“Dandy Don” Meredith dies of brain hemorrhage

Don Meredith, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, who became one of the anchors for the original “Monday Night Football” has died. Meredith’s wife, Susan, told The Associated Press her husband died Sunday in Santa Fe after suffering a brain hemorrhage and lapsing into a coma. She and her daughter were at Meredith’s side when he died. Meredith played with the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-68. During his career, he had a 50.7 percent completion rate, throwing for 17,199 yards and 135 touchdowns with a lifetime passer rating of 74.8. He was named the NFL Player of the Year in 1966 and was named to the Pro Bowl three times. He surprised many by retiring at the age of 31. He joined “Monday Night Football” in 1970, along side Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell in the broadcast booth. He quickly became one of the most popular broadcasters in sports with a homespun humor that played off Cosell in particular. Meredith’s signature call was singing the famous Willie Nelson song “Turn Out the Lights” when it appeared a game’s outcome had been determined.

Hemorrhagic Stroke: (Source: National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke)

In a healthy, functioning brain, neurons do not come into direct contact with blood. The vital oxygen and nutrients the neurons need from the blood come to the neurons across the thin walls of the cerebral capillaries. The glia (nervous system cells that support and protect neurons) form a blood-brain barrier, an elaborate meshwork that surrounds blood vessels and capillaries and regulates which elements of the blood can pass through to the neurons.

When an artery in the brain bursts, blood spews out into the surrounding tissue and upsets not only the blood supply but the delicate chemical balance neurons require to function. This is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Such strokes account for approximately 20 percent of all strokes.

Hemorrhage can occur in several ways. One common cause is a bleeding aneurysm, a weak or thin spot on an artery wall. Over time, these weak spots stretch or balloon out under high arterial pressure. The thin walls of these ballooning aneurysms can rupture and spill blood into the space surrounding brain cells.

Hemorrhage also occurs when arterial walls break open. Plaque-encrusted artery walls eventually lose their elasticity and become brittle and thin, prone to cracking. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases the risk that a brittle artery wall will give way and release blood into the surrounding brain tissue.

A person with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) also has an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. AVMs are a tangle of defective blood vessels and capillaries within the brain that have thin walls and can therefore rupture.

Bleeding from ruptured brain arteries can either go into the substance of the brain or into the various spaces surrounding the brain. Intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when a vessel within the brain leaks blood into the brain itself. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding under the meninges, or outer membranes, of the brain into the thin fluid-filled space that surrounds the brain.

Symptoms of a Stroke

If you see or have one or more of these symptoms, don’t wait, call 911 immediately!
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Treatment can be more effective if given quickly. Every minute counts!
Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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