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A Mother’s Illness Brings Family Closer

By on June 30, 2016 in Featured, Health News Texas with 0 Comments
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Ramirez and her mom Anna decided to seek council at San Antonio’s Methodist Hospital where she is employed as a surgical nurse. They found Dr. Christopher Bogaev, a neurosurgeon at Methodist Main. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

In April, 65 year-old Anna Guajardo was preparing for a family cruise with her brothers and sisters. Instead of sailing off on holiday in the calm waters of the Caribbean, Guajardo sailed into stormy seas in a struggling for her life affecting not only her, but also her entire family.

While preparing for the cruise, Guajardo started to complain about memory loss to her 35-year old daughter Melissa Ramirez, who shares a house with her in South Austin.

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Anna Guajardo was preparing for a family cruise with her brothers and sisters. She regularly takes family vacations like the one to Alaska. Photo: Guajardo Archives

“I thought she was just stressed out,” said Ramirez, sitting at the kitchen table. “I told here we ought to get her something for the stress before she left.”

Before getting to a doctor, Guajardo’s, who worked in management for HEB, condition quickly worsened. According to her daughter she complained about not remembering how to do her paperwork.

“All the sudden moms speech didn’t make any sense. We would be talking, and the conversation would ramble all over the place,” explained Guajardo’s daughter who works as a nurse for Methodist Hospital in San Antonio. “I told here lets just go to the hospital to make sure you are ok. I thought she might have suffered a mini-stoke or something.”

According to Ramirez, her mother didn’t want to make the trip to the hospital, so she called a nurse hotline and explained the systems. After the phone assessment, a decision was made to go to St. David’s South in Austin.

“When we got to the hospital they did a CAT scan, as well as a variety of blood tests. When the doctor finally came back he said they had found a tumor in the left ventricles of her brain,” she said.

Trying Times

Upon additional examination, a second tumor was also found. The tumors affecting her speech, balance and memory were diagnosed as L thalamic/intraventricular glioblastoma, a grade four aggressive brain cancer.

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Upon additional examination of Guajardo, a second tumor was also found. The tumors affecting her speech, balance and memory were diagnosed as L thalamic/intraventricular glioblastoma, a grade four aggressive brain cancer. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

“We were told these types of tumors tend to show themselves sporadically,” she explained. “Mom is the first in the family to have this.”

The family was sent to St. David’s Main in Austin for further examination by the oncology department.

“We were told by the doctor’s at St. David that there was nothing they could do,” said Ramirez, her voice beginning to crack while recounting the experience. “They wanted to do a biopsy. I thought to myself, if they are going to open mom’s skull up, then they are going to take it out.”

Ramirez and her mom decided to seek council at San Antonio’s Methodist Hospital where she is employed as a surgical nurse. They found Dr. Christopher Bogaev, a neurosurgeon at Methodist Main.

After careful review of Anna’s condition and the position of the tumors, Bogaev decided that surgery was an option. Not hesitating, the family decided to put it best to put the 75-year old under the knife.

According to Ramirez, Bogaev successfully removed a majority of the two tumors discovered less than a month before.

“The doctor said he got as much as he could of the tumors,” said the single mother with a 15-year old. “He was very pleased with the procedure. He said he left a little bit because if he would have taken out any more she would have been paralyzed.”

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Melissa Ramirez admits that constantly staying on top of problems has taken a toll on her, as well as her brother and sister. “It seems all I do is spend time around the ill,” she said. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Bogaev showed the family the two CT scans, the one before the operation and one following the procedure. According to Ramirez it was “like night and day”.

In the weeks and months leading up to the Guajardo’s operation, the family noticed some sporadic behavior. The diagnosis was further complicated by the fact that Ramirez was a nurse on the night shift. She would often sleep during the day, leaving little time for interaction with her mother.

“During that time mom would keep saying she was forgetting things,” explained Ramirez. “Other than that there were very few symptoms.”

The first telltale signs came when her mother, a jogger for more than 20-years, started to fall at the park where she regularly ran. She had regular check-ups, worked out, ate healthy and never drank or smoked.

After the operation Guajardo’s speech as severely declined, making little sense. The family was also making five trips a week to San Antonio for radiation treatment, while also doing chemotherapy at the same time.

While Ramirez works her regular night shift, responsibility for caring for her mother was divided between her sister Rita and little brother Christopher. Once a month the family members drive mom to San Antonio for an MRI.

“For five days every month mom has to Temodar, a chemo pill. Thank god for insurance because that treatment alone is more than $10,000,” said Ramirez whose mom takes eight medications daily.
Guajardo, who is confined to a wheelchair, is starting occupational, physical and speech therapy at her home twice a week. The therapies will be re-evaluated on a regular basis.

Mother’s Illness Brings Family Closer

Ramirez and her family are currently searching for a qualified primary care physician in Austin to treat her mother’s condition.

“The chemo and radiation has left mom in a weakened condition. She is more susceptible to flu and other viruses,” said her daughter. “Skin breakdown is also a concern, we just need to find someone closer that can treat these issues as the arise.”

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“I feel like if I don’t help her, who else will?” We all know this is going to be a long road to travel. She is our family, and we are doing our best to take care of her, and each other,” said the full-time nurse, a tear forming in her eye. Photo: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Ramirez admits that constantly staying on top of problems has taken a toll on her, as well as her brother and sister. “It seems all I do is spend time around the ill,” she said.

To cope, her and her sister take long walks together, during which they try to lift each other’s spirits.

“I feel like if I don’t help her, who else will?” We all know this is going to be a long road to travel. She is our family, and we are doing our best to take care of her, and each other,” said the full-time nurse, a tear forming in her eye.


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