Stories about: Dr. Edward Smith

Finally finding answers for cavernous malformation

treatment for cavernous malformation

It was early morning and Tiffany and Joe Palowski were worried. Their son, Michael, was undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to determine the cause of his excruciating headache. The test — only expected to take about 45 minutes — now approached the two-hour mark. “They had to have found something,” Tiffany said as her panic rose. “I know they did.”

About 10 days earlier, Michael had gotten sick, vomiting so intensely that he began throwing up blood. The 6-year-old had spent a week in a local hospital with a suspected case of norovirus before being sent home. But then he’d developed a headache that wouldn’t clear up. Thinking he might have a migraine, the family returned to the same hospital in Connecticut. But now they wondered if more than a migraine was in play.

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Brain surgery for a cavernous malformation gets Timmy back to being a kid

surgery for cavernous malformation

Eight-year-old Timmy LaCorcia was having a bad day. He didn’t feel well and had to leave school early. It was frustrating — he usually had perfect attendance — but not alarming. After all, it was March, a time when children often struggle with colds and other illnesses. “We just thought he had a stomach bug,” says his mother, Gina.

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Full circle: From moyamoya patient to intern

treatment for moyamoya disease

It’s the last day of Justin Doo’s research internship in the Department of Neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital and he’s eager to join the team for a celebratory scoop of ice cream at JP Licks. Before he leaves, he meets with his supervisor, Dr. Laura Lehman — but they both know this isn’t a final goodbye. The 18-year-old will see Dr. Lehman again within the year, because he isn’t just her intern. He’s also her patient.

Unlike most summer interns, Justin has already spent plenty of time at Boston Children’s — more than a decade, in fact. When he was 7 years old, his parents brought him to the hospital for an evaluation of his frequent headaches. But a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed that what everyone believed to be migraines were actually symptoms of a rare but serious cerebrovascular condition called moyamoya disease. “I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time,” remembers Justin. “I just knew that my parents were crying.”

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Cavernous malformations: What parents need to know

They’re among the more common cerebrovascular problems in kids. But few parents have heard of cavernous malformations until their own child is diagnosed. These small masses are comprised of abnormal, thin-walled blood vessels. While they can occur anywhere in the body, they’re most likely to cause problems when they form in the brain and spinal cord.

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