Mother on surgeon who agreed to perform risky operation: ‘He saved my daughter’s life’

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Columbia Station family is crediting a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic for saving their daughter’s life. Surgeons across the state declined to operate on Rebecca Sorensen because of the risky location of her brain tumor. All, except one doctor.

Rebecca Sorensen is only 12 years old but what she went through the past few months is something harder than most go through their entire lives. She had two  brain surgeries in three months.

Sorensen is your typical, fun-loving girl. She loves to read, write and play with her brothers. But last October, something started to change.

“She had times where she was thirsty and felt dizzy and legs gave out and other times her arm was shaking,” Rebecca’s mother, Gabby Sorensen said. “I was like, 'Okay, she’s being dramatic,' but she wasn’t. She was actually having mini seizures. We just didn’t know it at the time.”

“The just happen at random times,” Rebecca said. “I didn’t know what was happening.”

Then, one day Rebecca had what’s called a grand mal seizure. Her body started shaking and she went unconscious for a few minutes. She was rushed to the hospital.

Doctors found a mass on her brain and Rebecca ended up having full brain surgery, but they could only remove a small part of tissue because of the location of the tumor. The tumor was deep in the folds of her brain, surrounded by blood vessels and the main artery that supplies her motor functions.

Doctors told Rebecca the location was so dangerous that it would be better to try and use medicine to fight the seizures instead of removing the tumor.

So they did try medicine, but Rebecca went months still having seizure after seizure. She couldn’t play sports or even go to school. Then one day late in January, Rebecca had another grand mal seizure. One that was so big that for a short time it took away all of her memories.

“My husband steps in and said he had enough,” Gabby Sorensen said. “We need a new plan and we’re not going to rely on medication.”

Rebecca’s family went all over the state looking for someone to do this surgery. Everyone declined because of the risk.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. William Bingaman was the only surgeon who agreed to operate.

“The most terrifying part for me is not the risk of weakness and blood vessel and the surgery part but what the diagnosis will be,” Dr. Bingaman said.

Dr. Bingaman is the vice chairman of the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He said insular tumors are very uncommon, especially ones that need surgery.

“One of the risks as we traverse though this network of blood vessels, if we damage the wrong blood vessel she could end up with a stroke and have significant difficulty moving the left side of her body,” Dr. Bingaman said.

But Dr. Bingaman says he looks at each patient as if it was his own family member. He very confidently did the surgery and it was extremely successful! It has  been a few weeks and Rebecca hasn’t had one seizure.

“He saved my daughter’s life,” Gabby Sorensen said. “I will forever be grateful.”

Dr. Bingaman says it’s a positive Rebecca hasn’t had any seizures but they like to wait five years before they know just how successful it was. Rebecca’s life is starting to get back to normal. The family is hoping she will be back to her Columbia Station Middle School by the end of March.

Columbia Middle School is a school that has supported their family from the beginning. Gabby Sorensen is also a teacher and the school and she says the other teachers all donated sick days to her so she could be with her daughter.

“The school in general was my lifeline,” Gabby Sorensen said. “It was overwhelming, people that I don’t even know and even teachers from the high school were donating sick days to me so I could be with my daughter. I’m very grateful.”

Rebecca is sure to have a successful future because of Columbia Middle School but especially because of one man, Dr. Bingaman.

“I can't wait to watch her grow up and be everything she dreamed to be,” Gabby Sorensen said.

Unfortunately, Rebecca’s father lost his job as a laborer because of the time he needed to take off. So the family has now set up a GoFundMe page to help with their medical bills. They are also hosting a benefit for Rebecca at the Harvest Saloon in Strongsville on March 9th from 6pm-9pm.

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