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What can we Learn About Aneurysms from this Storage Wars Star?

Dan Dotson from Storage Wars
Dan Dotson from Storage Wars

On the reality TV show Storage Wars, husband and wife auctioneering team Dan and Laura Dotson are known for their wonderful, quick patter.

One morning in mid-June, though, Dan woke up feeling terrible. He’d had a poor night’s sleep (Laura had heard him muttering “weird” things) and his vision was blurry and strange.

When he finally got up, he took a shower to try and clear his head. But outside the shower, Dotson collapsed. He stopped breathing. Laura called the paramedics, and Dotson was rushed to the hospital. There he was diagnosed with brain aneurysms: not just one aneurysm, but two.

An aneurysm is a bulging, weak spot in a blood vessel in the brain. Aneurysms can exist for years or decades without causing problems. But when an aneurysm ruptures and bleeds into the brain, the situation is life-threatening. Laura Dotson reported that her husband was initially given between a 4% and 20% chance of survival.

Dotson underwent emergency brain surgery. The procedure went even better than the doctors had hoped, and Dotson’s damage was not as extensive as doctors had feared. The star not only survived, but began recuperating quickly. Just two weeks after his aneurysm rupture and emergency surgery, Dotson had his belongings packed and was anxious to hear that he could leave the ICU. He was only waiting, he tweeted his fans, for “pants & permission.” Presumably he received both, for Dotson soon began recuperating at home.

Healthy changes

Dotson says his aneurysms have finally convinced him to give up smoking. Smoking and high blood pressure are known to be risk factors for developing aneurysms, and may also be risk factors for the rupture of those aneurysms.

Aneurysms can develop for different reasons in different people, but they are more likely to develop in someone who has risk factors for the problem. Some risk factors for aneurysm are outside of an individual’s control. But smoking is a big risk factor, and Dotson’s frightening experience is pushing him to kick a forty-year habit. For more about aneurysm risk factors, read our aneurysm page here.

Warning signs

Dotson’s collapse was dramatic, but symptoms are not always so obvious. Often, unruptured aneurysms do not cause any symptoms at all. Occasionally, unruptured aneurysms leak small amounts of blood. Called “warning leaks,” these small bleeds can produce symptoms like headache, dizziness, eye pain, and blurred or double vision. Such symptoms should be investigated by a doctor, since an unruptured aneurysm might rupture without warning.

A ruptured aneurysm is an extreme medical emergency. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm needs medical evaluation and treatment immediately. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include
• severe headache– “the worst headache of your life”
• stiff neck
• nausea and vomiting
• changes in mental status, such as drowsiness or confusion
• pain in specific areas, such as the eyes
• dilated pupils
• loss of consciousness
• loss of balance or coordination
• photophobia (sensitivity to light)
• back or leg pain

Look ahead and looking inside

On July 8, just weeks after his surgery, Dotson was back in front of the cameras, filming a PSA. The auctioneer was eager to get started on Season 6 of Storage Wars, and on July 10 he began taping for the show. Season 6 might feature more than just a look inside mysterious storage lockers, though: the show’s producers apparently filmed Dotson’s emergency surgery. Viewers might also be granted an inside view of the operating theater and even the human skull. Dan Dotson never expected to need to know much about aneurysms, but thanks to his experience, regular people can learn about aneurysm symptoms, risk factors, and perhaps even watch the surgical treatment.

Check our aneurysm page here for more information on aneurysm causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Find out more about the doctors who treat aneurysms at Columbia University Medical Center’s Cerebrovascular Center on their bio pages below:

And read about the doctors who treat aneurysms at the New Jersey office of the Columbia Neurosurgery Network on their bio pages here:

patient journey

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