The New Milford resident had just finished eating lunch with her colleagues at Lakeland Bank in Oak Ridge, where she worked as a call center manager. As she walked back to her office, Joanne – abruptly and without warning – experienced the worst headache of her life. She was blinded by the pain, sick to her stomach, disoriented, and bumping into things.

Hearing the commotion, Joanne’s co-workers brought her into another room and immediately called 911. By the time paramedics arrived, Joanne was drifting in and out of consciousness. While she doesn’t remember much of what happened next, she is grateful that those crucial next steps included a 20-minute helicopter trip to Overlook Medical Center. It saved her life.

Joanne was one of the 120,000 people each year who experience an intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), commonly referred to as a brain bleed.

ICH – typically caused by high blood pressure – occurs when a weakened or diseased blood vessel within the brain bursts, allowing blood to leak inside the brain. The sudden increase in pressure within the brain can cause damage to brain cells, unconsciousness, and – in nearly 50 percent of victims – death. Of those who do survive, two-thirds are usually left with lasting physical or cognitive deficits.

Despite these statistics, the status quo for treating ICH patients has been to stabilize the patient by addressing the underlying cause of the bleeding – in most cases by controlling blood pressure.

“Traditional surgery is often not an option when removing blood clots from intracerebral hemorrhage because they tend to be located in deep-seated areas of the brain,” comments Ronald Benitez, M.D., director of endovascular neurosurgery for Overlook Medical Center. “There is a significant risk of disrupting normal brain tissue.”

Fortunately, for Joanne, there is nothing status quo about Atlantic Neuroscience Institute at Overlook, ranked #1 in New Jersey for Neurosurgery by Carechex and among the nation’s top five percent, five years in a row.

Thanks to Overlook’s participation in a groundbreaking global clinical trial and early adoption of next-generation, state-of-the-art technology, patients with ICH have access to two new life-saving options. Both involve minimally invasive surgical techniques for removing blood clots, using sophisticated imaging technology and a mini neuro-evacuation device. The device is inserted through a small incision in the scalp and a tiny burr hole through the skull to the affected area of the brain, where it removes the clot through suction.

Dr. Benitez recently earned the distinction of being the first physician in the U.S. to utilize the new FDA-approved AURORA® Surgiscope System to remove a blood clot in a patient with an intracerebral hemorrhage. Joanne happened to be an ideal candidate for the procedure.

Upon Joanne’s arrival to Overlook’s specially equipped rooftop helipad, a response team, trained to manage critically ill neuroscience patients, transported her to the region’s leading Neuro Intensive Care Unit. There, under the watchful eyes of the state’s most respected neurocritical care experts, she was assessed and stabilized for surgery with Dr. Benitez the next day.

“The nurses in ICU really knew what they were doing,” says Joanne. “They took excellent care of me and allowed my twin sister and son to have private moments with me, too. I was paralyzed on my right side; but after the operation, I had full function of my arms and legs.”

“I can write, speak, move, and walk. It’s amazing!” marvels Joanne, who benefited from physical rehabilitation following her discharge from the hospital. “I’m so grateful for the care I received at Overlook. Dr. Benitez is smart as a whip, but he’s also down-to-earth. He sat down and took time to explain the whole procedure to my family. He couldn’t have been nicer.” “We’re proud to offer a minimally invasive surgical option to a large group of patients, who were previously considered inoperable,” observes Dr. Benitez. “The integration of state-of-the-art technology with minimally invasive approaches is transforming the field of neurosurgery. It’s exciting to be on the forefront of this evolution and witness the benefits.”