When Laura from Grand Rapids learned she had a lemon-sized tumor in her brain, she wanted the best doctor in the Midwest to treat her. She launched an exhaustive search and one name kept coming up: Murali Guthikonda, M.D., at Harper University Hospital.
In October 2002, Laura went to her eye doctor in Grand Rapids for a routine exam and was surprised to learn she was slowly going blind. A few weeks later when an optic neurologist discovered the cause of the problem, she was even more surprised. A large tumor was growing in her brain.
“I said, ‘How can we get rid of it? Can I take a pill?’” Laura remembers. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be so easy. She needed brain surgery.
She consulted a few neurosurgeons in Grand Rapids, who told her they could remove the tumor but she might have serious complications. They’d need to shave her head, she’d be out of work for at least a few months and she might need to spend time in a rehabilitation center. That’s when she decided to find the best surgeon for this type of tumor.
“I would have gone to the Mayo Clinic or Chicago if they’d been the best,” Laura said. “I did all this research and one name kept coming up: Dr. Guthikonda at Harper University Hospital.”
Laura met with Dr. Guthikonda for the first time in November 2002 and he scheduled the surgery for just a week and a half later. “The tumor was in a very critical part of her brain, so we needed to do a lot of planning so we could get to the tumor without affecting her eyesight or her speech,” Dr. Guthikonda said.
On the day of the surgery, Laura was extremely nervous, but Dr. Guthikonda eased her fears. “I had never had a broken bone, no stitches, nothing,” Laura said. “So going in for brain surgery was a big deal. Dr. Guthikonda knew I was worried. He was very compassionate. He knew I didn’t want to get my hair shaved off, so right before surgery he came in and shaved my hair himself and tied it up in all these little ponytails. Not his nurse, he did it himself and I could tell he really cared.”
The doctor shaved only as much as he needed to for the surgery and assured Laura that when it was over, she’d be able to pull her hair back and no one would know she’d had surgery.
“He was right,” Laura said. “I work at a high school with high school boys so I was very worried about having a shaved head. But no one could tell I’d had my head shaved
Laura spent just three days in the hospital. On the day she went home, she felt good enough to stop at a restaurant with her parents. “I ate a real meal and no one knew I’d just had brain surgery.”
Within a few weeks, she was back at her job as a high school swimming instructor. “The kids were like, ‘Where were you, Miss McDaniels? Did you go on vacation?’ They had no idea I’d had surgery.”