The Current

After stroke, family struggles with decision to remove part of son's brain

After a stroke, Sid Gupta's life would change forever. Friends and family came together to make decisions about surgery, his brain, his very life. What they would experience has lessons for us all. Today we share the compelling story to save Sid.
In February 2014, 30-year-old Toronto resident Sid Gupta had an unexpected stroke. Within 36 hours, doctors had removed one-third of his brain, leaving his family to wonder: At what point is a life no longer worth saving? (Janet Thomson/CBC)

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In 2014,  Sidharth Gupta, 30,  suffered a stroke. At 3 a.m. on Feb. 21, Sidharth, or "Sid" as he was known to friends, was admitted to the hospital. Emergency room triage records show that he was unable to stand or answer questions.

Up until this point, Sid was a healthy, energetic, hard worker at his Toronto advertising job and was the main family breadwinner.

Sister Isha and Sid hamming it up on Instagram the last time Isha visited her brother in India. (Courtesy of the Gupta family)

When the stroke was diagnosed, Sid's family and friends had to make one of the most difficult choices any family can make — deciding whether there comes a point when a life is no longer worth saving. 

'It was almost unthinkable to let him go'

There was no guarantee Sid would survive. Dr. Michael Tymianski performed the first surgery, a decompression craniectomy, about 32 hours after the first signs of stroke. While the procedure is done to save a life, it doesn't restore blood flow to the swollen part of the brain, and he warned the family it was unlikely Sid would be the way he was before.

A second surgery was necessary when the swelling continued. The procedure would involve removing part of Sid's brain. Dr. Mark Bernstein and his team conducted the surgery by removing a large amount of superior frontal lobe and some of the temporal lobe, but chose not to go further.

Sid did survive the experience. He lives in India today, with his father. His sister, Isha Gupta says he is getting better but does not speak. She adds he's only 30 to 40 per cent of the person he was before the stroke. 

Sid Gupta's story is the subject of a special online indepth news feature called Saving Sid, produced by Janet Thomson and Andre Mayer.

Sid and friends celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, in New Delhi in March 2015. (Courtesy of the Gupta family)

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese.