After six brain surgeries, this family is giving back

For someone who had a half dozen brain surgeries in eight months, Jon Kay is remarkably grateful. So much so, his family is fundraising for a program at Sunnybrook they credit with saving Jon's life.

A surreal moment

September 2, 2020 started like any other day for Jon, a father of two college-aged children.

Things changed around the dinner hour, after he called his wife Gina to say he was suddenly hit with the worst headache of his life. When he began seeing double, his daughter Shayna made the decision to drive him to Sunnybrook's emergency room.

Jon Kay in hospital bed
Jon Kay resting in a hospital bed
"If Shayna had not been home to take Jon to the hospital there is no doubt that he would not have survived," says Gina, reflecting back on the day that changed their lives.

That's because Jon was having a rare but life-threatening stroke. His family would learn an aneurysm had burst, and he had bleeding around the surface of his brain. "We were told that 15 per cent of people don't make it to the hospital alive, and from there, 25 per cent won't make it through the next 24 hours," says Gina.

"I don't think I've ever truly understood the concept of surrealism until that moment," she says.

Sunnybrook's expertise in action

As a regional stroke centre, Sunnybrook treats more than 700 patients on an emergency basis each year. But thanks to Dr. Ashish Kumar, the Sunnybrook neurosurgeon handling Jon's case, Gina says they never felt like a number.

Dr. Kumar put a drain in place to help clear the blood in Jon's brain. The very next morning, he performed surgery and saved Jon's life.

"Dr. Kumar was incredibly supportive through the whole ordeal," Gina says. "He truly went above and beyond, answering every one of my panicked emails. He was challenged by Jon's case, but always had a plan of action."

Defying the odds

Eight months, six surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation later, Jon has made almost a full recovery.

"My experience with Sunnybrook could not have been better. The care that I got, the expertise that I got, the compassion that I got, from virtually every person I encountered along the way, could not have been better," says Jon.

Giving back

Raising funds for Sunnybrook's Centre for Neurovascular Intervention felt like the right thing to do for Jon and Gina. Experts in neurovascular care are pioneering treatments and leading research so they can be there for patients when it matters most.

Through their network of friends and family, Jon and Gina have raised an incredible $27,000 - far exceeding their original $5,000 goal.

Jon couldn't be more grateful for his care, the support of his community and, above all, his wife. "I don't know if I can ever express my thanks enough to Gina."

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