Patient at Rush: “My Life Has Changed Dramatically”

Every day clinicians and patients at Rush face moments of great challenge and great inspiration. During the holiday season, they’re sharing what they are thankful for and how their experiences at Rush have inspired them. 

By Tiffany Stone

When other kids were trying to get out of going to school, I was begging to go.

I was a teenager when I started having seizures, caused by scar tissue on my brain from a brain tumor I had as a baby. Throughout my teen years, I was having regular seizures, tremors and severe vomiting, and medications did not help. I spent my days hanging over trash cans sick and holding onto furniture because I was so dizzy. The seizures made me forgetful and disoriented so I was in a constant haze.

I was too sick to go to high school, so a teacher brought my schoolwork to the house. But I wanted to go to school so badly. After pleading with the school and my parents to let me go, they finally gave in one day. That day, I was talking to a group of girls at a lunch table and the next thing I remember, they were all staring at me and looking at each other uncomfortably. They all scooted back from the table and left me there by myself. It turns out I had a seizure; I was rocking back and forth and wasn’t responding to anything. They thought I was so weird and it scared them off. Not an easy thing to go through as a teenage girl!

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Determined Patients Inspire Neurosurgeon at Rush

Every day clinicians and patients at Rush face moments of great challenge and great inspiration. During this time of giving thanks, they’re sharing what they are thankful for and how their experiences at Rush have inspired them. 

John O'Toole, MD, Rush University Medical Center

By John O’Toole, MD, MS

Two patients who inspired me recently were both diagnosed with intramedullary ependymoma, a benign tumor that grows in the spinal cord. Although the tumors are not life-threatening, patients face significant neurological disabilities because the tumor grows within the spinal cord itself. The definitive treatment is surgical resection.The amazing thing about this job is that we are with people in their most desperate moments. Seeing the strength my patients have when grappling with incredibly tough, life-altering experiences makes me think harder about how I face challenges in my own life.

These two patients were in the prime of their lives. Then all of a sudden they got this life-altering diagnosis. Once they both got over the initial shock, they embraced the course ahead of them. Their first thoughts were, “What do I have to do to get better?” Not all patients have that kind of attitude.

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Tribune Profiles Brain Tumor Surgeon at Rush

Richard Byrne, MD, a neurosurgeon at Rush who treats patients diagnosed with brain cancer, was profiled Sunday in a Chicago Tribune article by reporter Deborah L. Shelton:

In an area of medicine that many might view as bleak, Byrne finds inspiration, a sense of reward and hope. In addition to buying precious weeks or months for terminally ill patients, he contributes to research into these deadly cancers, hoping to see progress in treatment within his lifetime.

“What keeps me going is the fact that there are a lot of people who need us. Most of them come to us desperate and scared,” said Byrne, whose penetrating gaze and low-key presence convey both intensity and calm.

Byrne is part of the Brain Tumor Center at Rush and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery.

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