Experiences from patients receiving care from the Inova Neuro-oncology Program
Frances's story – “He saved my life”
I took a fall in 2009 that broke two discs in my neck. The day after the fall, the discs started to slide and interfere with a nerve that connects to my lung – causing me to have trouble breathing. Dr. Hamilton recommended a surgery to stabilize my neck with a metal device.
Dr. Hamilton performed my surgery at Inova Fairfax Hospital and it went very well. I had rehabilitation therapy at a nursing home and continued to see Dr. Hamilton every 2-3 months.
Now I'm at home and stronger than ever. I take two walks a day with my walker and a few steps without. Through everything I had excellent doctors and good care. Finding Dr. Hamilton was a lucky coincidence. I didn't have any pain, and I would definitely recommend him to others. He saved my life.
Elizabeth's story – “The tools were remarkable”
I was at home one day when I began having some loss of vision and felt disoriented – my husband called 911 and I was taken to Inova. An MRI and CAT scan revealed a brain tumor. The docs told me the tumor was putting pressure on my brain and needed to come out.
The doctors removed the tumor, which was benign and I stayed in hospital for four days. I had “mini” physical therapy at the hospital to get me walking again and my vision gradually returned. I was off pain pills within 24 hours and didn’t really feel any pain.
I spent six weeks recovering at home, then back to work. Feel back to normal now. The technology was amazing. The whole use of computer tools to model the brain and determine how to get into the brain and get out all the tumor pieces was remarkable. My grandmother had a similar procedure 20 years ago – she ended with a big plate in her head. It was all pretty awe-inspiring.
First time in a hospital in my life and I had great care.
Barbara's story – "It was a very delicate operation"
For six years I was having headaches, dizziness and other symptoms that were misdiagnosed. Eventually the symptoms worsened and I found a primary care doctor who sent me for an MRI, which found a fairly large benign tumor.
I was sent to Inova where a doctor performed the tumor redaction. It was a very delicate operation because the tumor was right over my brain stem and my brain had already begun to swell. He had to be very careful.
I was in the hospital for two weeks. I lost my ability to swallow and had some breathing difficulties. I spent nearly two weeks in the hospital having all sorts of therapy – speech, vision, physical and occupational therapy.
Finally I went home with lots of equipment. A visiting nurse came by every day for a month or so, and I continued speech therapy. The feeding tube came out, although I’m still working on speech and balance issues.
From the first appointment the doctor spoke to me frankly and clearly about what was wrong, what needed to be done, and what I was getting into.
Tom's story – "Don't be afraid"
I hurt my back 30 years ago and over the years the pain worsened. Saw various doctors but never wanted to have surgery. I was afraid of spine surgery.
One day, I was reading Inova Magazine and saw Dr. Hamilton was giving a talk about new spine surgeries. I went and was never so impressed by a doctor before and thought “I gotta see him!”
I had my first surgery which involved spinal fusion with four screws and two rods. The recovery time was three months, but of course I eventually felt too good and did too much and ended up herniating a disc below the fusion site.
I started getting pain down my leg – it was pressure on the nerves. After having an MRI, Dr. Hamilton recommended a myelogram test. I had one a long time ago and the experience was horrific, so I was afraid to go. He said the test was so different now, so easy. I trusted him and couldn’t believe how easy it was. I would recommend the test to anybody and say “Don’t be afraid.” The test showed exactly what needed to be done.
The third surgery involved another procedure, which removed a bad disc and freed up the nerves in the spine. Recovery was much quicker and less painful than previously. I was in the hospital for only three days and could lift my leg within a week. Much less pain this time.
Barbara's story – "She answered all my questions"
My doctor discovered a pituitary tumor and advised me to seek out a specialist with lots of experience. We didn’t have that level of specialty where I lived in Montana so I flew out to Washington, DC, and met with Dr. Watson to get a sense of what the surgery would be like.
The nurse was very generous in being available to me. She answered all my questions, prepared me for surgery, and helped me maneuver the system.
Surgery took place a few days later. As expected, Dr. Watson was not able to get the entire tumor out. I spent a few days in the hospital and eventually flew back to Montana. My doctor there tracked the tumor through MRIs and e-mailed the results to Dr. Watson. We also consulted with Dr. Watson on whether or not I should have radiation afterwards (he recommended not to).
Through it all, Dr. Watson was quite attentive and extremely accessible. When I arrived for my surgery, I realized how busy and involved he was. At Inova I had top-notch medical care. The nurses took good care of me and I felt like I was in really good hands. A lot of different people were always coming through, but everyone was helpful, answered questions, and helped with my recovery.