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Illinois family braves pandemic to find lifesaving care

Doctors at her local health system determined that surgery was not possible to remove the tumor.
(Credit Donald Cady, UW-Madison)
(Credit Donald Cady, UW-Madison)((Credit Donald Cady, UW-Madison))
Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 1:21 PM CST
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NORTHBROOK, Ill. (WIFR) - It’s been said, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, but one family from Northbrook, Ill., found something it could believe in.

On March 17, Sun Lim, a 64-year-old mother of three daughters, was diagnosed with grade 4 astrocytoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, a fast-growing brain tumor, according to UW-Health.

Doctors at her local health system determined that surgery was not possible to remove the tumor. This meant rounds of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Angel Recht, eldest of Lim’s daughters, wasn’t satisfied, and felt there had to be another way. So, she did what anyone might do today, she turned to the internet.

“I searched the internet for ‘inoperable brain tumor’ and found a story about a patient treated by a Dr. Mustafa K. Baskaya,” Recht said.

There was just one problem – the world was in the midst of an intensifying global pandemic, and visitation at UW Health’s University Hospital was significantly reduced.

They called UW Health’s neurosurgery department office to get a second opinion, and spoke with Letty Geanon, UW Health nurse practitioner, who works with Baskaya, a UW Health neurosurgeon and professor of neurological surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

After talking with Baskaya and his team via FaceTime on a Saturday, Recht, Lim and her family decided the surgery was right decision, regardless of the pandemic.

On March 31, Lim’s surgery was scheduled, and two days later, she was admitted and Baskaya performed a successful surgery the following day, April 3.

Due to the visitor restrictions at University Hospital her family couldn’t be there to visit and talk with Lim. Baskaya’s team took over, particularly Geanon, who made phone calls, met with her family outside the hospital and helped Lim feel welcomed and safe with the pandemic raging around the Midwest.

The extra measure of compassion was evident to Lim and Recht.

“I felt very well taken care of by everyone and didn’t have any feelings of worry while there,” Lim said.

Now, seven months removed from surgery, Lim is doing well. The primary concern of surgery, and why her original care team in Chicago thought the tumor was inoperable, was the risk to her motor skills, like movement, but in this case in particular, speech.

“Prognosis is better than without surgery, and we have given her the best chance to beat the odds,” Baskaya said. “She is not paralyzed and functionally 100 percent.”

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