Carnegie Mellon University students participate in their neurosurgery

Pittsburgh (AP) — For those who just listen, the conversation sounded like a small story.

“You lived before Pittsburgh …?”

“What do you call pizza in Chinese?”

“Did you eat a lot of it in Chicago?”

But the conversation was unusual. 27-year-old Lingwei Cheng lay down on the operating table at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital last fall. Images of her brain were displayed under a microscope on multiple screens, and doctors grabbed around a mass of purplish blood vessels called cavernous hemangioma, snuggling up to the part of the brain that controls audio.

To prevent the surgeon from damaging the brain problems that affect Mr. Chen’s speech, they had to wake her up and keep talking — answered the question in both English and Chinese. ..

In the case of Mr. Chen, a trip to the operating table, a student of public policy and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University, took months and miles. She grew up in China but has lived in the United States for 10 years. Last spring, during CMU’s spring break, she flew to Norway to visit her boyfriend. While she was there, COVID-19 travel restrictions were applied and she stayed in Norway during the summer.

Hanging out there with a friend in June, she came down with a terrible headache and lay down to rest. When her boyfriend started talking to her, she could no longer understand him. Or reply.

“I was really scared,” she said. “I could hear his voice clearly. I couldn’t understand the words at all.”

My boyfriend called an ambulance, but I couldn’t speak at the hospital and had a hard time explaining my condition.

“Norwegian doctor, he was asking me to tell me what happened,” she said. “I was very frustrated … this is exactly what I can’t do right now.”

Doctors scanned her brain and found that cerebral hemorrhage was causing her symptoms. It was settled in a few hours after they started. Chen took antiepileptic drugs and said he couldn’t fly for two weeks. After that two-week period, they urged her to return to the United States to assess bleeding.

Returning to Pittsburgh in August, she contacted CMU students about their health and referred them to UPMC’s Neurosurgery. More advanced brain scans showed cerebral cavernous hemangiomas. This is a rare condition in which blood vessels become entangled in a mulberry-like mass. The malformation is harmless or can leak like Mr. Chen, and the symptoms may improve as the blood is reabsorbed.

“They don’t usually kill you, but they can cause damage,” said Dr. Robert Friedlander of the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC’s Neurosurgery, who evaluated and operated on Mr. Chen. .. “They can bleed in groups — sometimes for years, years, and sometimes a couple of times a year.”

Some are born with them, while others develop naturally, as Dr. Friedlander believes in Chen’s case. He removes about 20 cerebral spongy malformations annually, most of which are not in the areas of the brain that control speech.

Dr. Friedlander used a technique called high-definition fiber tracking developed in the pits to pinpoint Chen’s malformation to the part of the brain that controls speech and comprehension.

Due to the threat of future bleeding and the potential for permanent damage to her speech, Dr. Friedlander recommended that Chen undergo surgery to remove the malformation.

And, as well as surgery, he wanted to wake her up and talk so that she could make sure her speech was unaffected.

Chen didn’t expect brain surgery, and she certainly didn’t attend.

“I knew I had no other choice, but it was difficult to accept,” she said.

She watched YouTube videos of other people undergoing similar surgery to calm down.

With no family in Pittsburgh and travel restrictions on COVID-19, Chen struggled to get support for surgery and recovery. UPMC wrote a letter explaining the situation. This is the letter her boyfriend used to exempt Norway for a week for humanitarian reasons. To take her mother from China to Pittsburgh, she had to pull all possible strings.

One of CMU’s friends, a Rhodes Scholar, contacted people she knew at the US State Department, which works internationally. The CMU contacted Senator Bob Casey, who wrote a letter asking her mother to visit her on behalf of Mr. Chen.

Through some combination of those and other efforts, Chen’s mother was able to come to Pittsburgh and stay there.

Throughout the fall, the patient was able to function and continue his PhD. I did some research, but I had a headache when I talked consistently for a long time, such as during the three hours of reading I taught on Friday. The surgery was performed on November 17th.

“We are in the operating room together,” surgical neurophysiologist Josh Sunderlin told her when she woke her up during surgery. “You are safe. You are on surgery. Everything is really working. You just stay still.”

Hearing areas where slurred speech or Chen might struggle, Thunderlin showed her various pictures on her tablet. Mr. Thunderlin asked a Chinese translator, Hong Lee, to attend to evaluate the Chinese speech and respond in his native language.

“What is this?” He started.

“Apple,” she said.

“What do you say in Chinese?” He followed up.

Dr. Friedlander explained the importance of what was happening during the procedure to Mr. Chen as the difference between using a paper map and a live GPS map that can record changes in real time.

Dr. Friedlander said Mr Chen had undergone “perfect” surgery. She is a completely bilingual individual and uses speech and writing as part of her career.

Due to the location of spongy malformations, slip-up during surgery can have catastrophic consequences.

“There is no room for error in these areas of the brain, which I call super-eloquent,” said Dr. Friedlander. “All millimeters are important.”

Mr. Chen had an easy conversation during the surgery. He identified various foods, days of the week, mentioned deep-dish pizzas he ate when he lived in Chicago, and even joked.

“If she started talking a little more slowly and realized she had made a mistake, she might have had to change her strategy,” Dr. Friedlander said. “And left some of the lesions.”

In the months that followed, Chen recovered well and took medication to prevent seizures that could be caused by surgery.

As a young and healthy person who runs three miles a day, she didn’t expect this to happen. But in a sense, she also understands that her brain condition forced her to become more aware of stress management and focus more on work-life balance.

And as someone who came to Pittsburgh to study technology and policy, she also learned real lessons from this experience.

“In my own research, I’m studying public policy, machine learning, and how all these algorithms can be applied to the future of healthcare,” said Chen. “I never thought I would be one of those who would experience it.”

Carnegie Mellon University students participate in their neurosurgery

Source link Carnegie Mellon University students participate in their neurosurgery

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