Sally has been through the
most dangerous and
amazing medical experience
over the last
couple of weeks
She received phenomenal
care at Mission Hospital in
Mission Viejo, California
April 20, 2010
Sally was diagnosed with a
large brain tumor that the
doctors say has been
growing for a minimum of five
years. This picture at left with
President George Herbert
Walker Bush was taken in
2005. At that time she was
not noticeably experiencing
the effects of the tumor.
Sally’s cognitive abilities had
been declining over the last
Since then, Sally has been
progressively getting worse,
experiencing significant short
term memory loss, missing
meetings and flights, getting
lost in traffic, etc.
Two weeks ago, Sally had
fallen while walking to lunch
with a colleague from work.
She was taken to her primary
care doctor who ordered a
series of tests including a
Imaging (MRI) scan of her
At left is a single frame from
her MRI. The whitish area in
the upper left is a
Meningioma brain tumor the
size of an orange. For
reference, the tumor is over
Sally’s Right eye.
These tumors grow from the meninges,
the layers of tissue covering the brain and
spinal cord. As they grow, meningiomas
compress adjacent brain tissue.
Symptoms are often related to this
compression of brain tissue, which can
also affect cranial nerves and blood
vessels. In some cases, meningioma
growth can also extend into the bones of
the head and face, which may produce
visible changes. Most meningiomas are
considered nonmalignant or low grade
tumors. However, unlike nonmalignant
tumors elsewhere in the body, some of
these brain tumors can cause disability
and may sometimes be life threatening.
In many cases, meningiomas grow
slowly. Other meningiomas grow more
rapidly or have sudden growth spurts.
There is no way to predict the rate of
growth of a meningioma or to know for
certain how long a specific tumor was
growing before diagnosis. Meningiomas
are graded from low to high.
Sally was first admitted into
another hospital, but was
transferred by ambulance to
Mission Hospital which had
the newest and most modern
imaging technology available
in health care today.
Sally was admitted into
Intensive Care (left) as the
significant shift in her brain
due to the huge size of the
tumor was especially
Sally was seeing in black and
white (unable to see colors),
had developed severe
memory loss and was losing
the ability to balance herself.
Critical Care Nurse, Michelle Chapman, was a “miracle worker” for Sally and family members. She
worked eight consecutive days (12 hour shifts), which is the only time in her ten years at Mission
Hospital she had worked that many days in a row.
At Mission Hospital, Critical Care Nurses stay with their patients everywhere in the hospital, including
imaging and the operating room.
Sally spent four days in Intensive Care prior
to her surgery. The doctors conducted
endless tests to get ready for the tumor
Mission Hospital has thought about the smallest details. Above Sally’s bed in Intensive Care was this
wonderful panel that lights up and looks exactly like a “skylight.” This simulated view adds a peaceful
calm while spending many days in a hospital.
The grand children and great nieces in our
families made fun and colorful cards and
drawings for Sally that were prominently
displayed in her room.
Kristina (in the picture at left)
made her Aunt Sally this framed
memory piece to help her recall
some of the wonderful moments
they had shared together
A JetBlue balloon was part of
the room’s decorations to make
Sally feel at home.
Family began assembling from
around the country. Judy took
over feeding duties.
facility. Sally was
subjected to at
least three MRI’s
and seven CAT
Scans at various
stages of her stay.
Her vascular neurosurgeon,
Dr. Ched Nwagwu, performed
the first surgical procedure on
Sally to get her ready for the
removal of the tumor.
In addition to being an
incredibly skilled surgeon, he
is a classically trained pianist
who has performed with
This angio procedure allowed the neurosurgeon to cauterize the
primary blood vessels feeding the brain tumor. He successfully cut
off 85% of the blood supply to the tumor. This allowed the tumor to
start to die and soften for removal.
During a nuclear heart stress test to
determine the condition of her
heart’s ability to withstand surgery,
a blockage was discovered in one
of Sally’s coronary arteries. The
doctors drew various levels of
possible blockages on the board in
This cardiac surgeon, Dr. Margaret Rasouli
decided to perform an angiography
procedure to look inside each of Sally’s
coronary arteries to see the degree of
blockage seen during the heart stress test.
When this cardiologist
performed the angiography
procedure, it turned out the
nuclear stress test had
resulted in a “false positive”
reading. Sally’s arteries were
clear and she was approved
for brain surgery.
Coronary angiography is performed to detect obstruction in
the coronary arteries of the heart. During the procedure a
catheter (thin flexible tube) is inserted into an artery in your
arm or groin and then threaded carefully into the heart. The
blood vessels of the heart are then studied by injection of
contrast media through the catheter. A rapid succession of X-
rays (fluoroscopy) is taken to view blood flow.
Extremely sophisticated surgical
technology is employed by the
neurosurgeon for the brain tumor
The family gathers in the waiting room
during the five hour operation. Here Susan,
Donna Sue and Rhea - Sally’s Mom eagerly
await the surgeon’s report.
Also waiting are Kristina, Briana with
Tatiana and Susie, who are trying to focus
Kristina and Tati play at a
child’s learning center in the
family waiting room.
If you would prefer NOT to see the
actual surgical photos of Sally’s brain
and the tumor (next slide), please skip
the next two slides.
After the Meningioma tumor is removed, a huge hole is
left in Sally’s brain. Several CAT scans and an MRI
confirm the brain had moved back into its original shape
and size by the following morning.
Immediately after surgery and recovery,
Sally was moved back into Intensive
Care and left on a ventilator in a sleep
state, planned for two additional days.
The preferred sleeping
medication fed through an IV drip
was “Propofol,” the same drug
that killed Michael Jackson.
Although Sally slept through the night and was constantly monitored by her Critical Care nurses, just 17 hours
after emerging from surgery, while still on Propofol, she opened her eyes and started moving her arms. Her
nurse, Michelle, called in the neurosurgeon to see for himself. Sally clearly indicated, using hand signals, she
wanted the breathing tube removed from her throat. It was removed and she began talking immediately (and
hasn’t stopped since).
Each day, the doctors and
nurses track important metrics
and set goals for recovery.
Sally wanted to look as good as she
could for family members after she woke
up from surgery. Michelle wrapped her
up in towels and blankets
Michelle brought shampoo
and conditioner from home
and meticulously washed
Dr. Anthony Kim was the
primary neurosurgeon who
performed the complex
surgery to remove the tumor.
He visited Sally every day to
monitor her condition. He
attended Yale, Harvard and
USC and also sang Opera
earlier in his life.
Dr. Guu was Sally’s internal
medicine physician during her
Dr. Cummings was her Neurologist. He will
continue her on seizure medication.
In addition to a phenomenal team of
doctors and nurses and amazing, state-
of-the-art technology, the constant flow
of family, friends and neighbors kept her
spirit alive. Judy, Ken, Bri and Tati.
Even after Sally was relocated to the step down
floor from intensive care, she had multiple visits
from Michelle and Dr. Nwagwu who let Heather
know how Sally was to be cared for
at right) during
Sally’s stay on
the step down
People called from all over the world to wish Sally well. These included calls from some
of the recent participants on the “Legends of Aerospace Tour.”
Bob Gilliland First Test Pilot of SR-71 Blackbird. General Steve Ritchie - Last Air Force Pilot
Holds record for most time at Mach 2 and Mach 3
ACE since the Korean War
to come off
the 37 staples
needed to close
Sally had to see for herself and intently
studied her incision in the mirror.
practicing going up
and down stairs.
Notice the wireless
heart monitor which is
data to the nurses
station at all times
during her hospital
Nurse got Sally
all bundled up in
the “Snugie” that
Jennie and the
purchased for her
Sally is wheeled outside
to be picked up for her
Quite literally, flowers
were still being delivered
as we were departing the
And the best news of all,
within 5 days of surgery,
Sally was home playing
with the grandbaby. Thank
you all for your prayers,
calls, emails, cards, flowers
and love. Keep her in your
thoughts as she continues
her miraculous recovery.