an 'unsalvagable' life
Used with Permission from:
May 31, 1996. A Publication for
Employees and Staff of the
Massachusetts General Hospital
YEARS OF MISDIAGNOSIS, unsuccessful treatments and brain surgery
at another hospital, 53-year-old Catherine Atallah of Waterville,
Maine, was, in the words of her former caregivers, 'unsalvagable'.
Atallah was living in a rehabilitation
facility. Then she came to the MGH a year ago to consult neurosurgeon
Robert Ojemann, MD, the man she
credits with giving her the courage to face another surgery that
would potentially allow her to resume a normal life.
| "Dr. Ojemann
is the Jimmy Stewart of physicians; honest, with a great bedside
The problems began about four years
ago, when Atallah says she started to feel a littlestrange. Her
children began noticing that she was becoming reclusive, had trouble
keeping her house in order and seemed depressed. She began seeing
a psychiatrist and taking antidepressant medications. Then one day
while talking on the phone with her son, David, Atallah had a seizure.
The room offers informational resources
to patients and their families as well as MGH staff. Resources
available include a touch-screen computer, videos, an Internet
link to the National Cancer Institute and a wide range of books
and pamphlets about all aspects of cancer.
The Cancer Resource Room is a pilot
project of the Treadwell Library, The Network for Patients and
Families and Social Services.
The Cancer Resource Room is funded
by a grant from the Friends of the MGH Cancer Center.
A series of tests revealed the true
cause of her changed behavior and seizure: a large meningioma, a
benign brain tumor, which had grown to the size of a grapefruit.
Menin-giomas, which develop from the protective covering of the
brain, are rare; only one new case is diagnosed annually per 100,000
people. Because this type of tumor usually grows slowly and often
becomes very large before causing symptoms, removal can be a tremendous
After surgery at another hospital,
where only part of the tumor could be removed, and following a difficult
recovery and months in a rehabilitation hospital, Atallah says she
still was not able to care for herself or think clearly. She was
living in a rehabilitation facility and faced the permanent loss
of her independence and a life of needing constant nursing care.
Then Atallah met Ojemann, who suggested
another try at removing the tumor that was still causing pressure
on her brain. She overcame her reluctance and agreed to the surgery.
Today David says that seeing his mother
function so well is heartwarming. Comparing the familys experience
at the MGH to the earlier experiences, David says: "It was
like going from the minor leagues to the big leagues. There was
a cohesive nature to the care at Mass. General; everyone knew what
was going on with my mothers case. Dr.
Ojemann is the 'Jimmy Stewart of physicians ' honest, with a
great bedside manner".
Atallah says that when she awoke from
the surgery, she saw Ojemann at the foot of her bed. He asked if
she knew who he was, and she answered correctly. "Dr. Ojemann
looked like he was going to dance he was so happy," she recalls.
Today Atallah is again living independently
in her own home, from which she frequently phones David for, thankfully,