Almudena was only two years old when she was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Her mother Claudia first noticed there was something wrong when Almudena was experiencing excessive thirst, was having difficulty seeing, and was losing weight. She was more interested in drinking water than eating.
Almudena was referred to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital where she underwent chemotherapy for three months but the tumor was still growing and it needed to be removed.
Dr. John Ragheb, Chief of Neurosurgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, says "Almudena had dangerously large tumor in a very difficult to reach location in the brain, particularly in such a small child. At age two she weighed less than 20 pounds."
Left: Brain MRI before surgery. Right: One year after surgery.
The pediatric neurosurgery team led by Dr. John Ragheb performed a 10-hour surgery to remove the tennis ball-sized tumor.
Claudia says she was grateful for the many updates she received from the nursing staff throughout the day, and was relieved when the doctors came to let them know that the surgery was over and that she was doing well.
It was not always a smooth journey for Almudena. She spent nearly two months in the hospital after surgery to help recover and learn how to eat again. She also had to have a second brain surgery to relieve the accumulation of fluid in her brain, an effect of the tumor.
However, thanks to her strength and determination along with the care received through the Neuro-Oncology Program and the intensive care unit, Almudena is now cancer free.
Almudena is attending preschool virtually and enjoys spending time at home with her two other siblings. She no longer uses a feeding tube to eat, her vision is much improved and she is thriving developmentally.
"We are grateful to the entire team, including Dr. Ragheb, Dr. Shelley Wang, pediatric neurosurgeon and Dr. Ziad Khatib, pediatric oncologist, for their compassionate care. In fact, they are like family to us. Almudena lovingly refers to Dr. Ragheb as her bearded doctor," says Claudia.