Country singer Drake White is opening up about being diagnosed with a rare condition that affects less than 1 per cent of the general population.
In an interview with PEOPLE magazine, White revealed he had an arteriovenous malfunction (AVM), an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in the brain, diverting normal blood flow from arteries and veins. Although they can occur anywhere in the body, brain AVMs pose a serious health risk of developing brain damage as well as hemorrhaging.
“It was basically stealing blood from my brain,” White said. “The neurologist told me that I should be thankful it was caught in time, because it could have caused a stroke.”
PEOPLE published the news just days after the singer collapsed on stage during an Aug. 16 performance in Roanoke, Va. Before the episode, White had already decided it was time to share his private health struggle in an effort to raise awareness, and potentially save lives.
“I’m not telling this story for me,” he said. “Someone needs to hear it and God wants me to share it. It will help people believe in miracles, and I will feel that energy. The world needs that kind of energy right now.”
It all began last winter when the “Livin’ the Dream” singer developed a headache that wouldn’t go away.
“That morning, I had worked out and went to a lunch meeting, and that’s when the headache started,” White began. “By 2 p.m. I was in bed seeing spots in my left eye, and that’s when my left side started going numb. I tried to sleep it off but woke up with the same intense headache.”
Sensing something was seriously wrong, White and his wife Alex went immediately to the emergency room. White called waiting for answers a “nightmare” and underwent an “excruciating” MRI and angiogram.
“The next thing I know, there is a guy walking in with the word ‘neurologist’ on his nameplate. He told me, ‘You have a mass in the back of your head. It’s treatable, but it’s going to take a while,’” the star explained. “It was at that moment Alex and I said to each other that whatever it is, we would battle through it. Our faith went into overdrive.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, not much is known as to what causes the abnormal development of vessels, however researchers believe AMVs are most likely formed during fetal development and are more commonly found in men than women.
Although present since birth, most AVMs typically go unnoticed until a rupture occurs. Others begin experiencing symptoms such as severe headache, seizures, weakness or paralysis, vision loss, trouble speaking and loss of balance before the age of 40. Immediate medical attention is required should any of these symptoms occur, as hemorrhages are a life threatening medical emergency.
Doctors scheduled a series of embolizations to cut off blood flow to the impacted vessels with Dr. Robert Mericle of Centennial Hospital in Nashville “running a catheter through my femoral arteries all the way up to the back of my head to glue the AVM shut.”
After his last embolization on Aug. 12, shortly before his collapse, doctors say they have removed approximately 75 per cent of the mass.
“He has to space them out due to my brain being used to the amount of blood flow for 35 years,” the singer said of the embolization process. “If he had embolized the whole mass in one surgery, it would cause major problems with my mobility and maybe a stroke.”
The experience, White says, has changed him for the better, and strengthened his faith.
“My attitude is better. From the moment I found out, I refused to see it as a problem. Rather I chose to let it inspire me and help others. I have to think I’ve been going through all of this for a reason,” he said. “Everyone is going through something. You have to treat every person like it could be their last day. Not to be all sunshine and rainbows, but all of this made me appreciate all that I have and all that is to come.”