Stanford Neurosurgery Patient Stories

Sheena Sharapata: Treated for Trigeminal Neuralgia

Jeff Crilley sits down with Sheena Sharapata, survivor of Bilateral Trigeminal Neuralgia and advocate for neurological research. On this episode, Sheena shares her amazing story with this often misdiagnosed condition. She herself was misdiagnosed as a migraines with aura patient for 18 years, until she was finally able to get a proper diagnosis and have 2 successful MVD surgeries.

Terri Benedix: Essential Tremor and Deep Brain Stimulation

Terri Benedix, who specializes in floral paintings along with landscapes and seascapes, couldn’t even raise a cup of coffee to her lips without spilling it, or lift a forkful of peas without sending the vegetables flying.

That changed in an eyeblink after a procedure in which electrodes were implanted in precise locations on each side of her brain, then hooked up to a battery-operated, pacemaker-like device installed in her chest. The hardware was part of an increasingly popular treatment called deep-brain stimulation.

Alex Baker: Parkinson's and Deep Brain Stimulation

Once the tremors and chronic pain began disturbing his sleep and causing problems at work, Alex Baker was forced to retire early.  That's when Baker decided to have deep brain stimulation in hopes of reducing the symptoms and being able to get back to his favorite activity, surfing. This is Alex Baker's deep brain stimulation story.

David Tran: Trigeminal Neuralgia

After years of suffering with the facial pain condition, Trigeminal Neuralgia, David Tran underwent Microvascular Decompression surgery. Tran wanted to share his story in hopes he can inspire others to seek medical help and get treated for this painful condition. This is Tran's trigeminal neuralgia story in his own words. 

David Silva: Craniopharyngioma Brain Tumor

David Silva was diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma brain tumor when he was just 22 years old. Treating this type of tumor is difficult and complex. Over the course of a decade Silva endured five brain surgeries at multiple hospitals, but the procedures were all unsuccessful and the tumor persisted. Silva was ready to give up hope, but then he heard about a neurosurgeon with unique expertise at Stanford.

Beverly McGowan: Essential Tremor

Beverly McGowan, a Nurse Practitioner, received MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound treatment for essential tremor symptoms in the right upper extremity, at Stanford. In this personal video journal, McGowan shares the symptoms of the condition that were affecting her daily activites prior to treatment, including results of neurological testing, and results of symptom relief immediately following the procedure. 

Kit Carson: Moyamoya Disease

After her 6-month follow-up appointment for a second successful surgery, Moyamoya patient Kit Carson and her new husband Kyle, were treated to a surprise celebration. The Moyamoya team heard that the couple had decided to elope in California earlier in the week, as part of Kit’s trip to Stanford. Wanting to share in their joy, the team brought out wedding cake and Martinelli’s, and expressed best wishes for the newlyweds’ future together. Congratulations Kit and Kyle!!

Karma Lhaki: Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM)

Karma was working out one evening when all of a sudden a bright light blurred her vision and was followed by an unbearable headache. Three hours later, still in severe pain, increased confusion, and an inability to speak, Karma was rushed to the emergency department at Stanford. A CT scan showed that Karma had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke caused by arteriovenous malformation. In an effort to educate people about AVM and stroke, Karma put together a video on Facebook sharing her experience. 

Terenia: Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Terenia survived a very serious car crash, but decades later her injuries began to create such debilitating symptoms she lost her ability to work as an artist. She found relief through Stanford Health Care’s Department of Neurosurgery, which offered a creative solution of its own. Neurospine surgeon, Dr. Anand Veeravagu, identified a previously undiagnosed weakness and used leading edge imaging, along with robotic and computer-assisted surgery to complete a briefer operation with less anesthesia, and ultimately a briefer hospital stay and faster recovery.

Sonia Coontz: Adult Stem Cell Therapy for Stroke

Sonia Coontz said the stroke she suffered made her feel like she was trapped in her own body. The stroke she had in 2011 affected the movement of her right arm and leg, and her speech was no longer intelligible. After modified stem cells were injected into her brain as part of a clinical trial at Stanford, she says her limbs "woke up."  Several years since her treatment, Coontz has retained the physical improvments from the stem cell therapy, and was able to have a baby. Stem Cell Facts Now features Coontz's story in this inspiring video. 

Brett: Traumatic Brain Injury

Brett’s cross-country bicycling trip from Santa Barbara to South Carolina ended abruptly, 1,000 miles short of its final destination. While crossing through Oklahoma, Brett fell, ending his dreams of completing a coast-to-coast charity ride, and nearly ending his life. He was transported by helicopter to the nearest trauma center in Joplin, Missouri, where he spent nine days in a coma. Brett had suffered a subdural hematoma from landing on his head. Once stabilized, Brett was transferred to Stanford for treatment and follow-up care. 

Matthew Ryan: Spine Neurosurgery

Matthew Ryan had been an athlete all his life, but a terrible surfing accident threatened his spinal cord. When Ryan arrived at Stanford, he had multiple fractures of his spine at the sixth and seventh vertebrae, leading down from his skull. One of the damaged vertebrae was pushing the other one out of position and both were pushing against Ryan's spinal cord. Spine neurosurgeons were able to treat the multiple fractures in his spine, and Ryan was able to get back to his active lifestyle.

Mike Harris: Brain Tumor Resection

Over the span of a few months, Mike Harris began experiencing strange symptoms; an avid cyclist, he suddenly couldn’t coordinate riding a bike. He lost control of the right side of his body. Always a great reader, he became frustrated because he couldn’t remember what he’d read at the beginning of a sentence by the time he finished reading it. He lost his appetite. When he did eat, his digestive system would rebel. An MRI of his brain revealed a meningioma—a fist-sized tumor growing in the narrow space between his brain and his skull. Stanford surgeons were able to successfully remove Harris' brain tumor. 

Tim Engberg: Neck and Spine Surgery

Tim Engberg, RN, VP Ambulatory Care at Stanford Health Care, got a cold which led to a rare infection that put his life at risk. The infection caused his neck and spine to collapase twice over the span of two months, requiring extensive surgery to fuse his vertebrae and prevent him from becoming a quadriplegic. Stanford neurosurgeons performed the successful surgeries. In this video, Enberg talks about his experience.

Marjorie Paulsen: Brain Tumor Resection

Marjorie Paulsen didn't think much of the random, unpredictable arm movement she was experiencing, until it began to happen more and more often. Then her left leg began to tingle for hours at a time. Finally Paulsen went in to the hospital and discovered she had a brain tumor. Eight years after being removed the tumor regrew and had to be removed a second time. At Stanford, Paulsen saw a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and neuro-oncologists who were able to successfully remove the tumor. 

Brad Ackerman: Controlling Essential Tremor

Brad Ackerman has lived most of his life with essential tremor. But when the tremor began to worsen and was affecting things he loved to do, like drawing and painting or even being able to go out to eat in a restuarant with his wife, Ackerman decided to go to Stanford to find out about deep brain stimulation. Like most people receiving DBS, Ackerman was awake during the procedure, and worked together with his neurosurgeon to adjust the pacemaker to address his tremor and particular needs.

Patients in the News