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Surgeon removes brain tumor through small incision on young mother's eyebrow

Germaine Desir, a dentist, wife and mother of an infant daughter, wakes up an hour before her family each morning to prepare for the day ahead. One morning during her usual routine, she went unconscious and fell to her kitchen floor.

Her mother, who was staying with her at the time, heard a loud noise downstairs and when she investigated, she found her daughter lying in the floor. Desir’s husband drove her to Piedmont Henry Hospital’s emergency department for evaluation.   “When I went to Piedmont Henry, it was the first time I’d gone to an ER, so I wasn’t sure what to expect or what was going to happen,” she says.

Desir’s diagnosis

When the medical team performed a CT scan, they found a mass on her brain. Desir was transferred to Piedmont Atlanta Hospital for further evaluation with neurosurgeon Kevin Hsieh, M.D. 

After reviewing her test results, Dr. Hsieh told her she had meningioma, a benign tumor that grows on the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Desir had experienced no symptoms, aside from the going unconscious days earlier and headaches a few years ago. Some cases of meningioma can cause the following symptoms and complications when untreated:

  • Vision changes
  • Hearing loss
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches that get worse
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in personality
  • Weakness in the limbs

Dr. Hsieh referred Desir to Howard Chandler Jr., M.D., a neurosurgical oncologist at Piedmont’s Brain Tumor Center. Desir says Dr. Chandler made her and her husband feel comfortable because he explained her diagnosis and treatment options in detail, but also told them they could get a second opinion.

They were so confident in his abilities that they decided to forgo getting another opinion.   “When we left, we talked about it and then called Dr. Chandler’s office that same day to schedule the surgery,” she says.

Surgery and treatment

Dr. Chandler performed a craniotomy to remove the tumor, which took eight hours. “The surgery went great because I feel awesome right now,” says Desir. “I woke up in the recovery room and was feeling great.”

Through a small incision on her eyebrow, Dr. Chandler was able to remove the entire mass on Desir’s brain. Post-operative CT scans and MRIs found no evidence of any remaining tumors. Desir also found that her incision was so small, it was barely noticeable.

When a nurse came into the recovery room to check the incision, she asked Desir to remove her headscarf. “I said, ‘No, the incision is right here,’” says Desir, pointing to her eyebrow.

The recovery process

Dr. Chandler told Desir she may lose some sense of smell after the surgery, but she says she still retains all of her senses. The mass was close to her optic nerve, so she was worried about vision problems, especially because she is a dentist.

However, “I still see perfectly and my vision is great,” she says. Desir says the brain tumor and successful treatment have given her a new lease on life. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me or my immediate family,” Desir says. “It makes you get a different perspective and not take life for granted.”

For more information on brain tumors and treatment options, visit Piedmont’s Brain Tumor Center.

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