Neil Young health: Doctors had to revive him after a ‘very serious’ illness – symptoms

As a child the singer was diagnosed with a plethora of health conditions including epilepsy, polio and type 1 diabetes. By 1951 he had deteriorated so far that he could barely even walk. On top of this, he had to manage his diabetes, knowing when to inject insulin and test his blood glucose levels. The star also recalled one of his epileptic fits which occurred whilst at a radio festival in 1967. He said: “I was having fun, and you know, maybe I’d forgotten to eat or something, I don’t know. And then I felt kind of sick to my stomach, and then I started to feel all weird and echoey, and then I fell down, and I don’t really remember afterwards.” Epileptic fits were something that he had to deal with while performing, saying he always “left the stage” if he could feel one coming on.

Despite his childhood ailments, nothing was quite as life-threatening as the brain aneurysm that he suffered at the age of 54, which required immediate surgery.

The star recalls in his memoir that he had noticed a “weird thing in [his] eye, like a piece of broken glass”.

Detailing the experience the actor said: “So, I went to my doctor, had an MRI and the next morning I went to the neurologist… he says, ‘The good news is, you’re here; you’re looking good. The bad news is, you’ve got an aneurysm in your brain.’”

As the NHS states, a brain aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel that is caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall. As blood passes through this weakened blood vessel the pressure causes a small area to bulge outwards like a balloon.

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Young’s doctors continued to tell him: “It’s very serious, so we’ll have to get rid of it right away.”

After receiving treatment at a hospital in New York, Young and his team thought the problem was corrected, with him soon returning to everyday life.

However, two days after his surgery he had a horrific experience. He said: “I made it half a block, and the thing burst on the street, and there was blood in my shoe and let’s just say there was a complication. It was my femoral artery [which the surgeons had used to access his brain]. I was unconscious, and the emergency guys had to revive me.”

The surgical procedure involved inserting a tube into the artery and filling the aneurysm with tiny platinum coils. These coils then stop the aneurysm filling with blood and the chances of rupture are minimised. However, in Young’s case something along the way went horribly wrong.


This process of “endovascular coiling” is only one treatment used on aneurysms. The other known as neurosurgical clipping involves cutting into the scalp just above the eyebrow. A small flap of bone is removed and the aneurysm is located. The surgeon then seals it shut using a tiny metal clip which permanently stays there and the scalp is stitched back up.

Deciding on what procedure to use to treat the aneurysm depends on the size, location and shape of the aneurysm. Both procedures come with risks, but in general coiling has been shown to have lower risks of complications overall, whilst also being a less invasive procedure.

After being revived, the singer decided to make some drastic lifestyle changes in order to protect his health. This mainly involved giving up smoking marijuana in order to be more aware of what his body needed and required at his age.

However, the toll of all his health conditions has been drastic with Young revealing that his future career looks murky: “I don’t think I’m going to be able to continue to mainly be a musician forever, because physically I think it’s going to take its toll on me — it’s already starting to show up here and there.”

Symptoms of a brain aneurysm

Symptoms for spotting an aneurysm differ depending on what stage the aneurysm is at. The Mayo Clinic state that for an unruptured aneurysm, symptoms may never present themselves, particularly if it is small enough. If the aneurysm presses on the brain tissues or nerves it could possibly cause pain above or behind one eye, a dilated pupil, change in vision or numbness on one side of the face.

Symptoms when an aneurysm has ruptured are far greater as the condition quickly becomes life-threatening.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Sudden, extremely severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Seizure
  • A drooping eyelid
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion. 

The headaches experienced when someone has had a ruptured aneurysm are said to be described as the “worst headache” ever experienced.

Those who have an aneurysm that is leaking also tend to suffer from this headache due to the amount of blood that is leaking from the site.

It is important to seek medical attention if your headaches become extremely severe.
Brain aneurysms are often diagnosed using an MRI scan similarly to Young. However, if it is thought that the aneurysm has ruptured, a CT scan is the preferred method to source the area of bleeding on the brain.

In order to prevent your risk of a brain aneurysm it is key to help reduce your blood pressure. You can do this by stopping smoking.

Other common methods used to reduce your high blood pressure includes eating a healthy diet, moderating alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and cutting down on caffeine.

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