Mary Ann M., Emergency Surgery

Minden resident Mary Ann M. thought she was in good health. She worked out. She meditated. Little did she know her body was developing a rare fatal tumor on her adrenal gland. With symptoms mirroring a heart attack, she suddenly found herself in Carson Tahoe’s ER. Luckily, a perceptive cardiologist was there to identify the rare tumor. Thanks to Carson Tahoe’s team of experts, the tumor was removed, saving Mary Ann’s life and restoring her peace of mind.

Mary Ann is a retired special education teacher who is very avid about her health. On January 30, 2012, Dave and Mary Ann had just finished their workout and preparing to meditate. Suddenly, Mary Ann lurched forward with a very horrendous headache and she ran to the bathroom and began vomiting. Dave noticed that she was very sweaty and clammy and her pulse was erratic.

Immediately Dave called the ambulance and the EMTs were very calm and collected when they came into the house. However, once they listened to Mary Ann’s heart, they started moving very quickly and told Dave to not try to keep up on their way to the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

Once Dave got to the ER, it looked like a “war zone.” People were running around and a blood panel and CT scan of the heart showed that Mary Ann did not have an issue with her heart. Suddenly she had pulmonary edema, which meant that she had a burst vessel in her lung and she began to vomit blood. She was immediately “put under” and was intubated.
At this point, an ER Dr. was becoming increasingly concerned since none of the symptoms were adding up and her blood pressure varied from over 200 to plummeting down to nothing. Luckily a CT Cardiologist was doing rounds at the time and saw the commotion. Thanks to his quick thinking, he immediately diagnosed it with two possible conditions: a thyroid issue or an extremely rare condition called Pheochromocytoma.

Pheochromocytoma occurs when a rare tumor develops on your adrenal gland tissue. It results in the release of too much epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones that control heart rate, metabolism, and blood pressure. Immediately the cardiologist ordered a CT scan of the abdomen and the tumor was immediately recognized.

Mary Ann was put in an induced coma for four days while they could stabilize her with alpha and beta-blockers. An Endocrinologist was brought in and he recognized the specific alpha-blocker that would be needed and it was so rare that it was only located in one hospital in all of Northern Nevada. It was brought here by way of a cab.

While in the ICU, Dave and his son and daughter were always made to feel welcome and were never asked to leave unless absolutely necessary. At one point the nurses almost had to start chest compressions on Mary Ann. Dave also commented that the nurses took special care to update the family 24 hours a day. If they couldn’t answer questions, they would call the doctors who quickly back responded.

They got to know several of the nurses very well since they have 12-hour shifts and many times Mary Ann’s family was there for longer periods of time than that. During this time there was always a nurse in the room, 24 hours a day.
Once Mary Ann had come out of her coma and she had stabilized, doctors sent her home and scheduled a surgery to remove the tumor. A surgeon would perform the delicate surgery once Mary Ann had recovered enough to handle it. He also wanted to make sure that a specifically skilled anesthesiologist was selected to handle this high-level surgery.

At Mary Ann’s size, 4’9”, you would not expect a tumor the size of a grapefruit, but that is exactly what the surgeon removed from Mary Ann. Luckily the tumor appears to be benign, but large incisions were unavoidable in removing such a large object. Today she has never felt better and is forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved her life.