Working Together to Save a Life
Shauna Gooch, 23, doesn't remember much about Aug. 16, 2010. "I was on the floor with a splitting headache and then I woke up in the hospital with half a ponytail,'' she said recently.
Her sense of humor is intact so it's difficult to tell that a large brain tumor almost took her life. Gooch and her family know, however, that this story is one where everything had to go exactly right for a positive outcome. Shauna had complained of headaches and when the pain became intense, she called her fiancé to take her to UW Health Partners Watertown Regional Medical Center.
There, Kathleen Hargarten, MD, the emergency physician, sensed immediately that Shauna had more serious neurological issues and, after some testing, ordered additional scans. Thinking ahead, she had UW Health's MedFlight on standby while she determined the correct course of action. She said, "Due to the size and location of her tumor, I did not expect good news after we put her on the helicopter."
Luckily for Shauna, one of UW Health's most experienced neurosurgeons, Mustafa Baskaya, MD, was assembling his team in the middle of the night to greet the MedFlight helicopter and move her into surgery.
"We saw that the mass was pressing on her brain stem and that bleeding needed to be stopped immediately," said Dr. Baskaya. Once the internal pressure was relieved, the next step was to assess her level of functionality. After some simple tests the day after surgery, it was clear that Shauna had survived with her brain functions operating well.
Shauna's parents had raced home from a family trip and realized there were still more challenges for their daughter as additional scanning confirmed the unusually large tumor still in her head.
Her mom, Shelley, said, "We got the good news that she had survived the night but then were told of this large tumor and the complexity of the surgery to remove it."
Because of its location, it was likely that full removal would mean the loss of hearing in one ear but Shauna knew that this was the best route to take. With careful precision over a 14-hour surgery, Dr. Baskaya and his neurosurgical team successfully removed the benign tumor and Shauna started on the road back to her life.
Her fiancé's quick thinking, the expert diagnosis in the ER, the strong connection between Watertown Regional Medical Center and UW Health, the response of MedFlight and access to a team of renowned neurosurgeons trained in complex tumor removal: all were critical factors in Shauna's successful treatment.
According to her father, Roger, "I can't imagine any other way this could have unfolded to come out so well."
As she has worked to regain her balance and recover from the surgery, Shauna is grateful for those who made the right decisions at the right time.
"I am most anxious to get back to work and to some kind of schedule but everything now is a little bit more special. The holidays have an extra layer of meaning."