Stanford Neurosurgery Patient Stories
Featured Patient: John Kao, Treated for Hemifacial Spasm
For five years John Kao suffered from a hemifacial spasm caused by pressure of an artery on the facial nerve. The several hundred spasms Kao experienced each day were both distracting and disfiguring. To stop the spasms, Kao chose to undergo a microvascular decompression surgery at Stanford.
Featured Patient: Jose Bourbois, Treated for Bulging Disc and Sciatic Nerve Pain
Jose Bourbois had been dealing with chronic pain caused by a bulging disc in his lower spine for years. He tried epidural injections and two surgeries, but the pain continued. When it got really bad, Bourbois could barely function and became depressed. Spine surgery, including computer assisted spine stabilization, at Stanford eliminated the pain and gave Bourbois his quality of life back.
Featured Patient: Nilsa Reyna, Treated for Moyamoya
It took 6 years after a major stroke for Nilsa Reyna to finally get an accurate diagnosis. Once she found out she had moyamoya, she also learned that the symptoms she had been experiencing since childhood were caused by the little-known disease. Brain surgery at Stanford by one of the world's foremost moyamoya experts gave Reyna her life back.
Featured Patient: Natalia Cherry, Treated for Acromegaly and a Pituitary Tumor
For more than a decade Natalia Cherry was feeling like something just wasn't right. Inexplicable weight gain, changes in her bones, and chronic fatigue continued to affect her but her lab work with her primary care doctor didn't show anything abnormal. Then Cherry ended up in the emergency room unable to pass neurological exams, and that's when Stanford neurosurgeons diagnosed her with a hormonal disorder and a pituitary tumor. Using an innovative technique Stanford neurosurgeons were able to remove the tumor without opening the skull, and gave Cherry her life back.
"Life savers and just amazing people all around. Always so kind and understanding. I owe Stanford and Dr Steinberg my life!" - Amanda A.
"I’m so glad that I chose this place for my spinal fusion surgery, L4-5. The aftercare is outstanding." - Kent H.
"Excellent service! They truly care about their patients!" - Gladis A.
"Staff are the most compassionate people I’ve had the pleasure of them taking incredible time to understand what we’re working with. But they are very kind and professional...and very intelligent." - Kristin A.
Alex Baker: Parkinson's and Deep Brain Stimulation
Once the tremors and chronic pain began disturbing his sleep and causing problems at work, Alex Baker was forced to retire early. That's when Baker decided to have deep brain stimulation in hopes of reducing the symptoms and being able to get back to his favorite activity, surfing. This is Alex Baker's deep brain stimulation story.
David Tran: Trigeminal Neuralgia
After years of suffering with the facial pain condition, Trigeminal Neuralgia, David Tran underwent Microvascular Decompression surgery. Tran wanted to share his story in hopes he can inspire others to seek medical help and get treated for this painful condition. This is Tran's trigeminal neuralgia story in his own words.
David Silva: Craniopharyngioma Brain Tumor
David Silva was diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma brain tumor when he was just 22 years old. Treating this type of tumor is difficult and complex. Over the course of a decade Silva endured five brain surgeries at multiple hospitals, but the procedures were all unsuccessful and the tumor persisted. Silva was ready to give up hope, but then he heard about a neurosurgeon with unique expertise at Stanford.
Beverly McGowan: Essential Tremor
Beverly McGowan, a Nurse Practitioner, received MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound treatment for essential tremor symptoms in the right upper extremity, at Stanford. In this personal video journal, McGowan shares the symptoms of the condition that were affecting her daily activites prior to treatment, including results of neurological testing, and results of symptom relief immediately following the procedure.
Kit Carson: Moyamoya Disease
After her 6-month follow-up appointment for a second successful surgery, Moyamoya patient Kit Carson and her new husband Kyle, were treated to a surprise celebration. The Moyamoya team heard that the couple had decided to elope in California earlier in the week, as part of Kit’s trip to Stanford. Wanting to share in their joy, the team brought out wedding cake and Martinelli’s, and expressed best wishes for the newlyweds’ future together. Congratulations Kit and Kyle!!
Karma Lhaki: Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)
Karma was working out one evening when all of a sudden a bright light blurred her vision and was followed by an unbearable headache. Three hours later, still in severe pain, increased confusion, and an inability to speak, Karma was rushed to the emergency department at Stanford. A CT scan showed that Karma had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke caused by arteriovenous malformation. In an effort to educate people about AVM and stroke, Karma put together a video on Facebook sharing her experience.
Terenia: Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Terenia survived a very serious car crash, but decades later her injuries began to create such debilitating symptoms she lost her ability to work as an artist. She found relief through Stanford Health Care’s Department of Neurosurgery, which offered a creative solution of its own. Neurospine surgeon, Dr. Anand Veeravagu, identified a previously undiagnosed weakness and used leading edge imaging, along with robotic and computer-assisted surgery to complete a briefer operation with less anesthesia, and ultimately a briefer hospital stay and faster recovery.
Sonia Coontz: Adult Stem Cell Therapy for Stroke
Sonia Coontz said the stroke she suffered made her feel like she was trapped in her own body. The stroke she had in 2011 affected the movement of her right arm and leg, and her speech was no longer intelligible. After modified stem cells were injected into her brain as part of a clinical trial at Stanford, she says her limbs "woke up." Several years since her treatment, Coontz has retained the physical improvments from the stem cell therapy, and was able to have a baby. Stem Cell Facts Now features Coontz's story in this inspiring video.
Brett: Traumatic Brain Injury
Brett’s cross-country bicycling trip from Santa Barbara to South Carolina ended abruptly, 1,000 miles short of its final destination. While crossing through Oklahoma, Brett fell, ending his dreams of completing a coast-to-coast charity ride, and nearly ending his life. He was transported by helicopter to the nearest trauma center in Joplin, Missouri, where he spent nine days in a coma. Brett had suffered a subdural hematoma from landing on his head. Once stabilized, Brett was transferred to Stanford for treatment and follow-up care.
Matthew Ryan: Spine Neurosurgery
Matthew Ryan had been an athlete all his life, but a terrible surfing accident threatened his spinal cord. When Ryan arrived at Stanford, he had multiple fractures of his spine at the sixth and seventh vertebrae, leading down from his skull. One of the damaged vertebrae was pushing the other one out of position and both were pushing against Ryan's spinal cord. Spine neurosurgeons were able to treat the multiple fractures in his spine, and Ryan was able to get back to his active lifestyle.
Mike Harris: Brain Tumor Resection
Over the span of a few months, Mike Harris began experiencing strange symptoms; an avid cyclist, he suddenly couldn’t coordinate riding a bike. He lost control of the right side of his body. Always a great reader, he became frustrated because he couldn’t remember what he’d read at the beginning of a sentence by the time he finished reading it. He lost his appetite. When he did eat, his digestive system would rebel. An MRI of his brain revealed a meningioma—a fist-sized tumor growing in the narrow space between his brain and his skull. Stanford surgeons were able to successfully remove Harris' brain tumor.
Tim Engberg: Neck and Spine Surgery
Tim Engberg, RN, VP Ambulatory Care at Stanford Health Care, got a cold which led to a rare infection that put his life at risk. The infection caused his neck and spine to collapase twice over the span of two months, requiring extensive surgery to fuse his vertebrae and prevent him from becoming a quadriplegic. Stanford neurosurgeons performed the successful surgeries. In this video, Enberg talks about his experience.
Marjorie Paulsen: Brain Tumor Resection
Marjorie Paulsen didn't think much of the random, unpredictable arm movement she was experiencing, until it began to happen more and more often. Then her left leg began to tingle for hours at a time. Finally Paulsen went in to the hospital and discovered she had a brain tumor. Eight years after being removed the tumor regrew and had to be removed a second time. At Stanford, Paulsen saw a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and neuro-oncologists who were able to successfully remove the tumor.
Brad Ackerman: Controlling Essential Tremor
Brad Ackerman has lived most of his life with essential tremor. But when the tremor began to worsen and was affecting things he loved to do, like drawing and painting or even being able to go out to eat in a restuarant with his wife, Ackerman decided to go to Stanford to find out about deep brain stimulation. Like most people receiving DBS, Ackerman was awake during the procedure, and worked together with his neurosurgeon to adjust the pacemaker to address his tremor and particular needs.