Augusta man survived same disease that struck Senator Johnson

By: Kate Tillotson Email
By: Kate Tillotson Email

December 14, 2006

A US senator is in critical condition after undergoing brain surgery.

All eyes are on Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota, because if he's unable to complete his term, which ends in 2008, a Republican governor will appoint his replacement.

That choice could end up shifting the balance of power in the Senate.

News 12 looked into the brain condition that caused all this. It's called congenital arterio-venous malformation, or AVM.

It's very rare. In a city Augusta's size, about three people would have it.

Recovery can be an uphill battle.

When it comes to AVM, your life can change in the blink of an eye...and it's very scary for those who don't see it coming.

Les Paul Morgan of North Augusta is a survivor.

"I had a bleed on the brain," he told us.

He may look healthy, but for the past 20 years he's lived in constant physical and emotional pain.

"I felt very lonely," he said. "I felt like I didn't know who I was."

Les Paul suffered from a rare stroke caused by bleeding in the brain. He's had two aneurisms and at least six operations.

Dr. Harold McGrade is director of the stroke unit at University Hospital.

"What happens is there's a pressure buildup, and that pressure buildup eventually can lead to a burst of vessel and then a bleeding stroke," he explained.

For Les Paul, it was life-changing. At just 22 years old, a portion of his brain was removed.

It's caused severe memory loss and frequent migraines.

We asked him how it affected his personal life, relationships, and family.

"I had a lot of friends before this happened," Les Paul said. "They slowly, one by one, they were either afraid to come around or just vanished."

According to Dr. McGrade, only one in 100,000 people will experience this same kind of rupture.

"99 percent of strokes are from other causes," he said.

Les Paul has learned to live with a short-term memory. Others will likely have different side effects.

"The time clock is how fast you can get the blood out to relieve the pressure, to prevent other areas that are separate from where the bleeding occurred from being damaged as well," Dr. McGrade said.

Today, Les Paul attends support group meetings, where he finds comfort.

One of them is appropriately named CSRA Dream Catchers.

"It's amazing I'm able to sit here and talk coherently with the amount of brain trauma I've had, and the Lord's blessed me that way," Les Paul said.

The CSRA Dream Catchers is a group for anyone who's suffered a brain or spinal injury.

They meet the second Thursday of every month from 6 to 7:30 at Walton West.

You can call (803) 648-2858 for more information.

There are 1.5 million brain injuries per year in the United States.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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