“Dr. Tew, a longtime friend, ordered a CT scan, which revealed a calcified tumor about the size of a golf ball over the right side of William’s brain.”
Every now and then medical practitioners are put to a particularly difficult kind of test: They are called upon to heal a fellow healer. That happened to the Mayfield Clinic and The Neuroscience Institute in October 2005, when 74-year-old William, a longtime dermatologist and well-known member of the Cincinnati community, arrived at the University Hospital emergency room with an excruciating headache.
"I was under a lot of stress, and we were going away," William says, recalling that eventful day. "One thing led to another, and I got what I thought was a migraine, because I’d had migraines before. I overmedicated myself with a combination of different drugs and wound up at the emergency room. My son, who is a surgeon, was there. No one really knew what I had."
Dr. John Tew, a longtime friend, ordered a CT scan, which revealed a calcified tumor about the size of a golf ball over the right side of William’s brain. Dr. Tew identified the mass as a calcified meningioma. A meningioma is an encapsulated tumor arising from the meninges, the membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord.
William spent three days at The Neuroscience Institute at University Hospital, where he also saw Dr. David Ficker, a neurologist.
Surgery was considered, but observation was recommended. "I was kind of scared of having surgery, and Dr. Tew thought the meningioma was stable, so we opted not to do anything about it," William says. "I went back home and cut back on my 60-hour work schedule, eliminating most of my early-morning and late-afternoon meetings.
William had an MRI four months later, and there was no dramatic change. Nevertheless, something was amiss. William suffered periodic headaches, fatigue, and signs of depression. "Things got progressively worse," he says. "I was beginning to shuffle in my walk. I had terrific depression, to the point where I finally saw a friend of mine, Dr. James Hawkins, a psychiatrist experienced in the treatment geriatric patients. He thought I was depressed. I was seeing a psychologist, and she also thought I was depressed. We tried every anti-depressant known to man, and all I ever got were side-effects."
In June 2006 William was feeling bad enough that he asked Dr. Hawkins to hospitalize him "and find out what’s going on." William was admitted to Cincinnati’s Deaconess Hospital, where an MRI scan was performed. When he returned to his room after the MRI, his son, a plastic surgeon, was waiting for him. "We’re going over to University Hospital," he told his father. "This meningioma has grown and you need to have surgery."
Indeed, the calcified meningioma had surprised everyone by aggressively taking on new life: it was now 10 x 6 centimeters and dramatically impacting his brain.
Dr. Tew displayed images of the meningioma during The Neuroscience Institute’s weekly "tumor board," a conference that brings together experts from multiple specialties involved in neurological care. "You had a big one," Dr. Tew told William. "Everyone agreed that it was a low-grade, benign meningioma. But they were very, very concerned because of the recent rapid growth."
Fortunately, the tumor was positioned in such a way that Dr. Tew was able to extract every bit of it, and with a wide margin.
William, grateful for the medical care he received, today praises his providers for their compassion and understanding. "Being a physician, I tried to behave myself and not be overbearing," he says. Still, he knew that providing care for a doctor wasn’t easy.
"John Tew handled my personality very well. He knew I was anxious and needed to be reassured. He was always available, as was his associate, Nancy McMahon, a registered nurse. Nancy was a source of reassurance to me on many occasions. She and the other members of the University Hospital team were empathetic and completely professional at all levels."
Seven months after surgery, William is once again immersed in the hustle and bustle of professional life. He complains of some fatigue and balance problems when walking downhill, but he describes his life overall as "more positive than negative." He is working three days a week at his dermatology practice and is exercising regularly with a fitness trainer.
The post-operative MRI demonstrates full recovery of the brain and no evidence of recurrence of the tumor," Dr. Tew says.
Says William: "I’m 99 percent back to where I was. My trainer can’t get over the difference in me."
"I’m 75," he adds. "But I don’t think I look it."
Hope Story Disclaimer - "William's Story" is about one patient's health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.