At 27, Keith Rush had everything going for him -- a good job in a successful career, family and friends whom he cherished and enjoyed spending time with and an active role in his church and community.
But on Sept. 1, his good health suddenly changed.
"I got a call early in the morning. No one wants a call like that," his mother, Janice Rush, said.
Mr. Rush's symptoms of a headache with numbness in his hands and face turned out to be a brain hemorrhage. Another similar hemorrhage happened two weeks later, followed by surgery, his suffering three strokes and most recently, a blood clot.
"It's another setback. We are just concentrating on getting him well right now. We have faith God will pull him through," Ms. Rush said.
She's seen God's hand at work all through the ordeal, Ms. Rush said. And even though it's not over, she wants others to learn from their experience.
"Test after test, neurologists, neurosurgeons. Now we know, the brainstem hemorrhage was caused by an arteriovenous malformation," she said.
Present at birth, AVM is thought to be present in several hundred thousand Americans, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders. The majority of people with neurological AVMs experience few, if any, symptoms.
However, Mr. Rush became one of the 2 to 4 percent of patients with AVMs to suffer hemorrhaging severe enough to cause neurological damage.
Upon his initial diagnosis, the risk of removing the AVM, which resembles a "nest" of tangled blood vessels, was too great because of where it was located on the brainstem, Ms. Rush said. The second hemorrhage two weeks later, however, allowed the AVM to surface and be successfully removed by Dr. Daniel Barrow, chief of Neurosurgery at Emory University.
"So, God brought him here for a purpose, and even though he had a stroke on the operating table, he is still a survivor," Ms. Rush said. "We are truly blessed because God is with us."
After 30 days in neuroscience ICU at Emory, and 30 days at Select Specialty in Augusta, Mr. Rush was moved to Walton Rehabilitation to rebuild his life. Although he was unable to talk or walk and dependent on a feeding tube, Mr. Rush was doing well with his therapy. He celebrated Christmas at Walton, with a crowd of co-workers, church members and family all gathered in the dining room singing Christmas carols.
"And he was just directing everybody and his heart was just overjoyed and he just wrapped his arms around himself and was letting us know that his heart was overflowing," Ms. Rush said. "He even threw kisses out to everybody. He knew what everybody was doing. He wanted to stand up to show them that he is trying very hard to recover. He tried."
And that is the person -- known as "Krusher" -- that family and friends are praying for. The week between Christmas and New Year's, Mr. Rush developed the blood clot and had to be hospitalized.
Estelle Parsley, news director of Channel 12 News, said Mr. Rush is the chief photojournalist and satellite truck operator for the station. She said they are looking for someone to take over his job until he can recover.
"Krusher will always be a part of News 12, because he personifies what the News 12 team is all about," she said. "Even if he didn't have the title of Chief Photojournalist, he would still be a person of influence in the newsroom. He took everything he did seriously, and he did it with pride, dedication and professionalism. He always wanted to be there and he always had a smile on his face and he was a great example to people ... He's like family to us at News 12. News deadlines means there isn't time for pleasantries and politeness, but Krusher is one of those people who always treated everyone like family."
When he wasn't working, Ms. Parsley said, Krusher was "picking up elderly people and driving them to church, coaching little league, mentoring young people, playing an instrument in his small congregation.
"Everybody who knows him is ready for him to be back to that life, and we are praying for his recovery," she said.
SYMPTOMS OF AVM
The most general symptoms of a cerebral arteriovenous malformation include headache and epilepsy. Other possible symptoms are similar to stroke symptoms and include vision loss, difficulty speaking or moving, numbness, and/or confusion.
TO ALL OUR FRIENDS
Keith and his family can't thank you enough. Your prayers, visits, sweet e-mails, encouraging words and monetary donations all have been a blessing to us. This hasn't been easy, but what would it have been without our faith? Faith allows God to work in our lives and the lives of others around us. Keith still has a way to go.
Much love and sincere thanks to all of you for being there for us.
-- Janice Rush, mother, Darriek and Jeraldine Rush, father and step-mother, Stacee and Tellis Leslie, sister and brother-in-law, John and Voncile Crawford, Sr. and Connie Hill, grandparents.