Carolyn Malveaux had always been healthy. Then, in September 2009, she began having a strange sensation on the right side of her face. A trip to the emergency room for a CT scan resulted in no diagnosis. Soon, the right side of Carolyn’s face began to droop. A second hospital trip ended in a diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy, and Carolyn was treated with antiviral therapy. Still, the pain and symptoms worsened–in addition, her eyes became red and irritated. Over two months, Carolyn saw many eye doctors and received numerous treatments including steroids and antibiotics. Nothing helped, and worst of all, her vision began to fail–soon she could not even read.
Carolyn’s symptoms baffled doctors—until until she was brought to Houston Methodist Hospital, where she was seen by a neuro-ophthalmologist. Tests showed that Carolyn had a right seventh nerve palsy and bilateral optic nerve damage. An MRI scan revealed an enhancing lesion at the base of her brain and skull, involving the optic nerves and the seventh nerve. Scans also detected multiple other lesions, including some in her chest (sarcoidosis). She was treated with steroids and recovered her vision almost completely and continues to do very well.
Houston resident Helena Klimko was originally in the hospital to be near her ailing father, whose health was failing in a Canadian hospital. Paying more attention to her father’s plight than her own, at first it was easy to ignore the signs that something wasn’t quite right. Over the course of a week, however, she began to notice an increasing headache along with blurry vision in her left, then right eye. The vision loss quickly progressed to complete blindness in the left eye and the ability to detect movement only in the right eye–combined with crippling migraine headaches.
The situation became more heartbreaking when Helena’s father passed away—in the very hospital where she was seeking emergency room treatment for her own condition. The next day, she was completely blind. She soon transferred to a hospital in Detroit with MRI capabilities–a move which coincided with her father’s funeral, making her unfortunately unable to attend.
In Detroit, her condition continued to baffle doctors, and additional testing failed to uncover a cause for her ailment. Although she began to regain some sight, she soon had a total relapse into the blindness and excruciating headaches that had plagued her for months. After a spinal tap to relieve intracranial pressure, she and her husband decided to return to Houston for treatment at Houston Methodist Hospital Department of Ophthalmology.
Dr. Andrew Lee, Chairman of Ophthalmology at Houston Methodist , worked with a team of doctors in training, students, and residents, and together, they almost immediately devised a diagnosis and plan of action to treat the condition. Eventually, Dr. Lee came to the conclusion that Helena had a rare condition that could produce inflammation and pain in both optic nerves and often relapse after initial treatment with steroids – Chronic Relapsing Inflammatory Optic Neuropathy. Helena was treated with intravenous steroid therapy and inflammation-suppressing drugs, and after a week’s stay at Houston Methodist Hospital, she was discharged.
Over the next few weeks, Helena regained more of her sight. She seemed to be tolerating the medicines well and just a few short months after discharge from Houston Methodist Hospital, she was once again able to read. She’s now back at work, and back to doing the things she loves.
At her last follow-up visit with Dr. Lee, Helena and her husband told him that after four hospitals, three cities, and two countries, they believed that it was only because they live in Houston, Texas and had access to high quality care at Houston Methodist Hospital that her vision was saved.
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