It was the kind of weekend a mother will never forget. On a Friday in June 1992, Dr. Stephen Thompson, chief, section of Pediatric Neurology and director of the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Program, sat Jennifer Kaye down in his office and told her the awful news An MRI revealed that her daughter Charlotte, just shy of her third birthday, had a brain tumor. On Monday, his colleague, Dr. Arno Fried, chair and director of HackensackUMC’s Neuroscience Institute and chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery, removed it successfully. “To feel the bottom falling out of your world- and then to have it restored,” Jennifer says. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.”
The diagnosis was the culmination of months of increasing worry about Charlotte’s health. “Charlotte had always been an easy child,” Jennifer recalls. “She ate well and slept well, but she started to get cranky, and she ultimately developed a stiff neck.” Jennifer took her to a number of specialists, but nothing they suggested seemed to work. Worried, Jennifer’s family pediatrician sent her to see Dr. Thompson.
Seeing the MRI, Thompson notified his pediatric neurosurgery colleague, Dr. Arno Fried and admitted Charlotte immediately. “She was in grave danger because the tumor was causing a buildup of fluid in her brain,” he says. For Charlotte’s parents, Jennifer and Jeffrey, as well as the entire family, the weekend of waiting for tests to be done and planning surgery was excruciating. “It’s very hard on parents,” Dr. Thompson says. “As physicians, we try to engage the entire family in the process- and do what we can to address the terrible anxiety they feel.”
On Monday, using microsurgical techniques and a sophisticated navigational system, Dr. Fried removed the entire tumor. While Charlotte was recovering in the hospital, Dr. Thompson would sometimes bring his young son with him to talk to Charlotte, a gesture Jennifer much appreciated.
Today, Charlotte is sixteen- and for her, the operation is barely a memory. She is an accomplished dancer who excels at school. “She couldn’t have received better care,” Jennifer says.
Certainly, the Kayes were fortunate in their choice of physicians. But as Dr. Fried points out, HackensackUMC delivers this kind of care because it invests not only in facilities but also in teams of skilled professionals. “It’s teamwork that makes the difference,” he says.