Jean Cine, a recent graduate of North Miami Senior High School, will go on to college this fall after having a complex set of surgeries that removed a pair of life-threatening aneurysms in his brain.
One night last October, the 19-year-old developed a searing headache that sent him to the emergency room of Jackson North Medical Center.
“It was like two worlds were colliding in my head,” Cine said, describing the pain during a news conference Wednesday at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Dressed in a black, button-down shirt and a shiny gold tie, the teen recounted how he was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital after initial tests showed a possible tumor. An MRI scan revealed that two bulges the size of limes had developed in two different arteries in his brain, one on each side of his head.
The bulges were aneurysms, weaknesses that can develop in the wall of a blood vessel, making it balloon. Over time, the vessel may burst as the bulge grows larger, the walls of the vessel grow thinner and blood continues to pump through it.
Cine’s doctor, University of Miami/Jackson neurosurgeon Eric Peterson, said the size and location put Cine at risk of experiencing a life-threatening hemorrhage from his nose if they had burst.
About 40 percent of brain aneurysms that rupture are fatal according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, a nonprofit based in Boston that raises awareness and funds research about the condition.
“At the time, I did not know what it was,” said Cine, when he heard his diagnosis. Later, when he looked it up, he understood the seriousness of the condition: “Oh, I might die.”
Cine’s case was “exceptionally rare” because of his age, the size of the aneurysms, and the fact that there was one on each side of his brain, Peterson said.
Aneurysms develop because of a genetic predisposition to weaker vessels but they occur far more often in women and people over 50.
The complexity of Cine’s condition and the extensive damage of the arteries meant that the aneurysms could not be removed by traditional methods. Instead, a newly-approved stent called the Pipeline Flex allowed doctors to reconstruct the arteries in Cine’s brain over two surgeries in March, said Peterson.
This meant a full recovery for the teen. Because of his treatment, he missed school, where he was involved in engineering clubs and was captain of the power lifting team. But once doctors gave him the OK, he jumped right back in.
“As soon as they told me I was good to go and could lift light weights again, I jumped right back into it,” he said.
While Cine’s case was rare, Peterson said he was prepared to handle it. The neurosurgery center at Jackson Memorial Hospital handles 250 to 300 cases a year, he said. And the gratification of seeing a patient thrive after surgery is one of the best parts of his job, Peterson said.
“It’s why you do all those years of study,” he said.
In the fall, Cine will attend Miami Dade College where he plans to earn his associate’s degree before going on to study aerospace engineering. He hopes to build rockets and planes for the U.S. Army in the future, he said.
In the meantime, he’s been enjoying time with his friends and going to the beach, like any other high school graduate in Miami.
“I feel great,” said Cine. “I feel healthy.”