Wasn’t fate cruel enough to 8-year-old Grace Doran, who was struck with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma? Yet despite a successful two-year battle to cure the disease with chemotherapy, the young girl couldn’t return to the activities she loved.
An avid competitive swimmer and softball player, Grace, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, bore her cancer treatment sustained by the love of her sports. “The whole time she was sick, she wanted her sports,” says her mother Eileen. So much so, that Grace kept a picture of herself at swim championships, and pointing to the picture told her mother, “I’m working at this so I can go back to there.”
Imagine her chagrin then when after her recovery, she began to swim, but couldn’t even make it for two laps in a row. Pale and out of breath, Grace was devastated.
Because her lymphoma was mostly in her chest, including the largest tumor (10 centimeters), physicians believe this caused the destruction of her phrenic nerve, which resulted in diaphragm paralysis and the ensuing chronic shortness of breath, sleep disturbances, and lower energy levels. Hence Grace’s difficulty performing the activities she loves.
And the medical community’s response to phrenic nerve damaged patients is like a broken record to Dr. Matthew Kaufman and his staff: Learn to live with it. Shouldn’t she just be grateful to have her life back? Maybe this is the best you can get. These were the words that Grace and her family heard.
But her mother, a veteran of going to war for her children (in addition to Grace, there is her twin brother, and two other siblings), felt, “We’ve come too far to give up now.”
And then fate was good to Grace: her mother found Dr. Matthew Kaufman on the Internet.
Since 2007, Dr. Kaufman has been performing phrenic nerve surgeries, and is, as far as can be determined, the only one in the world to do these procedures. Of the nearly 45 phrenic nerve procedures he has done, Grace Moran is Dr. Kaufman’s youngest patient.
One month following surgery with Dr. Kaufman to remove the scar tissue and adhesions to her phrenic nerve, Grace took the field at softball practice. Two months later, Grace, now 11 years old, is playing games, and in June, 2012, she swam a 50-meter breaststroke and backstroke time trials. June and July were highlighted by swim meets every weekend.
“We were walking around terrified all the time. But for the first time in three years, we feel she’s going to be okay. Really okay,” says a relieved Eileen Doran.
“Dr. Kaufman is my hero because he absolutely saved my child. The cancer doctors saved her life, but he gave her back her life.”