Zahra, a shy and sweet girl, loved going to the mall and spending time with her friends. That all changed when she began having double vision and headaches at school. These symptoms concerned her parents, so they took her to the doctor who ordered an MRI to diagnose the cause. The results were frightening, showing a large, non-enhancing lesion in the suprasellar region, a narrow region at the base of the brain near the pituitary gland and the optic cavity. The imaging also showed early obstructive hydrocephalus, a condition that creates pressure on the adjacent brain tissue. Treatments for both conditions needed to begin immediately.
The first step was a stereotactic biopsy of the lesion, a delicate procedure that would take a sample of the lesion in her brain. The procedure was not available in her home country of Bahrain, so Zahra and her father went to Singapore in May of 2016. The biopsy came back with a diagnosis of Astrocytoma. Zahra and her family were devastated by the news, but Zahra’s parents knew they were going to get the best treatment possible for their daughter.
In an effort to provide the highest quality of care for its patients, the Bahrain Ministry of Health signed an agreement with SAH Care to treat Bahraini patients with proton therapy in the United States. Proton therapy, is a more precise form of radiation therapy, that provides 60% less radiation to surrounding tissue, which in Zahra’s case was important for her future growth and development. The good news was that Zahra was a candidate to receive proton therapy. The Ministry of Health introduced Zahra’s father to SAH Care’s regional director Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Hussaini and SAH Care began coordinating all aspects of Zahra’s care and journey.
Zahra, her father, and her sister in the United States
On July 18th, Zahra, her father, and her sister traveled to the United States to the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute in Hampton, Virginia, where she would receive treatment. The SAH Care team arranged all logistics and details of her care at the treatment center, secured comfortable, safe housing arrangements, rental car, and organized outings to some local attractions for the family to enjoy. SAH Care’s goal is to make the process of receiving the care needed as seamless as possible. The patient and their families should only concentrate on getting better, nothing else.
The staff knew of Zahra’s arrival and was apprised of the clinical details of her condition before she arrived. The pre-planning allowed Zahra’s care to begin immediately. Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Zahra and her family met with the Proton Center’s radiation oncologist and discussed her treatment. The first step was to conduct another surgery to address the Astrocytoma of the brain, followed by a recovery period. Not a moment was wasted. While Zahra was recovering from surgery, the SAH Care team of oncologists, physicists and other specialists were designing her specific treatment plan. The team wanted to make sure that when Zahra successfully recovered from surgery, the proton therapy treatments could begin. On September 1st, less than two months after Zahra had arrived in the United States, she entered a course of proton therapy.
Zahra at Hampton University Proton Therapy Center
Zahra successfully completed her treatment a month and a half after she began, on October 19th, with her father by her side, she rang the ceremonial brass bell surrounded by her care team to celebrate her accomplishment. When Zahra and her family returned home, they were introduced to their newest family member, a baby boy. Now Zahra has a new sibling to enjoy her trips to the mall with.