Houston lady now saves lives on the similar rehab facility that modified hers.

As of late, Claudia Martinez makes the rounds at TIRR Memorial Hermann, the very analysis hospital the place as soon as she was a affected person. Now, in her third yr of residency, she traverses the identical hallways the place, not too way back, she launched to stroll.

In the identical room the place Martinez, 31, as soon as labored with bodily trainers to grasp the steps of dressing and feeding themselves and transferring from a wheelchair, she helps others going through related challenges.

dr Lisa Wenzel, attending doctor at TIRR, recollects when Martinez first arrived, and Wenzel handled her as a affected person. Now Wenzel supervises her as a resident, offering affected person care.

“Claudia was in a position to not solely rehab right here – but in addition to work right here as a pupil,” Wenzel stated. “She is sort of an inspiration. Hopefully, someday, she’ll be an attending right here as properly.”

That is Martinez’s dream too.

She needed to be a health care provider since childhood and, throughout medical faculty, thought-about changing into a surgeon.

It was her time at TIRR that modified the course of her profession. However her path was arduous.

Martinez’s signs — complications and a tingling sensation or numbness in her legs — started alongside her lessons on the College of Houston, the place she earned her main in biology and minor in chemistry.

“It was irritating,” she recalled. “And the issues I’d do in on a regular basis life have been getting more durable and more durable for me.”

The signs worsened with time. Martinez began feeling weak. Inside a yr, her fingers and legs shook. Generally she would fall when attempting to face. She was usually nauseous and vomited.

Docs initially thought faculty stress was the wrongdoer. However Martinez knew that could not be the case.

“I used to be the kind of one who actually loved faculty,” she stated. “It wasn’t disturbing to me.”

Initially of her senior yr, in 2012, she lastly discovered a health care provider who listened.

She was recognized with a cyst on her backbone and a Chiari malformation, a uncommon situation ensuing from the mind not having sufficient room within the cranium. The mind anomaly kinds within the cerebellum, an space key to motor perform and steadiness. The shortage of house ends in the cerebellum urgent into the spinal twine.

Martinez had by no means heard of a Chiari malformation earlier than – however she understood the gravity of the prognosis.

“My neurosurgeon stated, ‘You want mind surgical procedure as quickly as potential – or you can find yourself paralyzed from the neck down,'” she recalled.

Inside per week, she was within the working room for a craniotomy, in addition to a posterior suboccipital fossa decompression with laminectomy and duraplasty — a process that removes a small part of bone within the cranium to scale back stress.

Afterwards, Martinez shortly recovered – and all of the complications and nausea have been gone.

“I felt tremendous good,” she stated.

However it did not final for lengthy.

Signs return and worsen

The complications returned – worse than earlier than.

“I could not sit up,” Martinez stated. “I began blacking out.”

She was rushed to the hospital that October, and realized there was a leak. Fluid was filling her mind cavities, and a shunt was positioned in her cranium to empty it.

“Restoration took some time that point,” Martinez stated. “It was slower.”

And her signs returned — once more. She once more had complications, tingling and problem swallowing.

The herniation in her backbone had reformed, decrease down this time. She wanted a 3rd surgical procedure to alleviate the stress. In January 2014, surgeons repeated the decompression process.

Martinez then developed chemical meningitis from an artificial patch positioned in her head to permit for higher room. The patch had to get replaced and a shunt was positioned in February 2014.

As well as, Martinez had trigeminal neuralgia, a situation that causes painful sensations to the facet of her face.

“It offers you such extreme ache that you simply’re not in a position to eat or speak,” she stated.

She then underwent a fourth operation — known as a microvascular decompression surgical procedure — in November 2014, months after enrolling on the McGovern Medical Faculty at UTHealth Houston.

“Right here I used to be attempting to be the most effective I might be, doing properly in class, and this stuff saved taking place to me,” she stated. “I did not perceive why.”

At any time when Martinez went to the hospital, she would ask her mother and father Alicia and Johnny Martinez to deliver her laptop computer and books. They have been more than pleased to conform.

Even when Martinez didn’t open the texts, it was comforting to have them close by. She defined that their presence helped her give attention to her future in drugs, when she can be the physician, not a affected person.

“A minimum of I had that,” she stated. “Most of my training I did from the hospital mattress or at residence.”

A complete new downside

At age 25, Martinez was engaged on a analysis undertaking in the beginning of her second yr of medical faculty with Dr. David Sandberg, professor and chief of the division of pediatric neurosurgery on the McGovern Medical Faculty at UTHealth.

On the time, Martinez was having hassle swallowing and commenced dropping pounds. She was rushed again to the hospital for being malnourished. She additionally developed points with steadiness, imaginative and prescient and sight – and commenced having seizures.

Martinez shared her story with Dr. Sandberg, who additionally serves as director of Pediatric Neurosurgery on the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute.

“Her case could be very uncommon,” he stated. One thing seldom, if ever, seen.”

Most sufferers with Chiari malformation recuperate after one process and by no means want one other. “However she had various surgical procedures,” he stated.

And nonetheless, Martinez suffered signs.

“She was getting worse and worse,” Sandberg stated.

An MRI revealed her mind stem appeared connected to scar tissue. Usually, Sandberg stated, an area exists between the dura, or lining that covers the mind, and the mind stem.

“Her mind stem seemed pulled again,” Sandberg recalled.

And any surgical procedure affecting the mind stem may be harmful.

“The mind stem controls life – respiration and coronary heart fee,” he stated. “However there weren’t nice options in her case.”

Martinez would wish a fifth surgical procedure – and Sandberg agreed to take over her case.

“It was actually high-risk at this level,” she stated. “However I felt like he might do it. I had full confidence in him. I felt relaxed.”

The operation was scheduled for July 2016. Sandberg stated the process basically opened her earlier incision, slicing away scar tissue and untethering her brainstem.

“It is like fly paper,” Martinez stated. “He needed to go in and unstick it.”

The identical subject recurred in February 2017 – and Sandberg operated once more – for her sixth and last mind surgical procedure.

Restoration from stroke

When Martinez awoke from her surgical procedure, she tried to achieve and seize one thing. That is when she realized that she had no management over her arms — or her legs.

“I used to be like, ‘What is occurring?’ she recalled. “I had a stroke throughout surgical procedure.”

She was transferred to TIRR in March 2017.

Martinez was at her lowest level, she defined. It wasn’t merely the shortcoming to perform or the truth that she must relearn find out how to use her physique. She felt like this might be an indication that practising drugs would now not be in her future, and others concurred. She was heartbroken.

“Everybody was mentioning what I could not do,” she stated.

However at TIRR, all the things modified.

“Everybody was so constructive,” she stated. “It was all about restoring my life and my perform. They’d level out what I might do – and that was an entire 180.”

Wenzel stated that was a vital a part of her restoration.

“Claudia had all these challenges to beat,” Wenzel stated. “However there may be life sooner or later; that was our key focus. ‘There’s a lot you’ll be able to nonetheless do.’ We needed to present her hope.”

The method was multidisciplinary, together with bodily and occupational therapists, nurses, case managers and psychologists.

“When Claudia first got here in, she required complete help for bathing, consuming, grooming and dressing,” Wenzel stated.

After two months, Martinez was virtually completely unbiased in all of these actions. She might stroll a bit, get out of her wheelchair and climb just a few stairs.

“She made important progress,” Wenzel stated.

Martinez would return to TIRR for 2 extra stays that yr. The opposite classes have been devoted to standing, strolling and shifting her fingers.

“I used to be getting stronger,” Martinez stated.

In 2018, Martinez took a yr of medical depart for rehab. The next fall, she returned to high school, nonetheless with a feeding tube.

Making one thing out of the items

Martinez graduated in Could, 2020.

Alongside the way in which, she reached numerous milestones – together with having her feeding tube and port eliminated.

She realized to look at sufferers on her personal and to change into her personal advocate as a med pupil with disabilities.

Martinez additionally discovered that her profession objectives modified. She was nonetheless engaged on regaining motion in her fingers – and knew that dominated out surgical procedure.

Wenzel advised her, “I feel you would be a superb rehabilitation physician. You’d have the ability to assist so many individuals with practical enchancment.”

Martinez took her TIRR doctor’s phrases to coronary heart.

“She advised me, ‘I will apply,'” Wenzel recalled.

Martinez began her residency at TIRR in July, 2020.

“She is in a novel place to know each side,” Wenzel stated. “The issues that she has realized as a affected person, she will be able to now apply as a doctor.”

Sandberg agreed, “When it comes to compassion for sufferers, she’s going to actually perceive what they’re going by.”

He recalled that she was a top-notch pupil.

“Now she’s a busy resident,” he stated. “She was plagued with challenges that the majority medical college students by no means have – and he or she dealt with it with nice poise. She persevered.”

Lindsay Peyton is a Houston-based freelance author.

Leave a Comment