CINCINNATI—Nineteen-year-old Amber Gray, a forward on the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, went home from Drake Center today after three weeks of rehabilitation following surgery to repair a brain aneurysm.
Gray, who is from Mason, Ohio, and was a high school All-American at Lakota West High School, said at a news conference that she expects to play again. “Of course I do,” she told a questioner who asked if she planned to return to the court.
Gray had played one season for the Lady Vols, appearing in 27 games as a freshman. For now, she will continue her rehabilitation at home and plans to re-enter school in January.
Gray underwent elective surgery on July 2 at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Knoxville, Tenn., to repair her rotator cuff. Post-surgery complications led to the discovery of an unrelated brain aneurysm that began to hemorrhage, causing a stroke.
She was flown via Air Care to University Hospital in Cincinnati where Mario Zuccarello, MD, of the University of Cincinnati (UC) Neuroscience Institute and Mayfield Clinic, performed a 12 ˝-hour surgical procedure to clip the aneurysm. Zuccarello is a professor and interim chair of the neurosurgery department at UC.
Gray was admitted to Drake Center on July 23 for rehabilitation to help build her strength and improve walking and swallowing.
Gray had a “meteoric recovery,” said Mark Goddard, MD, medical director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Drake and professor and chair of the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at the UC College of Medicine. She went home two weeks ahead of schedule, Goddard says, adding that her basketball training probably played a big role in her recovery.
Gray’s mother, Tonya Carter, also spoke at the news conference and paid tribute to the entire Drake staff, saying, “I cannot thank you all enough.” She added that the family was “blessed” to have Zuccarello perform the complicated surgery.
Zuccarello was unable to attend the news conference due to professional obligations. Interviewed separately, he said there were many surgical steps involved with the operation because it involved an arterial high-flow bypass using a radial artery graft. He said he hopes Gray has "many years of success" at the University of Tennessee.
Carter noted that the rotator cuff surgery may have saved her daughter’s life because it led to the discovery of the aneurysm in the best possible surroundings. “Some people are born with aneurysms, and they don’t find out until it’s too late,” she said.
Goddard said that Gray has some weakness on her left side, but a full recovery is expected. “She still needs extensive therapy,” he said.
“I am very lucky just to be able to sit here next to my mom,” Gray said.
Drake Center is a leading provider of specialized medical and rehabilitative care in the Ohio region and is part of the Health Alliance, an integrated health care delivery system that also includes University Hospital, Jewish Hospital, Fort Hamilton Hospital, West Chester Medical Center and the physicians of Alliance Primary Care.