Not sure where to go for help, Kristina Shafton and daughter, 7-year-old Maya, got on the 405 freeway and headed north. She thought if something was wrong with Maya's brain she should take her to UCLA.
But, as she approached the Atlantic Avenue off-ramp right by Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach, Maya started vomiting. They exited the freeway.
Two weeks earlier, on Super Bowl Sunday, while most people were enjoying the big game, Maya and her family were all home sick with the flu. Within a few days, Kristina, husband, Bill and 10-year-old Noah had all recovered, but not Maya.
At first, Kristina thought Maya was just run down or the flu was taking longer to come out of her system than everyone else's. However, her symptoms continued to worsen. She was vomiting, sluggish and emotionally, not herself. She started seeing double and her balance was off. "I felt really dizzy and I couldn't see very well," said Maya. "It was awful," said Kristina.
Kristina knew she needed a specialist. Maya was complaining of issues with her eyes, so Kristina thought she might need glasses or, if it was really bad, bifocals. Distraught, Kristina sat down at her computer and "Googled" pediatric ophthalmologist. She called the first one that stood out. It was 3 P.M. on Saturday and they answered the phone. Kristina detailed Maya's symptoms and without hesitation they told her to bring her right in. "They must have known it was more," said Kristina.
The ophthalmologist started out by saying everything seemed fine with Maya's eyesight. "She dilated her eyes and said if they still looked fine, the problem was probably with her brain," said Kristina. She was told to take Maya straight to the hospital.
It was 6 P.M. on Saturday night when Kristina arrived at the Emergency Department at Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach, and it was bustling. Kristina showed the triage staff the photos taken by the ophthalmologist and Maya was rushed to an examination room. That's when it hit her. "If Maya is being streamlined back, there is something really wrong with my child!" As a mother, she was terrified.
After having an immediate CT scan, Maya was admitted directly to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Ramin Javahery, MD, medical director, pediatric neurosurgery, Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach, diagnosed Maya with aqueductal stenosis, a severe type of hydrocephalus caused by a blocked channel limiting the flow of fluid in the brain. It is most commonly found in infants and is extremely rare in children her age. Maya would need emergency surgery. "We didn't know what to think," said Kristina.
What Kristina didn't know, is that Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach is home to the Henry L. Guenther Foundation Pediatric Surgical Center, the newest and most state-of-the-art pediatric center in the region. "As a children's hospital we have a responsibility to provide high quality care addressing complicated pediatric problems," said Dr. Javahery. "The complete breadth of neurosurgery, in my case."
Dr. Javahery performed an endoscopic third ventriculostomy, on Maya. He made a small opening in the floor of the third ventricle of the brain, to allow the cerebrospinal fluid to have a new pathway. "There are advantages to having new operating rooms, especially when it comes to this type of surgery," said Dr. Javahery. They come within millimeters of the basilar artery, which supplies oxygenated blood to the brain, and there are risks. "We have integrated video screens with very high resolution that allow us to see even better than before," he said.
Ultimate Level of Care
Just two weeks after surgery, on her mother's birthday, Maya returned to school. In fact, she is back doing everything she loves. Soccer and tennis, swimming with Noah, spending time with older sister Nicole, and playing with their little dog, Bella. Dr. Javahery has even cleared her to go to Disneyland and ride rollercoasters. "She is amazing," said Kristina. "100 percent recovered."
"Based on the level of care from the time we arrived in the ED, the nurses, the different specialists that are under the hospital's umbrella, and the level of respect we have for Dr. Javahery, we instantly felt comfortable that we couldn't find any place better for Maya than what we have here in our backyard," said Bill. "The ultimate level of care that we could have asked for was right here, at Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach." And Maya agrees, "Yeah, Dr. Javahery is so nice."