There are people we meet who touch our lives and change it forever.
I heard a story yesterday that truly inspires. It is about a young girl X. X was just 24 years old. She was bright. She was pretty. And when I say pretty, I absolutely mean it. Now everything was going great for X. She had a loving husband and she had just given birth to a beautiful baby. Things couldn't have been better for her. And then suddenly things started changing. She started noticing changes in her appearance. She was gaining weight. She did not feel well. Her beautiful long hair started falling out. She went to see a doctor who told her that it was probably because her hormones were all crazy after the birth of her baby and things would be okay with time.
But things just kept getting worse. She could not bear to look at herself in the mirror anymore. It was like looking at a total stranger. And she started noticing increased facial hair. At first she tried covering up using makeup but then it got a point where she had to shave to stop people from staring at her. She went to see more doctors. Yet every doctor told her that it must be a side effect of her pregnancy and childbirth and would go away soon. Then she started getting these streaky marks along her lower abdomen and thighs. Grostesque purple streaks. Like stretch marks. Terrified she went to see her doctor. And he asked her if she was being abused physically at home. She denied it and begged him to help her. She showed him a photo that had been taken two years back on her birthday. She burst into tears just looking at the bright and happy woman in the photo. What had happened to her in these few months? She looked nothing like the person she was before. Now she was a grossly overweight, ugly woman with rough features, hoarse voice, beard and a mustache.
So they started investigations on her. She seemed a clear case of Cushing's syndrome
. Her cortisol level was way over the limit. Her ACTH level could not be suppressed. Yet all investigations drew a blank. There was no pituitary tumor, nothing apparently wrong with her adrenals. And there she was withering away everyday. No one knew where the cortisol was coming from. But they had to keep her from dying. So the endocrinologist decided that they would have to take out her adrenal glands. Even though it would mean lifelong treatment, it would keep her alive.
So they took her for surgery and the surgeon takes out one adrenal gland. Right at that time the surgery resident notices a slight enlargement of one of the ovaries of the patient. So they removed the ovary that appeared to have a cystic teratoma
and sent it for a frozen section
and examination by a pathologist. The pathologist took a look at the slide and immediately sent word to stop the surgery and prevent the surgeon from removing the other adrenal gland. Although not apparent at the first cursory glance , the pathologist knew right away that they had hit upon the right organ. The ovary in all likelihood was the source of the problem.
Further examination confirmed the initial suspicion. X had an active pituitary adenoma
that had been growing within the ovarian teratoma and had resulted in the hypercortisolemia leading to the manifestation of Cushing's syndrome. Within days of removal of the ovary the patient's condition stabilized. Her cortisol levels fell to normal and her physical appearance started reverting to her pre-Cushing state. The patient left the hospital with most of her gained weight gone, her features restored, her voice and skin normal and no traces of hirsutism
And if it weren't for the young surgeon who noticed the ovarian tumor and the pathologist who recognized the tumor for what it was, X would have withered and passed away. Says a lot for the doctors, the techniques and medical marvels that go on to save people's lives, every single day.I heard this story from the pathologist who saved the life of the young girl. I saw her picture, both before she fell sick and after she was hospitalized. And also when she left the hospital. And honestly, it left goosebumps on my arm.
"If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times." The Oath of Hippocrates of Kos, 5th century BC