An original diagnosis of diabetes was later found to be a rare, lemon-sized tumor. It was discovered after an emergency surgery resulting from two heart attacks that nearly ended 46-year-old Stephanie May’s life.
The story began in December 2019. A visit to the ER revealed that May had a massively high blood sugar level, topping over 300 mg/dL. She was sent home with instructions for daily insulin shots, with doctors saying she had diabetes.
By June 2021, May could not keep anything down, including water. Now residing in Fate, Texas, her husband took her to Texas Health in Rockwall. After X-rays revealed a growth, she was transferred to Texas Health Dallas.
Hassan Pervaiz, M.D., a cardiologist on the Texas Health Dallas medical staff and a member of Texas Health Heart & Vascular Specialists, noted that May’s blood pressure was very low upon arrival at the hospital. She had to have CPR after going into cardiac arrest twice.
“The strength of the heart muscle was 10%,” Pervaiz told The Dallas Express. Doctors installed a mechanical pump to repair May’s heart function and save her life.
“It is a catheter with a pump that goes into the heart through the aorta,” Pervaiz said.
Stephanie had the pump for her first 10 days at Texas Health in Dallas before having it removed and letting her heart pump on its own.
“Right after we placed the pump, her blood pressure started coming up,” said Pervaiz. “That basically saved her life right there.”
After successfully stabilizing May, doctors determined the underlying reason behind her kidney failure and two cardiac arrests. It was pheochromocytoma, a rare tumor on the adrenal gland.
Before the tumor could be removed, May had to undergo dialysis to improve her kidney function. The tumor increased the amount of adrenaline pumping through her body. G. Tom Shires III, M.D., a surgeon on the medical staff and member of Texas Health Surgical Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, said they had to handle her care before the surgery properly to see a successful result.
“Administering medication to block excess adrenaline secretion of the tumor is extremely important for a safe surgery,” Shires said. “Mrs. May’s survival was based on an excellent team approach, and her care involved appropriate diagnosis and a very high level of coordinated care.”
Unfortunately for May, she had endured a rare result of having pheochromocytoma — her heart attacks. Dr. Pervaiz said the tumor can shut down vital organs, like the kidneys, as it did in May, though such tumors are rarely associated with heart failure. The tumor itself is not seen often by Texas Health doctors.
“The tumor is really rare. We may see four or five patients with it per year,” Pervaiz said.
May noticed the collaboration of the staff at Texas Health and praised the outstanding care they provided her, from the nurses who made her laugh to the many doctors who worked together to find the problem. She said she was not treated like it was a part of their job to care for her, which was special to May.
“I think the fact that there are these people that are so good at what they do is why I’m ok today. I don’t know if I would have got that somewhere else.”
May was able to rid her regimen of diabetes medications and return to work, along with getting back to activities she enjoys, including playing the piano. She is still grateful today for the care she received at Texas Health.
“I’m in awe sometimes about the way that people like that can care for other people,” she said.