Firefighter to make full recovery after suffering aneurysm during fire

Loren Ward, 40, suffers from a brain condition that impacts 2 percent of the world's population

By Adam Lawson
Gaston Gazette

GASTONIA, N.C. — Gastonia Fire Engineer Loren Ward sat in a chair inside his Charlotte hospital room, remarking on his good fortune less than three days after a brain surgeon removed a piece of his skull.

"After looking back at the what ifs or could haves and stuff, it could've been a lot of different," Ward said. "Luckily the cards fell into place where they did."

Ward, 40, was fighting an apartment fire at Ashbrook Village off South New Hope Road on Saturday night when he collapsed outside. He was taken onto a stretcher into an ambulance to CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia, where his mom insisted doctors run a CT scan.

Those tests revealed a ruptured aneurysm. Ward was taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he underwent surgery on Sunday, and doctors now expect he's well on his way to a full recovery. Without the scan, his fate could've been much different.

"Once it has ruptured, the likelihood it will rupture again very quickly within the first few days is very high and second ruptures are almost always fatal," said Dr. Scott Wait, the brain surgeon who performed Ward's surgery. "Had that been missed and had he gone on with his life and ruptured again, it's a very high likelihood he would've passed away."

Ward's aneurysm resulted from a preexisting condition, one Wait estimates around 2 percent of the world's population carries in their head. It's impossible to know what caused the rupture, though Ward is thankful emergency workers responded as they did.

He still has a road to go to fully recover and will likely stay in Charlotte for at least the next week. But doctors have no reason to believe the 16-year Gastonia Fire Department veteran has fought his last fire.

"That's pretty amazing," Ward said. "I'm glad they were able to pick it up and find out what it was and give me the proper treatment and care."

Ward's wife, Brandy, has been a constant presence in the hospital. So, too, have the couple's two children.

Life is always stressful as a firefighter's wife, Brandy Ward said. The midnight call she received Saturday was a nightmare, and the time she waited for him to come out of surgery was agonizing.

"They had given us all the things that could go wrong, not knowing what to expect when we saw him," she said. "When we go in he's smiling and he recognizes us."

Nobody had to invite Gastonia Fire Chief Phil Welch to the Charlotte hospital. He and other firefighters have been seen in the CMC hallways ever since their colleague was admitted.

But now that the outlook appears brighter, Welch looks forward to seeing Ward in a more familiar place: On the scene fighting fires, where he's always wanted to be.

"He'll be back with us as soon as the doctors allow that," Welch said.

Copyright 2017 Gaston Gazette



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