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A life-changing decision

Experts at Rush put the pieces together

Like art, medical images are subject to interpretation. Two physicians looking at the same picture can have very different opinions based on their experience and level of expertise. And sometimes that difference can be the determining factor between life and death.

Expectant mother Wendy McNeeley learned this the hard way. After a routine ultrasound at her local hospital detected an abnormality in her baby’s brain, McNeeley was advised to undergo additional ultrasounds. The tests offered no definitive answers. So her doctor recommended that she have an MRI to provide a more detailed picture. The diagnosis: Her unborn baby girl had a life-threatening brain tumor.

Or did she? Confused and stressed, McNeeley wasn’t sure what to believe or that she understood what the doctors were saying. But when the doctors told her to consider terminating her pregnancy, McNeeley knew one thing for certain: There had to be another option.

“I felt that there was more to the story, and I was only getting random pictures,” McNeeley says.

So she sought a second opinion. At the Rush Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Program, McNeeley found a team who could put the story together for her. At the program’s core is Maria Reyes, RN, MSN, clinical coordinator, who unburdens families by doing the legwork, whether that’s scheduling appointments or finding answers to questions. Reyes assembled a team of specialists, chosen specifically to address McNeeley’s unique situation, who would meet with McNeeley at one time and form a plan together. At McNeeley’s family conference meeting, the team discussed the findings of repeat imaging tests she underwent at Rush and their initial assessment.

With years of experience in three-dimensional ultrasound and an in-depth understanding of how the brain develops in the womb, ultrasound specialist and program codirector Jacques Abramowicz, MD, suspected it wasn’t a tumor at all, but something less ominous. “The mass just didn’t behave like a fetal brain tumor,” Abramowicz says. He relayed his initial suspicions to the team and they were supported by Sharon Byrd, MD, a pediatric neuroradiologist. “The location of the growth and certain characteristics weren’t consistent with what we see in those situations,” Byrd says.

The plan? Wait, watch and prepare for the birth. Follow-up ultrasounds demonstrated that the mass was shrinking, and another MRI indicated it had reduced by an incredible 90 percent. As the doctors had hoped, it was not a tumor at all but a hematoma, a collection of blood that occurs in tissues and organs. And like a bruise, the hematoma was healing itself.

With the guidance and care of perinatologist Michael Hussey, MD, Wendy McNeeley gave birth last February to Isabelle — a healthy testimony to the persistence of her mother and the expertise of her health care team at Rush.

For more information on special fetal and neonatal care services at Rush, visit the Rush Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Program home page.

Pediatric Care at Rush

Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is a leader in caring for children of all ages, from newborns through young adults.

At Rush, physicians from more than 30 specialties address the full range of pediatric diseases and congenital problems, from the common to the complex. Rush pediatricians, pediatric surgeons, nurses and other health professionals provide care that aims to fulfill community needs, empower parents and advance pediatric care.

For more information about the pediatric care at Rush visit the Rush Children’s Hospital home page.

Or phone (888) RUSH-KID or (888) 787-4543.

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Fetal and Neonatal Medicine

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