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SPECIALITY: NEUROSURGERY

Barbara

Retired Health Teacher & Track Coach, 56
Concord, New Hampshire

Barbara's Story

For retired health teacher and track coach Barbara Higgins, all the world’s a stage. Whether she’s singing, acting, or tap dancing, Barbara is at her happiest when she’s standing in the spotlight bedazzling an audience.

But Barbara’s idyllic life in New Hampshire was turned upside-down in 2016 when a local hospital’s misdiagnosis resulted in her daughter Molly’s tragic death.

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So, in 2016 my daughter Molly began experiencing headaches, and after several weeks of headaches, and vomiting, and nausea, we went to the ER and they just refused to do anything. I was demanding “please do a CAT scan, please X-Ray her head”, and they wouldn’t do it. They gave her medicine for a migraine, she fell asleep and never woke up. We found out later an undetected brain tumor at the base of her skull, ruptured and killed her. Had they just done a CAT scan six hours earlier they would’ve taken it out and she would’ve been fine.
“an undetected brain tumor at the base of my daughter Molly’s skull ruptured and killed her…”

In addition to the emotional pain of losing a child, Barbara was suffering from constant physical pain due to an excruciating chronic nerve condition called trigeminal neuralgia.

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I pretty much hurt all the time. Think of the worst toothache you’ve ever had and it was like that all the time. Sometimes it was a knifing pain, and then every once and a while I would get like a surge of pain that would bring me to my knees. It was like being electrocuted almost. It was really, really, alarmingly painful and scary.
“I pretty much hurt all the time… it was a knifing pain”

A co-worker recommended Dr. Emad Eskandar, a world-renowned specialist four-and-a-half-hours away at Montefiore who immediately ordered an MRI and made a horrific discovery.

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They saw three tumors in my head. So, that was horrifying. I just thought, you know “what the hell? Why me? You know, like I haven’t had enough already?” I have brain tumors, my husband needed a kidney transplant, Molly’s dead, and now my poor daughter Gracie was just a basket case, and I just said to Dr. Eskandar, “I just need to fix this as fast as possible.” And, he took his hands in my hands, and he said, “you just tell Gracie that we’ll take good care of you, and that you’re gonna be fine.”
“They saw three tumors in my head. I just thought… ‘Why me? You know, like I haven’t had enough already?’”

Dr. Eskandar performed two operations - one to fix Barbara’s nerve pain, and another to remove her tumors.

“A big part of neurosurgery is the planning… there should be no surprises.”

Emad N. Eskandar, MD.

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Dr. Eskandar: Luckily, that went extremely well and she recovered beautifully. A big part of neurosurgery is the planning. I tell people it’s 90 percent planning and 10 percent execution. A good case should be really well thought out. I’ll usually the night before make sure I really look at the films and visualize the entire sequence in my head and, you know, make sure I have everything ready. In essence, there should be no surprises during surgery.
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I will never have any serious medical work done anywhere but Montefiore, ever in my life. It’s the most amazing place. I just feel so lucky, I just feel like the universe somehow sent me there, I was supposed to meet you guys [LAUGH]. I just feel like the medical people at Montefiore are willing to be people first. You know like, I have Dr. Eskandar’s cell phone number in my cell phone, I can text him, and he texts me back, like, he doesn’t ignore it, I’ve never not received a response.
“I will never have any serious medical work done anywhere but Montefiore.”

Barbara was impressed and profoundly comforted when she received Dr. Eskandar’s personal cell phone number and encouraged to call with any questions or concerns.

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Dr. Eskandar: I’ll often give patients my cell phone number so that if they have a question or feel a need to call me, it really reduces that anxiety that patients sometimes have about, “Argh, I can’t reach the doctor. Where is he?” I think just the knowledge that I’m accessible is, I think, incredibly helpful in assuaging some of the anxieties knowing that if the need arose I’m a mere text or phone call away.
“I’ll often give patients my cellphone number… so I’m a mere text or phone call away.”

Today, Barbara is doing great and has returned to the stage. Her nerve pain is gone and doctors have officially pronounced her tumor free. And as her family finds a way to move on after Molly’s passing, Barbara is attempting to get her body back in shape after being sidelined by years of injury and tragedy.

“I belong to a CrossFit gym so I love to workout… I like to challenge myself, I like to do things that people think I can’t do.”

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I belong to a CrossFit gym so I love to workout, lift the heavy weights. Before the surgery there were times I’d be at CrossFit and it hurt so much, like my face just hurt, that I would just have to stop and go home. So, that doesn’t happen at all anymore. So, I’m much healthier, you know I can get back into the working out. I like to challenge myself, I like to do things that people think I can’t do.

Meet Dr. Emad N. Eskandar

Emad N. Eskandar, MD. MBA

Jeffrey P. Bergstein Professor

Chair of Neurological Surgery
Director of Epilepsy & Facial
Pain Centers

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