On May 17, 2013 I received a call that no mother wants to get. My daughter, April, was calling from the Emergency Room of a local hospital and through her tears she tried to explain the news she had just received.
The diagnosis? A rare tumor known as a paraganglioma, 5-6cm in size, was growing in the right side of her neck and extended up into the base of the skull. The ER doctor informed her that in 30 years of practice he had NEVER seen this type of tumor. The likelihood of developing this type of tumor in the head or neck area is literally LESS THAN ONE IN A MILLION. Due to this April has been forced to seek treatment out of state.
Since her diagnosis she has had to travel to St. Louis, MO for multiple doctor appointments, labs, and scans. Treatment will involve having surgery in May 2014, at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Medical bills are adding up quickly, as are her travel expenses.
April is a 34 year old single mother to a 13 year old son. She works as a registered nurse in pediatric home care. For the past couple of years she has been pursuing her Master's degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. She is now less than 3 full semesters away from graduation. Unfortunately, her upcoming surgery involves risks that could greatly affect her ability to complete her schooling.
The tumor is growing on the vagus nerve in her neck. The vagus nerve is responsible for functions such as heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating, and muscle movements in the mouth which control speech and keeping the larynx open for breathing. With the surgery there is significant risk of damage to this important nerve. The doctors have prepared her that side effects will likely include:
"¢ Need for a feeding tube "“ this would hopefully be only temporary, 3-6 months or more
"¢ Need for a tracheostomy (breathing tube inserted into the trachea from the neck) "“ again, hopefully this would be temporary
"¢ Horner's syndrome
"¢ Inability to speak "“ requiring speech therapy
"¢ Partial loss of use of right arm
In addition, because the tumor is surrounding the carotid artery there is a chance that they will either need to repair or permanently tie off the right carotid artery. This would increase the risk of stroke now and in the future.
Currently April is seeing multiple doctors including an otolaryngologist, endocrinologist, and vascular surgeon. In early April, she will return to St. Louis to meet an audiologist (as she has experienced some hearing loss and ringing in her right ear) and a surgeon who will be responsible for breaking her jaw to allow access to the tumor during surgery if needed.
April faces significant medical bills from this surgery, rehab, additional surgeries to address the above listed side effects, and lifelong follow-up. What's worse is that the doctor has informed her that she will require a MINIMUM of three MONTHS off of work!
This is a financial burden that few people are prepared for, especially a single mother in graduate school. April chose, with her doctors' permission, to delay surgery until this May because she wanted to complete another year of school. Despite her pain, anxiety, and other symptoms she has continued to fight to stay on track to graduate in May 2015. She also continues to work three days a week in order to provide for her son and herself.
As a nurse April is used to being the one who helps others; but this time she needs OUR help. Would you please consider making a donation for her today? All donations will be used to pay household bills while she is off work and will be put towards her rising medical debt. Every little bit helps! Let's make sure April can focus on recovery this summer without the added stress of this financial burden.
Would you also please consider sharing a link to this page on your Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. to help get the word out to others? Together we can make a difference.
For more information regarding April's diagnosis and journey please visit her caring bridge website: www.caringbridge.org/visit/april18
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