Lois Conaway loves to cook and entertain, but several months ago the only thing she was entertaining was the idea of brain surgery. She had a cerebral aneurysm, which is a weak, bulging defect in the wall of an artery in the brain. An aneurysm can rupture and cause bleeding that may lead to severe neurological problems or even death.
“Our main concern was that her aneurysm might burst and that surgery then could be risky,” says Lois’s daughter, Connie Waxman of Pepper Pike, Ohio. “At 79, my mother is still very active and is a wonderful baker. My sister, who also lives in the Cleveland area, and I wanted to do whatever we could to ensure her health. The tricky thing is that Mom lives in Warren, Pennsylvania.
“We were pleased when a friend told us we could go online to get a medical second opinion from Cleveland Clinic,” she adds. “We were unsure about the quality of medical care Mom could receive near her home and felt more comfortable about her coming to Cleveland. So we went ahead and used the Cleveland Clinic program, which is called MyConsult. It was very self-explanatory and easy to use.”
The MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion program is a sophisticated, Web-based extension of Cleveland Clinic’s 90-plus-year role as one of America’s most respected referral institutions. The secure, online program provides second opinions from Cleveland Clinic specialists for more than 1,200 life-threatening and life-changing diagnoses.
“MyConsult really moved things along,” says Lois, whose former career involved travel to Paris, London, Asia and other foreign locales as fashion director for a mail order company. “We had the report from the doctor even before we expected, and it was really helpful.”
Connie adds: “MyConsult was great. Mom was able to get an excellent medical second opinion without traveling. When we decided she should have surgery, my sister and I looked into other hospitals, but in the end, we decided there was no reason not to go to Cleveland Clinic, which is the best place.”
Neurosurgeon Peter Rasmussen, MD, recommended that Lois have a coil embolism, a minimally invasive procedure that blocks off aneurysms by filling them with soft platinum coils. As director of Cleveland Clinic’s Cerebrovascular Center, Dr. Rasmussen specializes in the endovascular and microsurgical management of cerebral aneurysms.
Compared to traditional open surgery for aneurysms, coil embolization is much less invasive, is less risky and significantly reduces recovery time. Performed under general anesthesia, the procedure involves placing a catheter (long, thin flexible tubing) through the groin and guiding it into the aneurysm. Rasmussen conducted the procedure at Lakewood Hospital, one of Cleveland Clinic’s community hospitals.
“The whole thing was amazing,” says Connie. “They insert the catheter through a tiny, little incision in the groin and thread it through to the brain, where they perform the embolization. Afterwards, Mom felt tired for three to five days, and then she was okay. It was a snap.
“As I mentioned, Mom is a wonderful baker,” Connie adds. “She’s the only person who gets wheeled in the operating room with a bag of ginger molasses cookies that she baked for the medical staff. When the operation was over, she said she couldn’t wait to get back home and start baking again.
“What we really loved about our experience with MyConsult was the fact that when we got to the hospital, the surgeon already had all my mother’s information and had formulated a plan of action,” says Connie. “The other thing we thought was unbelievable was the efficiency of being able to line up three appointments within three days with three different specialists.”
The other two specialists involved in the case were neurologists Patrick Sweeney, MD, and Neal Cherian, MD. Dr. Rasmussen’s scheduler set up all the appointments, and Lois was so grateful to him that she baked him an apple pie, which she delivered warm and wrapped in a towel. “The next day we went for the next appointment, and there sits my pie plate and towel all ready to be returned,” says Connie. “You just don’t expect stuff like that at such a large institution.”
Lois first found out she had the aneurysm when she underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test to try and diagnose a problem she was having with dizziness. That condition, which is unrelated to the aneurysm, is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a non-serious problem caused by an inner ear problem, and in her case, treated with physical therapy.
Although Lois is still not quite over her vertigo, she no longer has to worry about the aneurysm. Since Cleveland Clinic cooked up a solution to that problem, she is back to her own cooking. On a recent day, she baked several pies and used her own, homemade chicken stock as a base to make fresh asparagus soup. Her friends, two daughters and 10 grandchildren are lucky indeed.
“Mom may have had the aneurysm for years without knowing it, but once you know, who wants to go around worrying that it might burst?” asks Connie. “We are so grateful that is behind us. Cleveland Clinic rocks!”