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Brain Surgery Scheduled - Hanging onto Faith!

Stella Im

In early 2019, Stella went in for a routine eye exam. During her exam, the Ophthalmologist discovered Stella had fluid behind her eyes and immediately referred her to a Neurosurgeon for an MRI scan in the Sacramento area.

Stella was getting rapidly worse with her vision and headaches. As time went on, she felt her head would explode and her body would go weak. As Greg stayed up nights researching to determine the root cause of her pain, they were finally scheduled for her Neurosurgeon appointment. Stella was diagnosed with “Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension” through the MRI Scan.

 Greg and Stella were shocked at this diagnosis. Stella was in her 40’s. Why now? However, Stella’s vision and headaches were getting worse. They knew there something was truly wrong. Since this diagnosis was so serious and involving the brain, Greg grew so concerned he took Stella to several local specialists. One of them recommended a MRI Scan. The MRI results came back and they were told that fluid was building up behind Stella’s eyes. She would most likely need a shunt permanently and surgically inserted through her skull near her brain. This is a very serious and lifelong implication. The doctor explained that many times during someone’s lifetime, the shunt will need to be adjusted or tubes replaced. This could mean more surgeries to come. 

“To help drain the extra CSF from your brain, a VP shunt will be placed into your head. The VP shunt works by taking the fluid out of your brain and moving it into your abdomen (belly), where it's absorbed by your body. This lowers the pressure and swelling in your brain. A VP shunt has 3 parts”    This news was very frighteningly. Greg sought out the highest level of specialist to do the procedure. Greg    requested a referral for a second opinion at the top-rated Neurosurgical centers in the United States. They were accepted by a Neurosurgeon with almost 40 years of experience surgically implanting shunts into the cranium. The doctor selected had his expertise in VP Shunts and his position on the prestigious board. He came highly recommended.    They scheduled the surgery. But Greg could not ignore a growing reticence in him. He kept researching to find answers and his concern grew. So much so in fact that he contacted the doctor through email with several vital questions regarding Greg’s own research.  Stella was so worried, “Greg, why are you challenging the very doctor that will do surgery on me? Don’t you feel this could have negative ramifications? He is a world-renowned specialist! He knows so much more than you do about this. We have to trust and just pray for a good outcome. Let the doctor do his job!”

The doctor finally responded to Greg. He stated Greg’s concerns were well researched and thought out. In fact, the doctor himself scheduled a 2nd opinion with another highly regarded specialist in Stenting. This new doctor not only was a highly esteemed medical doctor, but had graduated MIT prior to going into medicine. Greg and Stella, already in the Bay Area with family prepared for her surgery, met with the doctor the evening prior to the scheduled 5:00 am surgery.

The 4th doctor indicated that although he could see the reason they wanted to do the VP Shunt surgery, after looking at all of Stella’s test results, he did not feel there was enough indication that she was producing too much fluid. He suggested they do a Lumbar Puncture / Spinal Tap first to see the actual fluid levels. Greg asked if a Spinal Tap was dangerous. The doctor said, of course, there are risks,. He suggested a Lumbar Puncture/Spinal Tap under Fluoroscopy so the procedure could be viewed while inserting a needle.

“The lumbar puncture procedure is performed by a physician trained in the use of X-ray equipment, called fluoroscopic equipment, which allows the doctor to view the needle as it is placed into the subarachnoid space. “  They scheduled the Lumbar Puncture / Spinal Tap for 10 days out. The Im’s and all the family members returned home. A couple of days later Stella was in severe pain. She told Greg something was very wrong and she did not feel she could take it any longer. Greg rushed her down to the bay area emergency room hoping to see their doctor there. The on-Call resident doctor said they would need to do an emergency Spinal Tap. Greg asked if it was with the Fluoroscopy. The doctor said, “No.” Greg requested him to find someone who could do it safely utilizing the Fluoroscopy. The doctor said there was no one. He was the only one in the ER at the time. They would have to do it without images.

Greg pleaded with him. “Please doctor. She is my beloved wife. Tell me truthfully, can you guarantee you can do this successfully? The doctor responded by looking Greg in the eyes and said “Yes. I have done this enough times to know I will do a great job. I know I can do this as well as anyone can.” Greg acquiesced and they proceeded with this painful procedure. Greg stayed next to the door and listened to Stella’s cries of pain with tears in his eyes and pain in his heart. He suffered, did he make the right decision?

The 2nd opinion Doctor reviewed the tests results when they arrived and then suggested the Im’s met with a  highly acclaimed Ophthalmologist surgeon at the same esteemed medical center.  She reviewed all of Stella’s results and looked at her eyes. “Stella, have you ever had lasik surgery?” Stella said, “Yes, about 15 years ago.” The Dr. asked, “Are you using eye drops?” Stella nodded. “Which eye drops are you using?” “ I have been using “Red out” for several years.” The doctor nodded her head. Then she said, “Don’t use that anymore. These eyedrops cause swelling if used long term. Just go to CVS and buy the over the counter drops called Refresh. You should see relief within a couple of weeks.” No surgeries are required. I am so sorry you two had to go through all of this!” Greg and Stella looked at each other, afraid to let this new information soak in. Greg looked back at the doctor. “Wait! Are you saying she no longer needs VP Shunt surgery?” The doctor responded, “It appears she never did. Dryness can occur around 15 years after Lasik surgery and was caused locally behind the eyes by the many years use of the wrong eyedrops. Inf fact this is somewhat common. Due to the severity of Stella’s pain, it looks like they pushed her through for surgery, , but she was not a true candidate. This would not have helped her. It was a good thing you challenged the doctor.” Greg and Stella felt they breathed their first breath in months! They knew they could be righteously angry for what they had been through. The pain and suffering and the lifelong health issue Stella would have endured, however, they could only feel grateful. They knew that God had been faithful. Greg had listened to God’s prompting and through prayer had intervened in his wife’s health protocol even though it meant challenging world-renowned doctors with expertise far exceeding what he could ever know. However, Greg has learned to be quiet during tragedy and listen. He listened to God and through his faith took control of his wife’s procedures.

When Greg and Stella came back to the office, for the first time in a long time, Stella was smiling. I asked her, “Praise God that Greg was able to stop the doctor before it was too late!” She looked lovingly up at him and said, “Yes, I thought he was hurting my chances at getting well by challenging the doctors, but instead with he is my hero! God working through him saved me!”  IMPaX wants you to know you have power over your health. You need to take that power and make informed decisions. Know your health—know your options and research the root cause of your symptoms!  At IMPaX,  healing, faith and miracles do happen!

Greg & Stella Im

Article By Kim Money

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