For several months, 58-year-old Rita, knew something wasn’t right. She had been unusually tired —so fatigued that she slept often, had difficulty concentrating, was becoming less active, experiencing tremors and had fallen multiple times.
Rita decided it was time to schedule a visit with her Ascension Wisconsin primary care doctor, James Censky MD. Upon seeing his patient, the doctor knew something was wrong.
“What I remember is it didn’t sit right with me that she was functioning normally, but had this big turn in her behavior,” Dr. Censky said. “Her thought process seemed rather sudden and out of character, so that was a red flag for me.”
Dr. Censky ordered lab tests and a CT scan of Rita’s brain, which revealed she had a 6 centimeter tumor in her frontal lobe with extensive swelling around it.
The tumor covered one-fifth of Rita’s brain. Even though the mass was considered a grade 1, non-cancerous, primary central nervous system tumor, the size of the tumor and swelling it caused raised concerns for Dr. Censky and the Ascension care team. That dangerous pressure put Rita’s brain at risk of herniating or causing a coma.
Dr. Censky talked directly to the neurosurgery team on Friday and they recommended a stat MRI. The neurosurgical team coordinated care with Dr. Censky and made sure Rita was on the appropriate medications going into the weekend.
The next day, while Rita’s husband, Brian, was driving her to the hospital for her appointment at Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital - Franklin Campus she had a seizure. After a brief stay at Ascension Wisconsin’s Franklin Campus, Rita was seen in the neurosurgery clinic at Ascension SE Wisconsin - Elmbrook Campus and scheduled for surgery three days later.
Ascension Wisconsin neurosurgeon Kenneth Reichert, MD and his care team took extra precautions before removing Rita’s tumor. Because there is only so much room within the brain, operating too early with edema — another name for swelling — can be deadly. With that amount of swelling the tumor could push the brain into the spinal cord and damage the brain stem.
“The first time I met her, she was speaking in one word-one syllables when answering questions,” Dr. Reichert said. “We didn’t operate right away, we put Rita on medication to decrease the swelling. The swelling was three or four times the size of the tumor.”
During the 5 hour surgery, Dr. Reichert removed the mass, which was wrapped around Rita’s carotid artery within the brain and both optic nerves. She spent eight days in the ICU on a breathing tube.
“I could’ve died, it was scary and serious,” Rita said. “I know I was in the right hands and I’m thankful for that.”
After a successful surgery, and some rehabilitation through speech, occupational and physical therapy, Rita was finally discharged from the hospital 17 days later.
“It took a team approach to make this happen,” Dr. Reichert said. “From the ICU, to the nurses, to the surgical team, to rehab, it was a combined effort to give Rita the best outcome. She's made an excellent recovery.”
Rita credits her Ascension Wisconsin doctors and care team for saving her life.
“I’m just a piece of the puzzle,” Dr. Censky said. “If God uses me to diagnose something, it comes from God not from me. I just try to do the best I can in what I do, and I’m thankful that if I do the right thing I give credit to who deserves it, and that’s God.”
Patient gratitude for a kind and caring staff
About eight months later, Rita regularly continues her follow-up care with Ascension Wisconsin. She has a reduced sense of taste and smell, but is otherwise back to being active and living life.
There’s a small chance Rita’s tumor could grow back, but the growth would be slow, and doctors like Ascension Wisconsin neurosurgeon Dr. Kenneth Reichert and neurologist Thomas Varghese MD are keeping a close watch during her regular follow-up screenings and enjoy seeing the progress Rita’s made.
Dr. Varghese said. “It comes down to making an impactful change in someone’s life and to have someone recognise it and be so appreciative of what we’ve done, makes it even better”.
Rita is grateful to the Ascension Wisconsin care team who helped her during this difficult time.
“I really loved all of them,” Rita said. “I can’t even put it into words how pleased we were with the care we received, especially at the neurosurgery clinic at Ascension Wisconsin’s Elmbrook Campus. The staff was absolutely wonderful — very caring and kind people. Don’t give up, if you know something isn’t right, don’t give up. I hope my story helps somebody; that would make it all worth it.”
When you choose Ascension Wisconsin, you get an entire team dedicated to your care. We will collaborate with you on a care plan that’s right for you and connect the dots for your care when you need a specialist for follow-up care. Learn more at ascension.org.