Young father suffers devastating stroke but recovers fully, thanks to doctor collaboration

Stroke survivor, Daniel Ganier, and his wife, Denisha, smilingDaniel Ganier, just 29, thought he was way too young for a stroke. Then, an excruciating headache turned out to be a ruptured aneurysm that almost killed him.

It was the day after Thanksgiving in 2022, and Daniel Ganier, 29, was relaxing at home watching football and decorating the Christmas tree with his 3-year-old daughter, Dakiyah. But just after hanging the last decoration, Daniel’s head suddenly throbbed with pain.

Daniel’s wife, Denisha, came home from Black Friday shopping and felt alarmed by her husband’s thunderclap headache — an intense headache that comes on abruptly and peaks 30 to 60 seconds later.

“At one point, he screamed and grabbed the back of his head,” said Denisha Ganier, 32. “It came on suddenly and was just very severe.”

When her husband passed out, Denisha called 911. By the time the paramedics got there, Daniel had woken up and felt much better. His blood pressure was very high, which could indicate a possible stroke – but, since he wasn’t even 30, Daniel, a truck driver, dismissed the possibility.

He did have hypertension but had run out of medication about a week earlier. With his work schedule of constant travel, he hadn’t been able to get back to his doctor yet.

Daniel declined to go the hospital, insisting he was fine.

But his wife knew better. Several hours later, Daniel’s headache returned, and he started vomiting. Denisha knew something was very wrong, and she convinced him to get medical help early in the morning.

After a stop at an urgent care facility, Daniel became unconscious and was transported to the ER at HCA Houston Healthcare. Doctors there diagnosed a ruptured aneurysm, and Dr. Mohammad El-Ghanem, a neuroendovascular surgeon and vascular neurologist, performed emergency surgery to repair it.

The surgery went well, but five days later, severe complications hit.

Daniel Ganier is laying in a hospital bed hooked up to various medical devices after having a stroke.Daniel’s heart stopped, he had a blood clot in his lungs, his stomach was bleeding and his kidneys were shutting down. Doctors put him on a ventilator, sedated him and kept him in the ICU for more than a month. His condition was so critical that his wife had to face the painful likelihood that he would either die or be in a vegetative state.

Danisha remembers with gratitude when Dr. El-Ghanem sat on the floor with her and, with a caring bedside manner, drew a picture for her of what was happening with her husband’s brain, and drew a chart showing his survival odds.

“It is something that I’ll never forget and that I’ll always appreciate,” Danisha said. “He and his team really helped prepare me for what was going on and what to expect. The collaboration just went really well.”

Thanks to a team collaboration of care providers led by Dr. El-Ghanem — including cardiologists, ICU physicians, physical therapists and infectious disease specialists — Daniel made a full recovery.

“Honestly, I feel blessed,” said Daniel, now 31 and living a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise. “I feel back to normal.”

Dr. El-Ghanem said that Daniel’s young age boosted his remarkable recovery. The most important element in his healing, though, was the team effort among HCA physicians on his care team.

“It was truly a group effort across care teams in Daniel’s recovery,” Dr. El-Ghanem said. “It was not a one-man show and because of that, Daniel is here today.”

An important lesson from Daniel's story is that strokes can happen to people at any age, so everybody should be aware of symptoms and take them seriously, the doctor said.

Daniel agrees.

“Strokes do affect people like us, and they’re not just reserved for our grandparents,” he said. “A stroke can happen to anyone.”