Give now


  • September 21, 2023
    Brain Aneurysm Foundation Announces 2023 Research Grants
    Learn more
  • March 31, 2023
    ‘I Hit The Floor’: Tamala Jones Opens Up About Suffering Brain Aneurysm
    Learn more
  • December 07, 2022
    Hancock County Couple Shares ‘One Of A Kind’ Brain Bleed Story
    Learn more
  • October 27, 2022
    A Mom Thought Stress and Her Pregnancy Caused Her Devastating Headaches. It Was a Giant Aneurysm
    Learn more
  • October 19, 2022
    Triathlete Achieves Her Goal After Doctor Discovers Brain Aneurysm
    Learn more
  • September 30, 2022
    Influencer Meredith Staggers Says Her Migraine Turned Out to Be a Life-Threatening Brain Aneurysm
    Learn more
  • September 21, 2022
    Willow Resident Brings Awareness After Suffering a Brain Aneurysm Rupture
    Learn more
  • September 13, 2022
    1 in 4 Adults in the U.S. Lives with a Disability. Having a Financial Plan to Address Care is Critical
    Learn more
  • September 08, 2022
    Life After a Brain Aneurysm, A Survivor’s Story
    Learn more
  • August 22, 2022
    Dr. Dre Details Brain Aneurysm Scare: ‘They Thought I Was Outta Here’
    Learn more

In My Area

Support groups
  • AdventHealth Brain Aneurysm Support Group

    Winter Park, FL

    Learn more
  • Baltimore Brain Aneurysm Foundation Support Group

    Lutherville-Timonium, MD

    Learn more
  • Bay Area Aneurysm and Vascular Malformation Support Group

    San Francisco, CA

    Learn more
  • April 15, 2019
  • BAF
  • Community News

Marathoner runs for fellow aneurysm victims and survivors

Russ Vanderpool has two birthdays: The day he was born, and the day he didn’t die.

“I live each day as a gift,” said Vanderpool, who’s 51 by first metric and just under 3 by the latter. “I shouldn’t be here, right?”

Vanderpool plans to run the Boston Marathon on Monday just a few years after an aneurysm burst in his head, prompting three high-risk brain surgeries at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to fix the bleeding and remove a condition called brain arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, that had contributed to it.
The Newton resident is running to raise money for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation Inc., saying about his inspiration, “Let me just carry in myself the people who had aneurysms and didn’t make it.”

Vanderpool means that literally, in a way. As he talked to the Herald last Thursday, he was trying to figure out how to secure a laminated piece of paper to his body that featured three dozen messages from people affected by brain aneurysms. Maybe taped to his thigh, he thought, or maybe on his back, though then he wouldn’t be able to read it as he ran. Maybe he’d record himself reading the messages people had sent to him so he could listen to it when he ran, he said.

“I want to be able to think about them as I run,” Vanderpool said.
Vanderpool readily recounts the story of his own aneurysm, starting a sentence with, “It was so funny,” before ending it with, “They put a hole in my head,” accompanied by stabbing motions to illustrate.

On June 3, 2016, Vanderpool was bent down mid-lunge during one of the particularly intense yoga classes he teaches in the basement of the West Suburban YMCA in Newton when a brutal headache struck him alongside a wave of nausea and the inability to catch his breath. A woman in the class quickly called 911 and the firefighters from the fire station across the street flew over and took him to Brigham.

Dr. Mohammad Aziz-Sultan, Brigham’s chief of vascular and endovascular neurosurgery, performed three surgeries on him; the first, using an x-ray and a catheter, sealed the aneurysm, stopping the bleeding into his brain. Then a week later, the doctor went to work on the malformed cluster of blood vessels.
“The AVM is like one of those things you see in the movies where they’re defusing a bomb — you clip one, then you clip another, and then when you clip enough, it’s defused and you can take it out of the room,” Aziz-Sultan told the Herald. “If you cut the wrong one, it could explode.”

He didn’t, and the third surgery, which involved opening up part of Vanderpool’s skull to scoop the AVM out, went great. Vanderpool was back to teaching yoga by the end of July, less than two months after his brush with death.

“I just forced myself,” Vanderpool said. “I just had to get back.”
Brain aneurysms, which Aziz-Sultan described as essentially a blister on a blood vessel, are actually fairly common, affecting one out of every 50 people. The problem is when they rupture, as Vanderpool’s did — a phenomenon that kills half of the people it happens to on the spot, while 60 percent of the rest don’t make it out of the hospital, the doctor said.

Aziz-Sultan said anyone with a family history of aneurysms should get screened, and people who start getting sudden, severe headaches should see a doctor.

So, medically, how’s Russ doing now?

“Well, he’s running a marathon,” Aziz-Sultan answered with a laugh, “Let’s just say he’s doing better than I am.”

By The Boston Herald – Sean Philip Cotter on April 15, 2019

This site uses cookies

Our site uses cookies to personalize features and, via third-parties, to collect metrics on usage so that we can better tailor our site to the needs of our users. You can view our full cookie and privacy policies via the links below. To fully experience our site, please click Accept.