Krieff, who is chief of neurosurgery service at the hospital and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. He was able to fully repair Ivor's skull after the bubble evaporated, but still doesn't know what caused it. Brain bubbles occur typically after scuba diving or being in a hyperbaric chamber, but Ivor had done neither.

The 74-year-old Long Island man was discharged from the hospital on Christmas Day, just two days after surgery, and he considers it a miracle.

"It was a life-changing experience. We can't thank Dr. Krieff and the medical staff enough," said Ivor, who doesn't remember much about what happened before the surgery. But his significant other recalls every single moment.

The idea of him not knowing my name and not being with me was scary. Life is precious, and you have to embrace every moment."

Karen Palaza

The couple first met at a church in England, which is where Ivor is from. At the time she was a widow trying to recover from her loss, and he was recently divorced. They say they stopped exchanging candy and flowers on Valentine's Day because they consider being together their biggest gift.

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