Thursday, January 19, 2012

Neurosurgeon consult

An early birthday dinner and dessert for Mei Li!

Mei Li's MRI film

Today was a LONG and important day. We began our morning by heading down to Children's South to meet with Mei Li's neurosurgeon, Dr. Blount. He reviewed Mei Li's MRI film, his findings, the risks of surgery, the risks of "not" doing surgery and his plan. He was incredible and took great care to make sure we understood every detail. We are very thankful the Lord has placed Mei Li in Dr. Blount's very capable hands. Then, we were sent downtown to the main hospital to have her pre-op blood work done.

First, Dr. Blount found that Mei Li's lipoma is on the dorsal side of the spinal chord. This, he told us, is GOOD! It is much less risky to operate on than if it had been on the bottom where all of the nerve endings are. He explained that if it had been on the bottom, "it would be like dumping a container of glue into a pot of spaghetti and trying to get the glue out." Thankfully, the lipoma is on the dorsal side and will be more contained. However, there are still risks. The fatty tumor is not just up against the spinal chord, the fibers that bind it are wrapped around and fused to the spinal chord. So, he explained that operating on abnormal tissue that is intertwined and fused to the spinal chord and nervous system does come with its risks. But, the risks during surgery are less than 10%.

He also told us that the risks of "not" doing surgery are between 70-80% chance of Mei Li growing into an adult with paralysis and loss of bowel control. There are two schools of thought among neurosurgeons. . . "to do surgery" and "leave it alone". Neurosurgeons in the U.S. tend to be more aggressive in their approach to be pro-active and derail the inevitable. Whereas, there are fine neurosurgeons around the globe who argue to leave alone what is "not yet broken". They feel that surgery is taking too big of a risk and could cause neurological problems that were not present before the surgery. Dr. Blount told us that by choosing to "do" the surgery, we are choosing to take all of our risk up-front. If there is a neurological problem, it will happen in a matter of 2-3 hours (the time it takes to do the surgery) rather than over a long, slow period of adolescence where there is gradual decline as a result of growth. But, the risks to do nothing far exceed the risks to do something. So, we are going to do all we can to ensure Mei Li the brightest future possible.

The surgery to detach the lipoma from Mei Li's spinal chord is scheduled for January 30. It was moved up one day. She will be in the hospital between 3-4 days if all goes as planned. Then, she will come home and be "still" and "on her back" for 10 days!!! :-/ I asked if this procedure comes with a magic wand. Keeping this little one still for 10 minutes is a chore. . . 10 days???? Whew!! I'm not looking forward to that! He did tell me that she would be able to get up to go to the bathroom and get a bath. And, one of the big things we will need to be on the lookout for is the leaking of spinal fluid. If there is a leak, then we will have to go back in and get the leak stopped. Oh, yes. . . and I did ask him if this surgery might bring back the sensation in her "dead foot". He said, "No". He told us that that foot is as good as it's ever going to be. At least we know, now.

I am attaching an image of Mei Li's MRI film. It shows her spine, and if you look at the lower part of her spine, near the tailbone, you will see a small white mass pressed into the smooth spinal chord. That is the fatty tumor (lipoma). You can't see the fibers that are wrapped around the spinal chord, but they are there. And, over time, as Mei Li grows, those fibers would pull and tether the spinal chord. There is also a fatty pocket on the outside, right underneath the skin. But this fatty mass is not posing any danger to Mei Li. The one he will be operating on, that poses the risk of paralysis, is the small white mass attached to the chord.

On a very happy note, our Mei Li is celebrating her 5th birthday tomorrow! She has never celebrated a birthday before, and how wonderful that she will experience her first celebration with her new family who adores her! Sweet thing. . . I asked her what special present she hoped to receive on her birthday. She responded with, "A sucker!". I asked her what special meal she wanted her mommy to make for her. She answered with "Soup and goldfish". I'm sure in another year her answers will be very different. But, I find it beautiful that this little girl who has never celebrated a birthday in her 5 years would find such joy in a sucker, soup and goldfish! And, she gave Geoff and me a present of our own today. We were riding in the car to the hospital for her appointment, and she told us, "Mama, Wo boo yaw China (I don't want China). Wo yaw Mommy (I want Mommy). Wo yaw Daddy. Wo yaw Jeh Jeh. Wo boo yaw China. Wo yaw family." Happy birthday, baby girl! That is one birthday wish we promise you today and forever!!


Jolene said...

No way she is 5! I thought our kids weren't suppose to grow up? Our son, in China and waiting for us, is turning 5 on the 29th and I so wish I had him here to celebrate with him!

Hug your girl real tight and please know we're praying for her surgery!

White's Journey to Taiwan said...

Thank you, Jolene!! I appreciate it so much!!! Where in China is your son? How soon will you be traveling to bring him home? You just need to plan to have a celebration with that precious baby boy when he gets HOME!!! :) One thing Mei Li has taught us. . . she appreciates her "family" more than any present we could ever buy her! When she talks of what is near to her heart. . . it's not presents or special "things". . . it is "always" her "e-jiah-run" (family). I believe your son will probably feel the same way.
Thank you for your prayers!! I'll pray that you will travel soon!

DiJo said...

Mary (Waiting for Lexi) sent me your blog.. Our Emme Jade is having surgery this Thursday, the 26th to repair her tethered cord. Emme does not have Spina Bifida.. We found her TC when we were doing a routine MRI for something else we needed corrected in October....

We too feel very blessed that she is in the hands of an awesome Neuro Surgeon and his team here in Minneapolis.. I will be praying that Mei Li has no complications and that she recovers beautifully too!!!

Diana (