As a Lurie Children’s patient, I am forever indebted to the wonderful doctors and nurses who saved my life–not once but twice.
Imagine taking your child to an appointment with her pediatrician only to learn she needs to undergo surgery to remove a massive brain tumor. For most people, this would be their worst nightmare. In February of 1988, this frightening circumstance became a reality for my parents. At fourteen and a half months (and then again at eight–years old) the courageous doctors and nurses at Children’s Memorial (now Lurie Children’s) saved my life.
I don’t remember events as a one–year old, but my parents retell the story quite often. During a family trip to Florida, my grandmother noticed my left leg dragging when I "furniture walked." She insisted that when we returned home my mom take me to the doctor. My pediatrician noted that my head circumference had grown more than it should have over the three–month period. He ordered an ultrasound which found an abnormality in my brain. The CAT scan and MRI confirmed a massive brain tumor.
When the heart wrenching diagnosis was given to my parents, they decided with the help of family and friends to go where I would have the best possible care – Children’s Memorial. Dr. David McLone, Head Pediatric Neurosurgeon, met my parents and examined me in the emergency room at 7pm on Saturday. With kindness and care he confirmed that the tumor was operable, but that my condition was critical. I was checked in and surgery was scheduled for 7am Monday. Instantly, my parents knew they had taken me to the right place.
I underwent an eight–hour operation to remove the tumor. The nurses gave my parents updates throughout the surgery, trying to calm their fears.
I underwent an eight–hour operation to remove the tumor. I was under the watchful eye of Dr. McLone and staff for the next ten days at Children’s. As my parents put it, I left the hospital with a smile, quite an interesting hairdo, and the energy of a healthy 15–month old. Not long after, I was back to gymnastics, swimming and ballet. My mom tells me how the other mothers in my gymnastics class would comment about how well my coordination and balance were, and her eyes would fill with tears of happiness due to the positive outcome of my surgery. Every year, I returned for a routine MRI and my appointment with Dr. McLone.
In 1995, the tumor returned. This time it was different, as I was not a baby, but in second grade, so my memory of this is very much ingrained. The emotions I felt were real, and as an eight–year–old, I just wanted to get better, so I could get back to gymnastics and playing with my sisters and friends. We met Dr. Tadanori Tomita along with Dr. McLone for the surgery. I remember my time in the hospital; I remember how kind the nurses were; I remember the nurse taking my hand and walking me down the long hallway to the operating room and as we turned the corner I waved back to my parents; and I remember how I was saved, yet again.
I was given the name "Miracle Child" at Children’s Memorial—and I really was just that. I owe everything to Dr. McLone and Dr. Tomita. Every year following my second surgery, I would go to Children’s for a routine MRI to ensure the tumor was gone. And, every year since, I was given a clean bill of health. When I turned twenty–nine, I went in for my final MRI–Dr. Tomita said I no longer needed to come back for yearly checkups but to stay in touch. And I did just that.
In September of 2017, Dr. Tomita attended my wedding, and it was truly a great feeling having him and his wife there to watch me walk down the aisle. Dr. McLone could not attend but sent a heartfelt note that I’ll cherish forever. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for having the wonderful doctors and nurses at Children’s Memorial in my life. They’ve helped shape me into the young woman I am today and for that I am forever grateful.
As a member of the board for five years, I’ve enjoyed my time giving back. This year, more so than the past, the connection runs much deeper, as my brother Anthony now serves on the board with me. He was just a baby when I had my second brain tumor, so he doesn’t remember the uncertainty and emotions that ran through our home. As my brother got older and understood what I went through, he has looked at my strength and will power in a much different way –– in that I breezed through one of life’s most challenging circumstances. Now that we have the opportunity to work together on initiatives that support many amazing doctors and brave children, Anthony is experiencing first–hand the determination, unconditional love, and miracles that walk in and out of Lurie’s every day.
Making a difference and helping raise money that ultimately saves more children’s lives is the greatest success, and I am grateful to be a part of something that impacts so many.