Donna Ford, 52; He took it A year ago at her home in Livingston, Texas, she shook his shoulder.

“Falling is not unusual for me,” Nurse Ford told because her left leg was amputated earlier. Although she fell on her bottom, she felt a “charge” in her head. “I didn’t hit anything, but I felt it,” she said.

Ford went to work that night It caused a headache“But that’s not unusual either,” she says.

But, when she got home from work late the next morning, Ford said the vision was “off” and she heard a “rushing sound” in one of her ears. At that point, she asked her husband to take her to a separate emergency room. He took her to a nearby hospital.

There Ford in A subdural hematomaIt occurs when blood accumulates in the skull and puts pressure on the brain Mayo Clinic explains.. After Ford underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was released, her illness soon became more serious.

“I went home and slept that night,” she recalls. “But when I wake up I started hitting.. And as a nurse, I know that’s not good.

Back in the emergency room where he was alone, another brain scan confirmed that it was Ford Brain hemorrhage “It got really bad,” she says. So the staff decided to take her to Memorial Hermann Medical Center in Houston, where she received a more dramatic diagnosis. Leukemia.

Donna Ford (courtesy Donna Ford)

Donna Ford (courtesy Donna Ford)

Sometimes abnormal bleeding can be a sign of cancer

Ford was diagnosed Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a specific type of leukemia that affects the bone marrow and is caused by two specific genetic mutations; Medline Plus. Like other forms of leukemia, APL affects blood cells and platelets, making it more difficult for the body to properly form blood clots.

Most people with APL have relatively mild symptoms, Dr. Adan Rios, MD, a UTHealth Houston oncologist and Memorial Hermann who treated Ford, told

These symptoms can include easy bruising, menstrual bleeding, nosebleeds and small red spots under the skin called petechiae, Medline Plus says. Other symptoms of APL can be more subtle, such as fatigue, joint pain, and loss of appetite.

But one in 10 patients “bleeds heavily, and often bleeds in the brain,” says Rios. People with this type of cancer have bleeding disorders, which makes it challenging to treat such complications that require surgery, he explains.

Severe bleeding and experimental treatment

Today, APL can be treated with current treatments, says Rios. “So[cerebral hemorrhage]is a complication of a potentially curable disease.”

Until recently, doctors had only two options for treating patients with Ford’s condition: First, if the bleeding wasn’t too severe, they could proceed with cancer treatment and hope the bleeding didn’t get worse, he said. Or, if there is bleeding will do As they get worse, they need invasive brain surgery to treat the hematoma.

“It’s a very challenging process,” Rios says, “and comes with heightened risks for the patient.” “You can imagine how complicated and dangerous this set of circumstances can be,” he said.

But there was another option. And Ford became the third patient in the United States to successfully receive a new minimally invasive form of treatment.

In the new procedure, surgeons insert small catheter tubes into the brain through the groin area. From there, they block the blood vessels in the brain that supply blood, often the middle meningeal artery, Rios says.

By blocking the right artery, “the blood supply to the hematoma is cut off and the hematoma shrinks in size,” he explains.

Amazing recovery process

The surgery can be minimally invasive, but the results can be amazing and fast.

“Within 24 to 48 hours[patients]return to normal without the need for neurosurgical intervention in the brain,” he said. “It’s a wonderful example of the progress that has been made in the management of these complex diseases.”

After the procedure, “I had a little bandage on my thigh, but that was it,” Ford recalls. “I don’t feel any pain anymore. The vomiting is gone. I feel so much better now.”

of confusion Ford says the sensation she felt after the fall cleared up within a week of the surgery. “It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was and remember what they told me,” she recalls.

However, once the brain bleed is treated, her doctors can focus on treating the underlying cancer. And, just last month, Ford completed her final four rounds of chemotherapy, she tells She now continues to go for follow-up appointments.

And, she says her 15 years of experience as a nurse helped her keep her spirits up throughout the process, despite her difficult situation. Ford, whose parents donated their organs to science, is proud to follow in that lineage, Rios said, which may soon be his medical requirement.

“It was scary, but I knew what was going on in my mind, and I knew it could be taken care of,” Ford said. “I was calm because I knew I was where I belonged.”

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