LOS ANGELES (March 8, 1999) -- When Billy Richards talks about making a comeback, he is referring not only to his career in music. His greater challenge has been to regain speech, memory, motor and cognitive skills that were lost when an aneurysm nearly took his life two years ago.
Richards, who sang "Yackety Yak," "Poison Ivy" and other 1950s classics with members of The Coasters, collapsed while playing racquetball on July 9, 1997. He was rushed to the nearest hospital and later transferred to the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute in Los Angeles.
During an angiogram and CT scan, Reid Thompson, M.D., neurosurgeon, and Franklin Moser, M.D., neuroradiologist and endovascular specialist, detected two aneurysms on the side of an artery in Richards' brain. One aneurysm (a weak spot on an artery wall which bulges like a tiny balloon) had already ruptured, allowing blood to flow into the brain. Such hemorrhaging often leads to paralysis, coma and even death.
To treat this aneurysm, Dr. Thompson and his team used a technique called embolization with coiling. A detachable, platinum coil was threaded through a catheter into the artery and directed to the aneurysm, where it sealed the rupture by lodging in the bulged area and conforming to its shape. About a week later, the team performed a microsurgical procedure to clamp the second area with a titanium clip, depriving the aneurysm of blood flow and preventing it from hemorrhaging.
Following these procedures, Richards started the long process of rehabilitation.
Although he made steady, dramatic progress on the medical center's
rehabilitation unit, his first overnight visit home forced the family to
recognize the level of effort that would lie ahead. "He could not turn on the
television or figure out the phone or use utensils at dinner," says his wife,
Marianne. "There was nothing in the house he could do. Whether or not he
remembers it now, you could just see it in his face that night. I
Contact: Roberta Nichols
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center