Kimberly Katz


Meningioma Diagnosis: Brain Tumor Surgery Saves Young Woman’s Life

Kimberly Katz’s headaches were so intense, they sometimes interfered with her work and social life. She thought these debilitating episodes might be migraines.

It turned out she had a brain tumor.

Her condition came to light when she was rushed to Emergency Department at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, part of Baptist Health. An MRI revealed a meningioma so large that she had to undergo immediate, lifesaving surgery.

“You know, it was definitely very hard to process,” says Ms. Katz, a busy 29-year-old who was living out her dreams in New York City and was visiting family for the holidays at the time. “But I choose to be grateful for it — because I’m here, you know?” 

(Watch video and hear from patient Kimberly Katz and neurosurgeon Brian Snelling, M.D., director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery at Boca Raton Regional’s Marcus Neuroscience Institute.)

Understanding a Meningioma Diagnosis

Meningioma are the most common type of primary brain tumor. Usually noncancerous, these tumors originate in the outer of the three layers of tissue called the meninges, which cover and protect the brain just under the skull.

Typically, meningiomas are slow-growing and may go undetected for a time. In Ms. Katz’s case, her tumor had grown to the size of a small peach or tangerine. 

“By the time she came to us, the size of the tumor and the swelling around it had reached a tipping point to where she became very sick, very ill, and needed something done as an emergency,” explains neurosurgeon Brian Snelling, M.D., director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery and director of the stroke program at Boca Raton Regional’s Marcus Neuroscience Institute.

An MRI showed that the tumor was at the base of the skull. “The ramifications could have been permanent injury to the brain, a stroke or death from the amount of swelling and the fact that she was declining so precipitously,” Dr. Snelling recalls. “She was essentially nearly comatose by the time we saw her [and] couldn’t keep her eyes open for more than a few seconds.”

Dr. Snelling teamed up with Marcus Neuroscience Institute neurosurgeon Tim Miller, M.D., to remove the tumor in a long and complex surgery — with great results.

The tumor “was in very close contact with some important nerves that deliver her ability to move her eyes and control her vision, as well as some very important arteries that deliver blood to a large part of her brain,” Dr. Snelling says. “We were able to remove the tumor in its entirety and spare all those important structures to ensure the good recovery that she had.”

Dr. Snelling notes that statistics show meningiomas are more common among older people. But to achieve the earliest possible diagnosis of a serious condition, patients of any age experiencing headaches and other symptoms should seek expert care.

Brian Snelling, M.D., director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery and director of the stroke program at Marcus Neuroscience Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, a part of Baptist Health.

“People can get headaches for a lot of reasons, and a lot of those reasons are rather benign — meaning they’re not brain tumors or things like that. And so, it’s not out of the ordinary for patients not to receive imaging for that,” he says.

“But,” he adds, “if you notice that you have some new headaches and they’re abnormal, or they’re different than they’ve been before, it’s certainly something worth following up on with your primary care doctor or getting in to see a neurologist and getting that evaluated further.” 

Getting the Right Care

Ms. Katz says she didn’t really take note of her declining health last year, although her headaches and episodes of fatigue were becoming more frequent.

“I was functioning relatively well. You know, I still was able to go to work, I still was able to socialize with my friends,” she recalls. But thinking back, she now realizes she was gradually reducing her activity and sleeping more and more.

When she was unable to get out of bed for a get-together with friends last year, Ms. Katz says she sought help at an urgent care center in New York and received medication for migraines. A few days later, she went to a hospital emergency department in the city, where she says she underwent imaging to determine if the headaches might be originating from a spinal condition.

“After seeing multiple doctors that kept telling me I was healthy, capable to function, it really gave me a sense of confidence,” she says. No brain scan was done. But she still was not feeling well.

In December, she decided to visit her father in Boca Raton for the holidays but was so fatigued that she couldn’t participate in the family’s celebrations. Alarmed when she couldn’t speak after spending several days in bed, her father called for an ambulance.

“He said, ‘You have to go to the hospital’,” she recalls. “The ambulance came for me and I remember firefighters lifting me, bringing me to the ambulance, and I don't remember anything after that.”

She regained consciousness after her surgery, and began on her road to recovery. The tumor completely gone now, she will undergo regular monitoring to ensure it doesn’t grow back

Ms. Katz considers herself fortunate the she made that holiday trip to visit family; had she been alone in her in her New York apartment, where she worked remotely, she might not have gotten the help she needed, she says. “Thank God I did, because the timing was perfect.”

Now that she is feeling better, she is planning to travel, spend more time outdoors and learn something new every day. “I'm so incredibly grateful for the beautiful life that I've been given,” she says.

She’s also grateful for the care she received. “I'm the biggest fan of the Marcus Neuroscience Institute because the staff was incredible — always so kind to me, made me feel so incredibly comfortable,” she says. “We kind of just ended up there and, you know, now that we're doing our research, it was the best choice.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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