Neurosurgery Success Story

“ They call this a place where life shines bright. It’s true, because I thought of these people as stars. I hope they know that they were God’s gift to me. ”

- Elizabeth

This was not your typical morning sickness. At six months pregnant, Elizabeth Sanchez could neither walk nor think straight.

Feeling weak, the University of Texas at Arlington English instructor lasted only two weeks into the 2012 fall semester. Her husband even had to carry her to the bathroom on his back.

“I was admitted to the hospital four different times for dehydration, because I couldn’t eat or drink anything,” Sanchez says. “I was pregnant and had lost 20 pounds.”

Finally, Sanchez agreed to an MRI scan. Lodged at the base of her brain was a lemon-sized tumor blocking a vital aqueduct and causing fluid to build — a fatal condition called obstructive hydrocephalus.

Neurosurgeon Richard Meyrat, MD, with the Methodist Moody Brain and Spine Institute at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, called together a team of specialists.

“Obstructive hydrocephalus is an emergency,” Dr. Meyrat says. “We do a lot of complicated cases, so we were ready.”

The teamwork that went into Sanchez’s successful procedure cannot be underestimated, Dr. Meyrat says. While he, assisted by neurosurgeon Ben Newman, MD, used stealth navigation technology to remove the tumor with extreme precision, anesthesiologist Derek Kieta, MD, and maternal-fetal medicine physician Juan Arias, MD, monitored Sanchez and her unborn daughter.

Diligence paid off. After the surgery, Sanchez had immediate relief.

“The headache was gone,” she says. “I was like, ‘Thank God!’ ”

Perfect timing

While the brain surgery was a success, a biopsy found that the tumor was malignant, calling for radiation therapy. This required finesse in timing, because therapy couldn’t begin until after Sanchez delivered and her due date was still three months out.

If they waited too long, the tumor could grow back.

“We wanted to deliver her daughter safely, but we also wanted her to be safe to see her daughter grow up,” Dr. Meyrat says. Steroid treatments accelerated the baby’s lung development so that baby Susana could be delivered two months early via cesarean section.

While her daughter recovered in Methodist Dallas’ level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Sanchez started radiation treatment at Texas Oncology – Methodist Dallas Cancer Center under the supervision of radiation oncologist Arve Gillette, MD. Oncologist and hematologist Inna Shmerlin, MD, was also involved with the coordination of care.

“Methodist was our home away from home for two months,” Sanchez says. “We stayed in the hospital’s hotel until I completed treatment in January. Every morning, Bill walked me to radiation before he went to work. Then I visited Susana in the NICU until my radiation session in the afternoon.

“Our experience was amazing. I was grateful that we could be right there.”

Life is shining bright

Today, Sanchez is cancer-free and has a healthy, happy baby. She extends “a million thank-you’s” to those who made her care possible.

“They call this a place where life shines bright,” she says. “It’s true, because I thought of these people as stars. I hope they know that they were God’s gift to me.”

“Our experience was amazing. I was grateful that we could be right there.”