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Interview With Lori Egitto, Peter Black

Aired May 11, 2003 - 16:44   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Mother's Day marked by flowers, cards and extra appreciation for mom. But for some, Mother's Day is a day to celebrate life. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a story of one such woman.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After seven years of marriage, Lori and Skip Egitto used in vitro fertilization to conceive their son Mike. When Mike was five months old, the unexpected. Lori was pregnant again.

SKIP EGITTO, LORI'S HUSBAND: We didn't think we could conceive again. So it was kind of a surprise.

GUPTA: The pregnancy was going well into its seventh month. Then things changed.

LORI EGITTO, MOTHER: My vision started to go blurry. And little by little, I had noticed it was on a daily basis that it would get progressively worse.

GUPTA: Lori went to an eye doctor who didn't detect a problem, but knew something was blocking her vision. Because of her pregnancy, the doctors were initially hesitant to perform an MRI scan, but her condition worsened.

L. EGITTO: A matter of three or four weeks, by the time it got from blurry to having difficulty really making people out and taking care of my older child. So at that point, they did the MRI.

GUPTA: While there were risks to the procedure, Lori's obstetrician had grown concerned.

DR. DAVID RICHMAN, LORI'S OBSTETRICIAN: You're treating two patients. You are treating the baby, you are treating the mommy simultaneously, and I felt that the MRI was definitely the way that we had to go.

GUPTA: Lori was told she had a brain tumor, a meningioma, the most common type affecting 70,000 Americans each year. Like most, hers wasn't malignant, but it was pressing on her optic nerve.

At first, doctors decided to monitor the tumor until the baby's birth, but Lori's vision kept on getting worse. L. EGITTO: I recall calling him, and I said, you know, I'm almost 90 percent blind at this point. Am I going to get my vision back? If this goes, am I going to get it back? And that's when he said he couldn't guarantee it.

GUPTA: That was when Lori and Skip headed to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hospital to see a neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Black.

DR. PETER BLACK, LORI'S NEUROSURGEON: The challenge for us then was should this be removed or could it safely removed in somebody who was seven months pregnant, and could her vision be changed and made better by doing something surgical at that time?

GUPTA: Dr. Black wanted Lori to have surgery the next morning.

L. EGITTO: It wasn't an option. It was the thing that I had to do.

GUPTA: Lori insisted her unborn baby be the priority during the operation.

S. EGITTO: She just said, if we c-section, stay with the baby. Don't worry about me.

GUPTA: Lori said good-bye to her family, especially her son.

L. EGITTO: He was just a year old, and that was extremely hard. Knowing if I would ever see him again, and remember him, or if something were to happen to me, he would never remember me.

GUPTA: With the neo-nato teams standing by, Lori went into surgery. Six hours later...

L. EGITTO: I asked if my baby was OK, and they said, yes, you still have him. And I smiled.

GUPTA: Lori was also able to see.

BLACK: Almost a miraculous kind of situation where we got the pressure off the optic nerve and the eye came back very, very well.

GUPTA: With the tumor gone, the focus was now primarily on the unborn baby.

L. EGITTO: I was very nervous about going into labor. Especially having experienced it before. So, the thought of pushing with my head, it was scary.

GUPTA: Just about on schedule, one month after her tumor was removed, Lori pushed her baby into the world.

Joey was born a week early, weighing seven pounds, eight ounces. Lori gets annual MRIs to make sure there are no signs of a new tumor. Dr. Black thinks she's cured.

Happy Mother's Day. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Boston. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Wow, that is an amazing story. Right now, we're glad to welcome Lori Egitto and Dr. Peter Black, her neurosurgeon, and they are joining us from Boston to talk more about this very amazing story. Good to see both of you.

L. EGITTO: Hi. Nice to see you.

WHITFIELD: So Lori, it's been four years now. How often do you reflect on the decision that you and your neurosurgeon had to make? Of course you said in the piece it really wasn't an option, but you really did have options, didn't you? To not perform the surgery.

L. EGITTO: At the time, I didn't have an option. I needed to do something fast. We were unsure if my sight would come back. So, in order to make sure that everything was going to be OK, we needed to do it soon.

WHITFIELD: So on this Mother's Day and the Mother's Days prior to this over the last four years, how often have you been thinking about this incredible decision that had to be made, and you know, what a gift of life you have to celebrate?

L. EGITTO: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. It's been a wonderful experience, and I thank God daily that I have the opportunity to see my children and to take care of my family.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Black, let me bring you into this equation. You mentioned that it's a common surgery, but over the years technology has made medical science that much more improved all the time. If you had a very similar situation to encounter yet one more time, would you make the same sort of decisions and recommendations to your patients or was this really an anomaly that it just happened to work out the way it did?

BLACK: I think there's no question that we needed to go ahead. I think the most important thing is the cooperation that's involved at a hospital like the Brigham (ph), between the neonatology (ph) team and the anesthesiologist, the surgeons and, of course, Lori. And that hasn't changed too much. So we're still able to do this very well.

WHITFIELD: Have you ever had this kind of challenge brought about again?

BLACK: We have occasionally had to operate on folks who are pregnant. In this particular case with the vision being so bad, that was a particular challenge.

WHITFIELD: What made Lori such a unique individual? I mean, obviously she had the will and the wherewithal to really make some coherent, strong decisions at a point when some people just really would want to kind of fall apart.

BLACK: I think Lori is a wonderful, unique individual from the start, and I think that what was so striking was her indomitable will. She said if it has to be done, it has to be done. I want to make sure the baby's OK above all, and I think it was a remarkable experience to be able to participate in that.

WHITFIELD: And Lori, given that you really had to have a clear mind as you were thinking about all this, as the doctor said, what recommendation might you have? Because there are an awful lot of women who are up against, you know, some really serious medical decisions which to make, and perhaps this is an opportunity for you to try to help those women feel strong and think clearly about how to make the right of decisions for themselves and their families at this time.

L. EGITTO: Well, I think, first of all, you have to have a lot of faith. And, it was very important to me to do this for my family, as well as myself. I just think you have to really try and grab up all the courage that you can and just go for it and be strong about it, and have a positive attitude. I think that was very important.

WHITFIELD: All right. Lori Egitto, thanks very much.

L. EGITTO: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Happy Mother's Day to you. And Dr. Black, thank you as well for joining us, and happy Mother's Day to the mothers in your life.

BLACK: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.


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