Philanthropy: Making the Impossible, Possible

October 12, 2018

Last August, Keiko Matthews, MSN, RN, completed her shift at St. Jude, went home, and woke up the next day with an excruciating headache. She asked her fiancé to call 911, and remained conscious just long enough to hear the paramedics discussing where to take her. The last thing she remembers is silently repeating “Please take me to St. Jude.”

Keiko got her unspoken wish, came out of a coma 10 days later in St. Jude’s CCU—and learned she had been diagnosed with a blister aneurysm, a condition that is as rare (representing less than 1 percent of all aneurysms) as it is deadly, creating one of the highest mortality rates of any neurological condition.

A ventriculostomy catheter was placed to drain excess blood and relieve pressure on Keiko’s brain in preparation for the next step: a highly delicate neurointerventional procedure to place a flow-diverting stent and reconstruct the brain’s blood flow.

Because of the rareness and complexity of the procedure, only a handful of neurointerventionalists in Southern California have the experience and expertise to do it—one of whom is at St. Jude. “This type of aneurysm is particularly volatile, as the slightest touch can create an unstoppable bleed,” explains Hamed Farid, MD, Medical Director of Interventional Neuroradiology, who successfully performed the high-risk procedure.

Thanks to donor support, St. Jude can place the latest technology and therapies in the hands of highly skilled physicians like Dr. Farid to successfully treat a wide range of neurological conditions, including rare and dangerous conditions like Keiko’s.

Community members generously funded the neurointerventional biplane system used for Keiko’s main procedure. Philanthropists Harold and Henrietta Lee made a landmark gift that built the cutting-edge neurosurgical suite where Dr. Farid performed the most sensitive part of her surgery. Philanthropy also supported clinical education for the neuroscience nurses, enabling them to provide the very best care to Keiko across each step.

With resources like these, St. Jude ensures patients benefit from the highest level of care available anywhere. Having access to leading-edge capabilities also helps attract and retain nationally-renowned experts, like Dr. Farid.

“I am so grateful for donors who invest in our work and allow us to provide patients with the best outcomes possible,” says Dr. Farid. “Support from our community makes me proud to be part of the St. Jude family.”

A month after arriving by ambulance, Keiko returned home and began outpatient therapy at the St. Jude Centers for Rehabilitation and Wellness where she worked to regain her speech and memory. Despite being told to “take it slow,” she forced herself to go back to school and finish her thesis. She graduated with her master’s degree earlier this year and is now back at work full-time.

"Every day, I thank God for the physicians and caregivers at St. Jude," says the mother of a 19-month and 3-year old. "I knew we were really good at treating neurological issues, but to have your life handed back to you despite the odds, is simply incredible."

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