Paula Dean, Eugene, Oregon
Endovascular treatment of brain aneurysm, minimally invasive lung cancer surgery, treatment of lung air leaks
February 17, 2010, was not a good day for 63-year-old Paula Dean of Eugene. The phone rang, and everything changed.
“The doctor said I had an aneurysm in my brain, and that I most likely had cancer in my lung and left kidney,” she said.
It was unexpected news. A week earlier, Paula had gone to her doctor’s office complaining of headaches. She had also been feeling run down and tired, but thought it was related to her emphysema. Scans of her head and chest revealed that Paula had a much more serious and complex diagnosis. The various treatments that followed became a series of firsts for Paula, her doctors and Sacred Heart Medical Center.
The initial step, the doctor told her, was to treat the aneurysm in her brain.
“The doctor said that in the past, he would have to send me up to Portland, but he said a new doctor named Erik Hauck was coming to Sacred Heart, and that he could help me,” Paula recalled.
“I was not looking forward to having to go out of town to a different hospital away from my family, so when I found out that he was coming here and I could have the procedure done close to home, I was so relieved. I felt blessed,” she said.
Paula was ready when endovascular neurosurgeon Erik Hauck, MD, arrived at Sacred Heart Medical Center. She was his first patient with this specific type of brain aneurysm. The complex procedure was successful, and Paula’s symptoms were completely relieved.
With her brain aneurysm resolved, Paula shifted her focus to beating lung cancer. In July, Paul Koh, MD, surgically removed the cancer from the upper lobe of Paula’s right lung using minimally invasive techniques. The cancer was completely removed, but Paula soon faced another obstacle.
After a lobectomy, the lungs often leak air for a few days until the cut tissue heals. Sometimes the air leak continues for a longer period of time, and that’s what happened to Paula. Her anticipated week-long stay soon turned into a month-long stay, as she waited patiently for her lung to heal.
During the same time, Khuram Ameen, MD, a pulmonologist, was being trained at Sacred Heart to use a new, unique device that recently received FDA approval to close post-surgical lung leaks.
Dr. Ameen was the first physician in Oregon to complete the advanced training required to use the device, and Sacred Heart was one of only 30 hospitals in the country approved to offer the procedure. Paula, once again, would be the first patient to benefit from the expertise available at Sacred Heart.
In August, nearly a month after Paula entered the hospital for the lobectomy, Dr. Ameen inserted the newly approved device, called an IBV valve, into the affected airways in Paula’s lung, allowing her lung to start healing properly. It worked. She left the hospital three days later.
“I’m doing wonderful!” she proudly states when asked how she feels today. While it is expected to take up to a year for her to fully recover from the three complex procedures she underwent in five short months, Paula has managed to keep a very positive outlook.
“I always had a positive attitude, and the doctors and nurses were amazed, not only at my positive attitude, but at my patience. I was in the hospital for a long time,” she said.
Paula will return to the hospital in a few months for a follow-up scan to check for any signs of lung cancer, and she will also need one more surgery to remove the cancer from her kidney.
When you ask her about the highly trained specialists who seemed to have appeared in her life just in time, Paula doesn’t hold back.
“Sacred Heart at RiverBend has the best doctors in the world. Eugene is really blessed. What are the odds that they were all here when I needed them?” she explained.
“Those doctors are the miracles in my life.”
Learn more about Endovascular Neurosurgery at Sacred Heart
Tell us your story