DALLAS - A North Texas woman is thanking the medical professionals who helped bring her back to life. Her condition was so rare that doctors say she was close to death.
Stephanie May lives an active lifestyle. She's a black belt in karate and plays the piano. So when she started having some stomach problems she didn't think much of it. Luckily, she listened to her body and went to the hospital.
It was a decision that would end up saving her life.
With her husband and son by her side for moral support, 46-year-old Stephanie May recounts the day she nearly died.
"I had gone into cardiac arrest a couple of times," she said.
Luckily for Stephanie, she was already at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas. Her husband had brought her to the ER a few hours prior because she couldn't keep food or fluids down.
"I was just kind of in shock thinking I just left her at the hospital, and she seemed okay," said John May.
Stephanie’s heart and kidneys were shutting down, and doctors didn't know why.
Dr. Hassan Pervaiz ordered a CT scan and found the culprit: a lemon-sized tumor had been growing above her left kidney for nearly two years.
At that point, Stephanie’s heart was operating at just 10% normal capacity.
Dr. Pervaiz installed a pump to help her heart function in order for her to be able to have the tumor removed.
"So once we did that, within a few hours, her blood pressure started to go up," he explained.
Then it was up to Dr. Thomas Shires to get the tumor out. The operation took about an hour.
"This rare tumor, it leads to a delay in diagnosis a lot," he said.
Dr. Shires says the tumor created so much adrenaline that it overloaded the heart, so it can't pump properly. It ultimately led to Stephanie’s heart attacks.
"All tumors have a blood supply, and the goal is to divide the blood supply first and then remove it intact," Dr. Shires said.
Stephanie spent two weeks in the ICU. Most of it was a blur.
"I woke up in the middle of the night and had the tube down my throat," she recalled.
Stephanie recently completed physical therapy. It helped her to be able to move her fingers again, motion she lost after the heart attack.
For the second-degree black belt and pianist, this was a huge step in healing.
"I didn't play anything. I just hit a cord and called my mother-in-law and bragged about it because I was just so excited to play," Stephanie said. "I really just wanted to make sure all of my doctors and nurses got their credit because all I did was get sick. They saved me."
Stephanie says she feels back to her old self. She'll have to do some follow-up tests in the future to make sure the tumor hasn't grown back.
Dr. Shires recommends folks get established with a primary care physician and get routine blood work which helps in the early detection of a lot of illnesses.