Derek Hough's Wife Hayley Erbert Says Life Came To 'Screeching Halt' After Brain Surgery

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What Is A Craniectomy? Hayley Erbert's SurgeryNBC - Getty Images
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Hayley Ebert has shared small updates on her health and recovery since she underwent an emergency craniectomy in December. But now, she’s reflecting back on her health journey—and where she is now.

“The Symphony of Dance tour has only been over for a few days and I still haven’t quite found the words to express my emotions,” the 29-year-old wrote in an Instagram post, next to a slew of photos from the tour. “This tour was truly one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.”

Hayley experienced her health emergency after the tour's Washington, D.C. stop, and it's been a process for Hayley to get back on stage. Back in March, her husband
Derek Hough shared that he and Hayley were back in the dance studio, three months after her emergency surgery.

"Stepping onto this blank canvas together," he wrote. "Beginning to paint again ❤️ @hayley.erbert"

Of course, Hayley has been on a serious health journey over the past few months. Here’s what happened to Hayley and how she's doing now.

What happened to Hayley Erbert?

Hayley’s health journey began on December 6, when she became disoriented while on tour with Derek. Derek shared in an emotional Instagram post that Hayley was taken to the hospital at the end of a performance in Washington, D.C.

There, she was diagnosed with a cranial hematoma that resulted from a burst blood vessel, which usually occurs in the skull or brain. Hayley needed to have an emergency craniectomy, which is a form of brain surgery.

What is a cranial hematoma and how is it caused?

An intracranial hematoma is a collection of blood in the skull, and it’s usually caused by a blood vessel that bursts in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. With a cranial hematoma, blood may collect in the brain tissue or underneath the skull and press on the brain.

This is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency and usually requires immediate treatment, per the Mayo Clinic.

Usually, intracranial hematomas are caused by head injuries or major traumas, like a car accident or a hard fall.

What is a craniectomy?

A craniectomy is a type of brain surgery that relieves pressure on your brain, the Cleveland Clinic says. During the procedure, a portion of the skull is removed. Patients usually need to wear a helmet to protect their skull after surgery. (A follow-up procedure called a cranioplasty replaces the removed section of skull.)

How serious is a craniectomy?

This is major brain surgery, per the Cleveland Clinic, so it’s very serious. Pressure in the skull from swelling or extra fluid is life-threatening or can cause brain damage because there isn’t a lot of room between the brain and skull, the Cleveland Clinic explains, noting that any internal pressure can impact how your brain functions.

What happens during a craniectomy?

During the procedure—which is usually an emergency surgery—the following will happen, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Medical staff shave your hair and clean the area of your head near the incision site.

  • An incision is cut into your skin.

  • Muscles or tissues will be moved away to expose the scalp.

  • A drill is then used to make holes in the skull.

  • Doctors cut between each hole to remove a piece of the skull.

  • From there, doctors treat the thing causing brain pressure.

  • The open part of the skull is then covered with mesh material.

  • The skin tissue and muscles are moved back into place.

  • The incision is closed with staples or sutures.

December 6, 2023: Hayley undergoes emergency brain surgery

On Thursday, December 7, Derek shared that Hayley had just undergone emergency brain surgery.

“At the end of last night’s tour performance in Washington, D.C., my wife Hayley became disoriented and was taken to the hospital,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

Derek explained that Hayley was diagnosed with a cranial hematoma that resulted from a burst blood vessel, which usually occurs in the skull or brain. He said that Hayley needed to have an emergency craniectomy, but is now in stable condition.

He also thanked the first responders and medical personnel who helped Hayley and asked for “prayers and positivity” from fans.

The couple's friends were quick to show support. "Prayers and love for you both!!!" Jenna Dewan commented. Meanwhile, Derek's sister Julianne Hough reposted his announcement on her own Instagram Story, saying, "Please pray and send all your love, healing and light to Hayley and Derek."

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December 15, 2023: Derek says that Hayley is ‘doing well’ and will need a skull implant

After Hayley's initial procedure, Derek shared an update that Hayley would undergo a second surgery (which he later referred to as a crainoplasty) to "to insert a skull implant to replace the piece that was removed during the craniectomy. It will restore the skull to its natural shape and protect the brain from injury."

But, her recovery was going "well," with Derek adding that it's been "nothing short of a miracle."

"It’s been a profound reminder of how fragile life can be and how quickly things can change," he wrote alongside a Hayley sporting a protective helmet. "But, it has also shown us the incredible strength and resilience that lies within us and the power of having a supportive community around us."

December 21, 2023: Derek says Hayley’s cranioplasty was successful

Just a week later, Derek revealed on Instagram that Hayley’s second surgery was “successfully completed as planned,” noting that it's "a significant milestone" in her recovery journey.

"My sincere appreciation goes to the exceptional medical team," he wrote. "Their expertise and steady hands were pivotal in this journey, ensuring a smooth and successful surgery. Especially Dr. Mai, who not only performed the surgery, but was also the one who saved her life 2 weeks ago."

The Dancing With the Stars judge added that the couple has been "profoundly touched by the outpouring of support and prayers from each of you."

"Your thoughts, prayers, and positive energy have been a source of strength and comfort for us during this challenging time," he wrote. "It’s truly heartwarming to know how much love and care surrounds us.”

February 5, 2024: Hayley makes first appearance since her health crisis

On February 5, Hayley made her first on-camera statement since her health emergency, telling fans that she's "grateful to be alive and be here to tell my story.”

In an emotional Instagram video—made alongside husband Derek—the professional dancer showed off her new short haircut and scar from the craniectomy, adding that she has a new outlook on what really matters in life. And while she still has "really good days" and "really bad days," Hayley reassured her followers that she is doing "much better" since her surgeries.

"Life is so precious. Spend time with the ones you love. Hold them close cause you never know what could happen," she said.

Derek added that he's gained a newfound respect for his wife throughout the endeavor, adding that the couple will eventually share more details about the frightening situation.

"It’s been wild, going from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows," he said. "But I have to say, throughout this experience, this woman has been unbelievable. Her perseverance and her acceptance of the whole situation, her strength—it’s been remarkable to witness firsthand. She really is a miracle, and it’s been miraculous."

March 14, 2024: Derek teases Hayley’s return to dance

Just a few weeks later, Derek shared that Hayley may rejoin the Symphony of Dance Tour. "There's a possibility, there really is," he told E! News, joking that they'd need to rename it the "Miracle Tour."

"If there's a moment where she's with us and joining us on stage, it's going to be unbelievably special,” he said. “I don't know even know how I'm going to through it. I'm an emotional guy."

Derek added that dance means so much to the couple, as it brought them together in the first place.

"We actually met dancing on stage on tour," he said. "Our first kiss was on-stage, on-tour. We were touring last year for the first time as a married couple and now this, going back out, there's a completely different meaning and tension."

March 20, 2024: Derek and Hayley make their return to dance studio.

Now, Hayley and Derek are back dancing together. A sweet Instagram photo of the couple showed them gazing at the studio, with Hayley’s head resting on Derek's shoulder.

“Stepping onto this blank canvas together. Beginning to paint again ❤️ @hayley.erbert,” Derek wrote in the caption.

Their famous friends cheered them on in the comments. “Yall are too cute! ❤️,” said ESPN's Emmanuel Acho. “Yay!!! Love you guys,” wrote fellow DWTS cast member Emma Slater.

April 14, 2024: Hayley officially comes back to the tour

Just a month later, Hayley performed in the tour's show in Melbourne, Florida, her first since her health scare. In a fan's TikTok video, she can be seen tearing up as she receives a standing ovation from audiences. Derek also can be seen sweetly stepping back to allow Hayley to soak in the applause.

In an Instagram post from the rehearsal room, she called her emergency surgery "a blessing and a surprise."

"My healing journey has been nothing short of extraordinary and being able to dance again is igniting my soul in all the ways; speeding up my recovery even more," she wrote.

May 23, 2024: Hayley reflects on the past year as the tour ends

After the Symphony of Dance tour wrapped up at the end of May, Hayley shared on Instagram that she still hasn’t “quite found the words to express my emotions.”

Hayley “was on cloud nine” when shows began in September, she wrote, “getting to travel and perform with my newlywed husband, doing the most challenging show I have ever done in my entire life.”

But life came to a "screeching halt" on December 6. "When there were talks of resuming the tour a few months later, there was so much uncertainty around it for me. But I DID IT!" she said. "This tour reignited many parts of me that have been dim for so long."

She ended on this note: "I am so grateful to still be here, with you all, doing what I love. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Hayley's famous friends cheered her on in the comments. “You. Are. Perfection ♥️,” said Dancing With the Stars pro Peta Murgatroyd. “You are a warrior!” wrote actress Amy Purdy.

Wishing you healing, Hayley!

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