Liberian Patient Reunites with Loyola Neurosurgeon Thirty-Six Years After Life-Saving Procedure
Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL – On Friday, July 29, Grace Troko Schilder visited Loyola University Medical Center with her mother and cousin to reunite with Douglas Anderson, MD, the neurosurgeon who performed a life-saving operation to remove a brain abscess when she was just three years old.
In 1986, three-year-old Grace was living in Liberia and suffering from seizures. “The first time she had a seizure, we were very concerned,” said Velma Troko, Grace’s mother. “She went from complaining of a headache to not being able to move one side of her body.”
At a local clinic, Grace was given antibiotics and returned to normal by the next morning. To Grace’s parents, who were both doctors, this indicated there may be a space-occupying lesion in her head.
In an attempt to help the family, a pediatrician from Indiana visiting Liberia at the time wrote to a pediatric neurologist in Chicago about Grace’s condition. While they waited for a response, Grace’s condition worsened as she continued to suffer from headaches, loss of appetite and weight loss. A letter finally came back from the US, inviting them to Chicago to seek further treatment for Grace.
“As a mother and a doctor, it was scary,” said Velma. “We prayed that God would hold whatever was in Grace’s brain in place until we could find a solution, and we prayed that she would have no seizures as we traveled from Africa to the US”
When they landed in Chicago at 2 pm, they visited a local hospital for a CAT scan. Upon seeing the results, the pediatrician called his colleague Dr. Anderson right away to ask him to see them. Dr. Anderson invited them to his home and, after looking at the scans, determined that they would need to operate immediately to remove a brain abscess.
“My schedule was booked for the next two weeks, but here was this mother with her daughter and they had traveled so far for help, and the abscess had already been causing symptoms for a month,” said Dr. Anderson. “We called Loyola and scheduled them to be admitted that same night.”
By 1 am, less than twelve hours after arriving in the US, Grace went in for her first surgery. While the surgery went well, Grace wasn’t fully out of the woods. “Abscesses are always dangerous; they can grow, they can burst, so they need to be treated with antibiotics quickly and, frequently, need to be drained to be removed in its entirety,” said Dr. Anderson. “Grace’s abscess had grown a satellite in a harder-to-reach area of her brain, so we weren’t able to remove all of it in one surgery.”
“When you’re a doctor and a parent, sometimes you know too much. I can now say that sometimes ignorance can be good. At the time, I had no cell phone to call my husband or family. We could rely only on faith and the prayers we were receiving from others,” Velma said.
Grace would go on to have a second surgery before returning to Liberia six weeks later. Today, Grace lives in Munich with her husband. She has experienced no health issues since the surgeries. “It’s quite surreal to hear the stories my mother has told about her experience,” says Grace. “I don’t have any memory of any of this time in my life, but what’s driving me to be here is my gratitude and recognition of how significant this was.”
Thirty-six years later, Grace returned to the US for a reunion with Dr. Anderson. On Friday morning, July 29, 2022, Grace visited Loyola University Medical Center for a tour of the hospital. For Grace and her mother, the kindness they were shown in 1986 means everything to them.
“We arrived in the US with so few connections and everyone just welcomed us into their communities with open and loving arms,” said Velma. “Everyone we met demonstrated God’s love when they accepted us with open arms and we can only say thank you. We will never be able to repay them because they have given Grace her life.”
“To come here today and know that so many people did so much for me just so that I can live is one of the biggest things ever and completely changes the way I think about myself,” said Grace. “There was no limit to what Dr. Anderson and the community gave to me, and it reminds me there is no limit to what I can give back to the world. That has always been my life vision, and today is really confirming that. This is a life-changing moment, and it makes me determined to share the love that I’ve received.”
About Loyola Medicine
Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a nationally ranked academic, quaternary care system based in Chicago’s western suburbs. The three-hospital system includes Loyola University Medical Center, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital, as well as convenient locations offering primary care, specialty care and immediate care services from more than 1,500 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois’ largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its academic affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Established in 1961, Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with the Judd A. Weinberg Emergency Department, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research Facility at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center. Center. MacNeal is a 374-licensed-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced medical, surgical and psychiatric services, acute rehabilitation, an inpatient skilled nursing facility and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics.
For more information, visit loyolamedicine.org. You can also follow Loyola Medicine on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.
About Trinity Health
Trinity Health is one of the largest not-for-profit, Catholic health care systems in the nation. It is a family of 115,000 colleagues and nearly 26,000 physicians and clinicians caring for diverse communities across 25 states. Nationally recognized for care and experience, the Trinity Health system includes 88 hospitals, 131 continuing care locations, the second largest PACE program in the country, 125 urgent care locations and many other health and well-being services. Based in Livonia, Michigan, its annual operating revenue is $20.2 billion with $1.2 billion returned to its communities in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs.
For more information, visit www.trinity-health.org or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.