Cate Luther’s daughter

To the Doctor Whose Simple Test Helped Save Our Daughter’s Life


I know you’re humble and meek, and you were just “doing your job.” However, I think you do it better than the average doctor. When you took the Hippocratic oath, you meant it. For that, I am grateful.

Let me back up a bit. As you may be aware, in late March — Easter weekend to be precise — my daughter started to limp and showed signs of weakness on the right side of her body. I called your office late that Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was too late to get in to see you.

One of your staffers referred my daughter to urgent care for her right-sided weakness. Since she takes several medications for her mood disorder, I thought it could be tardive dyskinesia (TD).

After I got off the phone with you, I took my daughter to urgent care. They determined rather quickly they couldn’t do the proper testing there. Instead, they referred us to our local hospital’s emergency room.

The ER doctor did a few tests and ordered lab work. He consulted with the on-call psychiatrist and gave my child a diagnosis of TD. He prescribed a medication that was supposed to lessen the severity of the side effects of the offending medication. As is standard operating procedure, he recommended we follow up with my daughter’s personal psychiatrist.

Based upon the results from the ER, my daughter’s psychiatrist of almost six years concurred. We then began a regimen where we began to titrate down on the medication that was causing TD. At the same time, she increased the medication that was supposed to lessen its side effects.

A month later, my daughter’s symptoms not only didn’t lessen, they grew worse. It didn’t make sense to me. I did what any mom would do — I consulted my mom friends. One suggested the cause was possibly neurological. She implored me to get my daughter seen right away. With our HMO insurance, we had to get a referral from you before we could see a neurologist.

This is where you came in. You played an integral role in getting my daughter the care she needed. When you saw my daughter in your office, you did one test they didn’t do in the ER. It was a simple pin-prick test. You told my daughter to close her eyes while you poked her along her right leg. You started with her foot, moving all the way up to her upper thigh before my daughter uttered the words that said it all: “Let me know when you are going to start.” You and I stared at each other in disbelief. It wasn’t possible. My daughter had little to no feeling on her right leg.

You saw something else they missed in the ER: The partial paralysis on the right side of my daughter’s face. My family and I had mistaken it for just a cute crooked smile.

With a sense of urgency, you looked me in the eye and made me promise to take my daughter to the ER of the children’s hospital. You told me she would need an MRI. I honestly had no idea what we were in store for but did as you instructed.

My daughter and I stopped at home to quickly pack her overnight bag, since you had told us she would probably have to spend the night. That would be the first of eight nights in total she would spend there.

The next morning my daughter was wheeled off to the MRI room, and I followed right behind the gurney. It wasn’t long after my daughter was back in her hospital room that a nurse practitioner called me aside and told me the disturbing news no parent wants to hear: “We found a mass in your daughter’s brain. The surgeon will be up shortly to discuss it with you.”

I felt my breath leave my whole body. I wanted to faint. The only thing I knew to do since my husband was at work was to rally the troops. I called him and asked him to leave work as soon as he could. Then I called family members and friends to ask them to pray. I was in a state of shock.

The neurosurgeon showed up within the hour of our devastating news. He showed me where the tumor was located on the left side of her brain. He also showed me it had a cyst that was pushing on the brain.

Most of all, he showed me compassion and confidence. Those were two things he showed my family and I over and over again during the next seven days my daughter was in the hospital. In the midst of what seemed like chaos to me, this doctor — Dr. McMiracle in my book — was a very calming presence.

The next morning the children’s hospital’s team did its best to ensure the operation to remove the tumor and accompanying cyst went smoothly. Finally, after five long hours, the surgery was over. The surgeon deemed it a success. A follow-up MRI the next day would confirm this.

Thankfully, the pathology report determined the tumor to be a grade one, which meant no radiation or chemotherapy would be needed. My daughter will be given subsequent MRIs in the coming months and years to monitor her brain. For now, we’re blessed she’s made a remarkable recovery.

From now on, this children’s hospital will be the standard to which I will measure all hospitals.

I’m thankful I listened to my gut and to my friends. I’m grateful you performed a thorough job of assessing my daughter. We owe her life to you and her amazing surgeon. Thank you for “doing your job.”

Follow this journey on Raising a Drama Queen.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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