Cerebrovascular Team Celebrates Three Young Stars

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From left: Amber Gray, Alison Delgado and Christine Phan. Photo of Christine by Jeffrey Fusaro Photography / Courtesy of American Heart Association.

Members of UCNI’s Cerebrovascular Disease and Stroke Center team are celebrating three current or former patients who are forging ahead with their lives in the public eye. The three young women are Christine Phan, who survived a devastating stroke at 15 and recently shared her story at the American Heart Association’s Heart Ball; Amber Gray, who suffered a bleeding aneurysm in 2009 and is now playing basketball for the Xavier Musketeers; and Alison Delgado, the medical resident who was critically injured in a bicycle accident and was featured in a Today Show segment this week and is scheduled to appear on CNN and ESPN in the near future.

The three young women underwent surgery at UC Health’s University Hospital and received state-of-the-art neurocritical care in the hospital’s Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (NSICU). Each was surgically treated by Mario Zuccarello, MD, a neurosurgeon and cerebrovascular specialist with the Mayfield Clinic and Chairman of the UC’s Department of Neurosurgery. Also playing important roles in the care of one or more of the young women were Todd Abruzzo, MD, Jordan Bonomo, MD, Ondrej Choutka, MD, Erin Grise, MD, William Knight, MD, Andrew Ringer, MD, and Lori Shutter, MD.

Amber Gray, the 6-foot-1 sophomore forward out of Lakota West High School who transferred to Xavier from the University of Tennessee, is averaging 3.1 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Amber, an education and communications major who has appeared in 20 games, is averaging more points and rebounds than she was during her freshman year at Tennessee – a strong testimonial to her determined recovery!

Alison Delgado, MD, a pediatrics resident at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who has won the Flying Pig Marathon, is becoming a household name, locally and nationally. She and her husband (and first responder), Tim Delgado, MD, a resident in UC’s Department of Emergency Medicine, have been filmed at length by CNN, NBC’s The Today Show and ESPN’s news magazine, E:60, while other media offers continue to come in.

Today Show National Correspondent Amy Robach came to town earlier this week to interview Alison and her husband, as well as Drs. Zuccarello, Ringer and Bonomo. Today Show Anchor Matt Lauer interviewed the couple live on Thursday.

View the segment on The Today Show »

In a coincidence of local interest, ESPN’s reporter was Megan Anderson, the daughter of former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Kenny Anderson.

Christine, a college freshman, was the featured speaker at the American Heart Association’s “Stayin’ Alive” Heart Ball in February. During her speech Christine thanked the Cerebrovascular Center doctors who saved her life and the specialists who helped guide her recovery and rehabilitation.

“It is rewarding that you save someone’s life and they are able to make it to the point where they become a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and promote cerebrovascular health,” said Dr. Abruzzo, who took part in Christine’s care. “This was very meaningful to me. She has come a long way and is leading a full life.”

Heart Ball Director Sara Walker noted that Christine’s story illustrates the fact that “stroke can happen to anyone,” at any age. “Christine’s recovery gives hope to all that there can be life after stroke,” she said. “We thank Heart Ball committee member Cindy Broderick for asking Christine to speak and for engaging her in the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.”

“I never even thought I would be here to speak to you,” Christine told her audience of more than 600. “I was so ordinary. Let me tell you the story that one night changed my life forever, realigned my priorities while death lied lurking in the corner.”

Christine told her story in all of its breathtaking detail, from the sudden, excruciating headache, to the request from Dr. Choutka (“my savior”) to reroute a medical helicopter to UC Health’s University Hospital. She recounted her life-saving surgery, which stopped the bleeding in her brain, and the tear she shed — from her left eye only because the right eye was impacted by the stroke — when Dr. Abruzzo held her hand.

 “The highly skilled stroke team of doctors and nurses gave me another chance at life, and I feel I owe something to them,” Christine said.  “Thank you to the doctors, nurses, friends and family who have supported me throughout these three years. And thank you, American Heart Association, for letting me share my story.”

Photo of Christine Phan by Jeffrey Fusaro Photography,

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