NYPD cop hopes to return after lifesaving brain surgery

NYPD cop hopes to return after lifesaving brain surgery
NYPD Detective Todd Szebenyi, who is recovering from surgery to correct a rare brain disorder, with wife his wife, Patricia.Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News

NYPD Detective Todd Szebenyi, who is recovering from surgery to correct a rare brain disorder, with wife his wife, Patricia.

At first, he thought it was just a headache.

NYPD Detective Todd Szebenyi was nearly paralyzed by the pain pulsing through his head while working out at a gym near his Staten Island home.

It was Feb. 22 when the athletic 41-year-old was struck by the debilitating pain.

Szebenyi, an 11-year veteran who works in the 122nd Precinct, had no idea that a dangerous tangle of arteries and veins was gripping his brain stem and starting to bleed.

“I thought it was going to go away,” Szebenyi said of the pain.

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But he had a rare brain condition, an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, that was threatening to stop the marathon-running cop dead in his tracks.

When the pain wouldn’t subside, Szebenyi’s wife, Patricia, convinced him to go to the hospital.

“When the doctor told him that he had a brain hemorrhage, he goes, ‘Well, when can I go back to work?’ ” Patricia said with a laugh.

NYPD Detective Todd Szebenyi, 41, was nearly paralyzed by the pain of headaches caused by a rare brain condition.Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News

NYPD Detective Todd Szebenyi, 41, was nearly paralyzed by the pain of headaches caused by a rare brain condition.

“The doctor said, ‘You’re not going back to work for a long time, if ever.’ ”

The couple, who have been married for 13 years and have two sons, decided to go to Mount Sinai, where they met with Dr. Joshua Bederson, the hospital’s head of neurosurgery.

Doctors said that 50% of people with the condition die from it, and 70% of those who live have major problems, like being unable to walk or see.

Szebenyi said he agreed to the surgery.

“You can’t live like this,” he said.

The eight-hour procedure, which involved drilling into the stem, was a success. Szebenyi was left with only slight numbness on the left side of his face.

The detective “is going to end up with an outstanding outcome, and it’s not that he (faced) a certain death, but it was a fairly risky scenario,” Bederson said.

The life-saving surgery wasn’t the first time Bederson helped bring one of New York’s Finest back from the edges of death.

NYPD Officer Eder Loor (c.) — who was stabbed in the brain by a schizophrenic man in Harlem — was also saved by surgery from Bederson.Susan Watts/New York Daily News

NYPD Officer Eder Loor (c.) — who was stabbed in the brain by a schizophrenic man in Harlem — was also saved by surgery from Bederson.

The 59-year-old doctor saved police Officer Eder Loor in 2012 after the cop had a 3 1/2-inch blade jabbed into his brain by a schizophrenic in Harlem.

Patricia Szebenyi said that she didn’t realize how remarkable her husband’s recovery was until she talked with a doctor’s assistant from Mt. Sinai well after he was released.

“She said you really shouldn’t be here and be doing so well,” she said. “Like he’s his normal self. That’s when she told us that he’s a miracle.”

Aside from the numbness, which will go away, he has full memory, speech and hearing and is walking well with the help of a cane.

He hopes to be back on the job in a couple of months, and maybe running a marathon or two by next year.

“Everybody was like, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are,’ ” Szebenyi said.

“I’m just happy to be here. Happy to be home with the kids and the wife. And one day, hopefully, I’ll go back to work.”

dslattery@nydailynews.com

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