Written by Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant
Alicia Chin was diagnosed with a rare condition, Intramedullary Spinal Cord. As a dance teacher, this diagnosis meant she would’ve been paralyzed for life and unable to continue sustaining her livelihood. However, after meeting Dr. Tan Wei Chean, Resident Endoscopic Spine Surgeon at Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu, hope was restored and so was her life and mobility.
“My name’s Alicia Chin and I’m 41 years old.” Alicia shares with us. Before being diagnosed with Intramedullary Spinal Cord Tumor where tumors will typically develop inside the spinal cord, most frequently occurring within the neck region, Alicia was a dance instructor for children in her hometown of Beaufort. “I started dancing because of my daughter. I felt the need to accompany her.” However, being from a small town, she noticed what a hassle it was for children to travel to Kota Kinabalu for dance classes. “I think every child should have the opportunity to learn this skill so I decided to open a dancing space and teach dancing.”
The Bleak Moment of Truth
Unfortunately, her efforts came to screeching halt when she discovered she had Intramedullary Spinal Cord Tumor. “It was indescribable. It felt like the world went pitch black,” she said upon learning about the diagnosis, “I felt I was too young to be implicated with it.” She indicated that the doctors relayed to her that this was a very rare condition. “There are moments where I questioned God and why he would inflict me with this. There were times when I was sad. But, I had friends and family providing me with advice and moral support.”
Alicia began to feel the weight of the symptoms as time went by. “I wondered why I was getting weaker and why managing myself became more difficult. When I walk, I would often fall over and my hand wouldn’t be able to lift objects.” She said. In the beginning, she mistook these symptoms as a trivial nuisance such as shoulder pains.
After consulting with doctors, it was apparent that her stiff legs, poor balance, and shoulder pains came from the Intramedullary Spine Cord Tumor. “From the moment I was diagnosed until the moment I went to Singapore for medical consultation, my condition worsened rapidly. I needed assistance walking and when I ate I couldn’t use a fork as I couldn’t control my movement and balance.” With this, Alicia raced against time to begin the necessary medical steps in treating her condition
Her Purposeful Search for The Right Treatment and Hospital
“Firstly, I went to a certain hospital located here in Kota Kinabalu. That’s where I was diagnosed. After examining my MRI, the doctor told me I couldn’t go for an operation,” she adds, “According to him, there was a 95% risk of being paralyzed and that I’ll experience respiratory problems.” The only option for Alicia was to gradually lose her ability to walk as there were no other choices.
Alicia left feeling dissatisfied, however, she didn’t give up. Next, she met with Dr. Tan Wei Chean, resident consultant, Neurosurgeon, Pain Management Specialist and Endoscopic Spine Surgeon at Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu, who advised her to undergo Posterior Cervical Laminectomy Surgery as this would provide her with a better chance of recovering. The surgery is operated by removing the laminal (posterior bone of the spine) and then open the dural (cover of the spinal cord), then open the spinal cord to remove the tumor under a microscope. “After hearing these clashing consultations, I felt conflicted. One doctor said not to continue the operation and another doctor recommended it. With this, I went ahead to Singapore to get another medical perspective.” The doctors there also similarly concluded that undergoing for Posterior Cervical Laminectomy Surgery was the best option.
“So, from there I returned to Kota Kinabalu and met with Dr. Tan. I wanted to know the risks and how I should take care of myself during recovery. In our conversation, he explained that there was a machine to detect the nerve and that the operation was safe,” she notes adamantly, “It was a better option that the 95% risk of being paralyzed and experience respiratory problems.”
With that, she underwent Posterior Cervical Laminectomy Surgery at Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu on January 7th 2019 and it was a resounding success.
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