Donna Ford was getting ready for work in May when she fell in her hallway, which she mistook for a simple fall.
She tripped on a board and fell on her bottom, the registered nurse tells.
Ford, 52, was working evenings at a nursing facility in Trinity, Texas, at the time. She went to work as scheduled after falling, however she had headaches all night. She didn’t feel well, she remembers.
She informed her spouse she intended to go to the hospital when she came home from work. She could hear a rushing sound in her ear and her vision was a little bit off, she recalls, despite not remembering striking her head. As a nurse, she understood what those signs were. She requested that her husband drive her to the emergency department.
A CT scan at an emergency room in Livingston, Texas, verified her worst fears: she suffered a brain hemorrhage.
She was discharged and informed that the subdural hematoma will cure itself. But she couldn’t stop vomiting the following morning. She adds that she realized it wasn’t getting better; it was getting worse. As a result, she summoned an ambulance.
She was transferred to Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital by Life Flight after another CT scan. She was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia as well as a brain bleed.
She recalls that it was quite a big shock. She don’t think she would have discovered the leukemia as quickly if she hadn’t fallen.
According to her oncologist, Dr. Adan Rios, severe bleeding, typically in the brain, might be an indication of this kind of leukemia.
This causes a huge challenge, says Rios, a surgical oncologist at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann. A surgical intervention in the midst of a leukemia diagnosis is a complex process that necessitates extremely specialized management.
Instead of doing open brain surgery, which might have resulted in brain damage or even death, surgeons used a less invasive method. Dr. P. Roc Chen of UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann placed a catheter in an artery in Ford’s leg and routed it to her brain, where it “obliterated” the hematoma.
While this uncommon surgery has been performed on non-lymphoma patients previously, Ford is one of just three acute leukemia patients in the nation to have had this treatment. Ford was able to begin cancer treatments when the bleeding in her brain was controlled.
This leukemia is very unique, explains Rios. In about 95 percent of these cases, once treatment began, they were cured. The early step of the diagnosis is critical: if you can get the patient through the acute period, the majority of these people will be cured of their leukemia.
Ford was hospitalized for a month and had four rounds of chemotherapy over the course of eight months.
She is now in remission. Her prognosis is very good, according to her doctor.
She is unable to work at the nursing home since she has just undergone chemo, but she is assisting in the care of her five grandkids. They’re playing, playing, playing, she declares.
She adds that she is doing much better. She is feeling better and is not as fatigued as she used to be. A lot of things made sense to her after getting the leukemia diagnosis, like the tired feeling and the unusual bruising, she adds.
Ford encourages other women to get frequent exams with their doctors. And if anything is wrong, advocate for yourself and keep fighting until you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Please don’t give up, she encourages.
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