Jamie Corley was living the dream in 2009. She had just graduated from college and was working in Washington, D.C., as a staffer in the U.S. Congress. She was enjoying her new apartment and her independence. Everything was going right.
But it all changed when a series of events led to the discovery of a tumor on her spine.
A benign meningioma—a type of non-cancerous, slow-growing tumor that develops in the membranes surrounding the spine and brain—was spotted incidentally during an MRI.
The diagnosis was a shock to the healthy 22-year-old.
“I didn’t even have any symptoms,’” Jamie says. “I went through what a lot of patients do. I was nervous and worried.”
Jamie didn’t require surgery right away. She had time to consider her treatment options.
She was living in a major U.S. city with a number of excellent medical institutions close by. But after doing her research, she knew Barnes-Jewish Hospital, back in her hometown of St. Louis, was the only place she wanted to go for treatment. The combination of leading-edge expertise and compassionate care was worth traveling the distance.
SEEKING “A-GAME” CARE
Facing a spinal tumor at the age of 22 would be scary for anyone, but Jamie knew she was in the best hands at Barnes-Jewish with some of the top medical minds in the country. Her father was treated for two herniated discs 20 years ago by Ralph Dacey Jr., MD
, neurosurgeon-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish. Dr. Dacey is internationally renowned for his work on brain aneurysms, brain tumors and other cerebrovascular disorders.
“I asked my Dad about his hospital experience,” Jamie says. “He put it into terms I could understand:
‘The neurosurgery team at Barnes-Jewish is like working in the White House. It’s the top. There are no amateurs. Everyone is on their A-game. It’s the best of the best.’"
Four years after the meningioma was diagnosed, it was finally time to consider surgery. The tumor, previously symptomless, was steadily growing and starting to cause
numbness in Jamie’s leg. Jamie requested Dr. Dacey to remove the tumor from her upper spine.
KINDNESS AND COMPASSION EASE RECOVERY
As Jamie faced major surgery, she had many fears and questions but was reassured by the patience and compassion of Dr. Dacey and the entire medical team.
“I wanted to know everything about the procedure, and Dr. Dacey and his nurses took the time to answer all of my questions,” Jamie says. “He was so kind to recognize
that many of my questions grew out of fear. He talked to me and my family and calmed me down.”
As a little girl, Jamie remembers visiting her father in the hospital. “Twenty years later, our roles were switched. I was in the hospital, and Dad was coming to visit me. Dr. Dacey operated on both of us—he has literally fixed our family.”
Jamie’s five-day recovery in the ICU was made better by the kindness of her nurses. “Your body just went through an intense surgery so it’s not functioning properly,” Jamie says. “You can’t shower and you’re just so uncomfortable. You’re away from all of your creature comforts and routines.”
She laughs as she recalls how her hair looked after laying in the hospital bed for several days. “One day, the nurse comes in and says, ‘Oh honey, we need to do something with your hair.’” The nurse then braided Jamie’s hair— giving her one less thing to worry about and making her recovery more comfortable.
“Everyone I came in contact with at Barnes-Jewish was sincere and compassionate but also very professional and talented,” Jamie says. “As a patient, you can’t ask for a better combination.”
A FRESH START
Since Jamie’s surgery, she has a new perspective on life and has been devoting more time to what’s important.
She’s more active than ever, kayaking, hiking and running in her spare time. She also started her own communications company and now splits her time between San Francisco and St. Louis. And she dedicates more time to painting, her longtime passion.
“The surgery really made a difference in my life and I’m so appreciative to Dr. Dacey and Barnes-Jewish,” Jamie says. “I’m also thankful for donors to the Foundation for providing support to the hospital so that patients like me have access to incredible care and incredible doctors.”
Each year, The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, together with the hospital’s president, present the President’s Achievement Award to a physician who sets an example of outstanding patient care, teaching and research at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Neurosurgeon Ralph Dacey Jr., MD, with his patient,
Jamie Corley, and Bob Cannon, president of
During a dinner to celebrate the Foundation’s donors, Bob Cannon, president of Barnes-Jewish and group president of BJC HealthCare, presented this year’s prestigious award, which includes a research grant, to Ralph Dacey Jr., MD, neurosurgeon-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish.
“Dr. Dacey is one of our many exceptional physicians who is making discoveries that change people’s lives, right here, right now,” says Susan Ell, vice president and executive director of the Foundation.
With support from the Foundation, Dr. Dacey and his colleagues at Barnes-Jewish are advancing the care of patients with tumors affecting the brain and spine with:
- The creation of the intraoperative MRI facility at Barnes-Jewish, which allows physicians to scan the brain during surgery to ensure all of a tumor has been removed
- Research on how cancer stem cells grow in malignant brain tumors in order to better understand underlying mechanisms of tumor development and develop better treatments
- A clinical trial to develop a personalized vaccine against malignant brain tumors
“This support is essential because it facilitates the development of self-sustaining programs in research and clinical care that wouldn’t be possible otherwise and makes additional federal funding more attainable,” Dr. Dacey says.
To support advances in brain aneurysms, brain tumors and other cerebrovascular disorders, please make a gift to the Neurosurgery Fund by calling 314.286.0600.