Jefferson County
Not Feature Story
Most teens enjoy beach trips, outdoor activities and sleeping late during summer break, but for Mary Kathryn Fletcher, a 14 year old of Oak Mountain High School, the summer before she entered high school was memorable in a much different way. Her summer held an experience that many of her classmates will not deal with for years to come. In early July 2007 Mary Kathryn, “MK” to her family, developed symptoms her parents thought was mononucleosis. Upon seeing her normal family physician MK tested negative for mono and returned home. Her condition worsened over the next week or so and she was very weak, losing weight quickly, and had become nauseated all the time. MK was also exceptionally weak on the right side of her body. After a few more days of this she returned to her family physician who then thought they needed to take a step toward looking at her head to see if everything was normal. MK had her first MRI July 20, and by 11:30 a.m. her doctor had found a problem and alerted the family. He told them there was a large mass on her brain and explained to them he had alerted Children’s Hospital and they were to go there immediately.

The Fletcher’s arrived in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital around 2 p.m. that same afternoon. They were first seen by Dr. Daniel Harmon in the ER. They were admitted immediately and scheduled to meet the neurosurgeon team that would handle MK’s case the following day. First they had to have MK’s braces removed, so around 9 am her orthodontist was reached, and came to the hospital. In less than five minutes, MK had her braces removed and was ready for the tests to begin. Saturday morning came and the Fletcher’s met with Dr. Leslie Satchivi, and Jeffery Pugh, M.D., the doctors that were to be on MK’s case throughout her stay at Children’s. A MRI was needed, then the doctors would be back to discuss the findings. Dr. Satchivi explained to the family exactly what was happening inside MK’s brain and what they needed to do to correct it. “He talked directly to MK and explained everything to her, there was no hiding anything, no talking to us behind curtains in hushed voices,” said Christy Fletcher, MK’s mother, “he gave her options and let her make choices, it really put her at ease.” Dr. Satchivi and Dr. Pugh explained the surgery and what the consequences would be-possible lack of comprehension and speech. After further discussion, Dr. Satchivi and Pugh agreed that entering from the rear would be the most successful, possibly leaving MK with right sided weakness but fully able to speak, think and respond.

The Fletcher’s felt comfortable from the start with both physicians and what they planned to do. Three days later on the morning of the surgery the entire team came in to MK’s room to talk with her and her family. The nurses then took Mr. Fletcher’s cell phone number and told MK’s parents that they would call every hour and a half to update them on the status of the surgery. “I can’t tell you how amazing the doctors were, they went above and beyond what normal doctors do” says Mrs. Fletcher, “every time they walked into a room there was a calmness that came with them, there are no words to describe how that makes you feel as a parent whose child is about to undergo brain surgery.” The entire surgery was originally supposed to take four to six hours, it actually took nine. “But we knew God was in control” says Mrs. Fletcher.

When Dr. Satchivi emerged from the operating room he informed the family that there had been a problem in the middle of the surgery and that was the reason for the extended length of time. He explained MK had an external hematoma, which is bleeding on the outside of the brain. “He told us he had never seen it happen like that before”, said Mrs. Fletcher “but assured us that MK was doing great and in recovery.” When MK woke up she was paralyzed on her right side for a few days and her words were slurred. Before leaving PICU, MK had already regained partial use of her right leg. With great in-house therapy while at Children’s MK grew stronger and began to walk again. “I can’t say enough about the girls that work in the physical, occupational and speech therapy area,” says Mrs. Fletcher “they would keep MK laughing the entire time, it really made her less tense and she enjoyed going.”

MK was released from Children’s on August 3, 2007, and she is recovering well. She sees Dr. Charles Law for her OT/PT therapy and is continuing with her education through homebound services with Oak Mountain High School coordinated by Hollie Scholfied, a social worker with Children’s. “She has her bad days, like everyone else does, but she has a great heart and believes she will recover fully” says her mother.