Son thrives after unexpected brain tumor

Allison Warren, nurse and mother of brain tumor survivor, Piedmont Medical Center

That doctor had no idea who I was, who my son was, but he had a strong enough conviction to take care of us. Those are the kinds of physicians I want at my community hospital taking care of me, treating me like family.

Allison Warren wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with her then 13-year old son when he started complaining of dizzy spells at school in the spring of 2012. After all, the middle-schooler seemed to only have them when he was away from home.

“At first, as a mom, I wondered, is he having issues at school? Is someone being mean to him?” Allison says. “Is there a reason he is having these spells that no one seems to be able to witness?”

As the spells continued, he was able to get more descriptive, giving his mom more details to go on. She took him to their primary care physician, Dr. Thomas, part of the Piedmont Medical Center system where Allison is also a clinical nurse. The doctor did blood workup to start, considering low blood sugar a possible culprit for the picky eater.

Tests, tests and more tests

“Over the course of a couple of months, they ran him through several tests and really could not pinpoint anything,” Allison says. “At that point, he referred us to a pediatric neurologist, and unfortunately, we didn’t have one in our hospital practice at the time, so we had to go outside the hospital. It took us about three months to get an appointment.”

In August 2012, the pediatric neurologist ran a battery of tests and he ordered a cardiology workup to be done outside of Piedmont. One of the tests they asked to be done was a sleep-deprived EEG, where her son stayed up all night while his brain waves were monitored.

“My only request when that test was scheduled was that I wanted it done here in my hospital,” Allison says. “I knew the people who were going to operate the test and it was also going to save me money on my insurance.”

A few days after the test, Allison ran into the technician who administered the test in the hospital halls, and he asked her if she had gotten her results back. Allison could tell by the look on his face she needed to be concerned.

“I called the physician’s office to get the results and they informed me that my son’s test results were abnormal, but in the same breath, they told me they didn’t actually believe my son’s results and were questioning their validity because they were not done at their facility,” Allison says. “And that angered me. I went out of nurse mode and went into

mother mode and told them there is a test telling me there is something wrong with my son and they were ignoring it.”

Piedmont steps in

Allison was distraught, worrying about what the test results would reveal about her son’s condition. That’s when a physician at Piedmont she had never even met stepped in – Dr. Perumal. He called her at home that night and told her an MRI was what was needed next based on her son’s results, and that he would do whatever he could to intervene on her behalf with the other doctor to make it happen.

Still, that doctor was adamant Allison’s son needed to be retested at their facility. And because Dr. Perumal was in an adult practice, he wasn’t supposed to treat Allison’s son unless he was at least 16. But that didn’t stop him.

“He called me back 12 hours later and said he was going to take my son on as a patient,” Allison says. “He had special permission from his office manager, and he didn’t have to do that for me. But he felt it was necessary that we get into the office.”

Two days later, her son had the MRI. And later that day, they got the devastating news that what was causing the dizzy spells was a brain tumor.

Back on the gridiron

“I am very happy to say that in February 2013, my son had a complete tumor resection, and through it all he was very strong,” Allison says. In fact, he never once worried that he would die or be disabled in any way. He only wanted to get back to his passion - playing football.

“And I am confident to say a few months after he had his tumor resectioned, he was cleared to play football and is now a sophomore in high school, starting on varsity on the offensive line,” she says. “I am one of those ‘live life to your fullest’ people and that is what makes him happy.”

Allison says that her honors student son does have some short term memory issues, and since there is a 10 percent recurrence rate, he gets scanned every six months to make sure the tumor is not recurring. But she is confident that with Piedmont behind her, the future is very bright for her son.

“That doctor had no idea who I was, who my son was, but he had a strong enough conviction to take care of us,” she says. “Those are the kinds of physicians I want at my community hospital taking care of me, treating me like family. When you come to this hospital it is not like coming to a hospital, it is like coming to an extended family.”

And despite working there, she knows other patients will have the same experience she had, like they are part of the Piedmont family, too.

“This is a hometown hospital,” she says. “I feel like I have a vested interest whether I work here or not because it is part of our community, and regardless of whether you are an

employee or member of the community, you get that hometown feel. People take care of you like they know you, not like you are a number. We take care of each other.”

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