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Grateful Patient Stories

Schwannoma Patient Experience

Read this heartfelt patient story from patient, Christina, who was misdiagnosed twice elsewhere before receiving the appropriate diagnosis of Schwannoma from Dr. Garni Barkhoudarian, neurosurgeon at Pacific Neuroscience Institute and Associate Professor at Saint John’s Cancer Institute (formerly Saint John’s Cancer Institute, JWCI). Schwannomas are benign tumors of the nerve coverings and can occur on any nerve anywhere in the body. Dr. Barkhoudarian was able to refer Christina, whose tumor was closer to her lungs, to JWCI colleague and expert thoracic surgeon Dr. Osita Onuga, at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

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I went from being told I had lung cancer to lymphoma to a correct diagnosis, Schwannoma. After my original scans, a doctor called to tell me I had lung cancer. My mom was in the hospital dying of lung cancer at the time, and that was the start of this journey in July 2018. That gives you an idea of why this has been so emotional for me and why I am so happy and grateful to all of you at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute!

I would like to add that patient advocate, Sharmyn McGraw, reaching out so quickly on the PNI Facebook site, was so amazing and having her put me in touch with Dr. Barkhoudarian right away and him getting back to me in less than a day was truly extraordinary.  You can tell you all love what you do.

Before meeting my team at the PNI, I had one surgeon blow me off for not being in the right neighborhood and another that wanted to cut my chest open!

I couldn’t have asked for a better surgery experience with the team at the PNI. At the time I contacted Sharmyn, I thought about walking away, because I truly believed I was out of my league by reaching out to this team of experts on social media.  Thank goodness I didn’t.

Dr Onugha and Schwannoma Patient
Dr. Onugha with Christina

After reviewing my scans, Dr. Barkhoudarian quickly suggested I see Dr. Onugha. Dr. Onugha was the only doctor besides my pulmonologist who fully explained what this kind of tumor could eventually do. My first two doctors, just wanted to wait and see and I felt truly couldn’t be bothered.

I had my surgery with Dr. Onugha on August 01, 2019. I was released the next day which was a bit surprising to everyone, but apparently between Dr. Onugha’s skills and my body healing quickly it was a good thing. Dr. Barkhoudarian even came by the hospital before I left just to meet me. I am so glad I found you and reached out. I feel like I hit the jackpot with these surgeons. Both caring and compassionate and of course talented surgeons. The care and concern from both of them was truly extraordinary. We also hit the jackpot with the anesthesiologist, Dr. Chaite. My stay at the hospital was wonderful as well, kind and compassionate nurses. As far as surgeries go it doesn’t get any better than this.

Again my husband and I both are so thankful for the PNI having a patient advocate who responds on their Facebook inquires and the amazing surgeons and staff at the PNI.


Los Angeles, CA