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Stronger together

Liz with her husband and daughter
Sunnybrook teams in the Odette Cancer Program and DAN Women & Babies Program came together to remove a cancerous tumour from Liz Chanruang’s brain, just three weeks before delivering her baby daughter

The call to Sunnybrook obstetrician and maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Nir Melamed came early in the morning. A young woman was on her way to Sunnybrook’s emergency department after having had a seizure.

The catch – and the reason Dr. Melamed was paged: Liz Chanruang was 32-weeks pregnant.

Together, Dr. Melamed and the on-call neurologist worked to stabilize Liz and her unborn baby, and to identify the cause of the seizure. When imaging revealed a six-by-six centimetre mass in the mother-to-be’s brain, Liz was quickly transferred to Sunnybrook’s operating room. While Dr. Melamed and the high-risk obstetrics team monitored the baby, neurosurgeon Dr. Mahmood Fazl worked closely with Sunnybrook’s oncologists to quickly remove Liz’s cancerous brain tumour.

It was the kind of all-hands-on-deck moment for which Sunnybrook is known.

“I’ve worked at Sunnybrook for four decades now. Some of the most challenging cases I see require cross-team collaboration and a customized treatment plan that is specific to every patient,” explains Dr. Fazl.

Liz feeding her baby after giving birth at Sunnybrook.
Liz feeding her baby after giving birth at Sunnybrook.

Delivering tailored treatments

Uncovering personalized solutions for each patient is another Sunnybrook hallmark – one so often made possible through philanthropy.

In the Odette Cancer Program, for example, our world-renowned experts are at the forefront of precision oncology, finding new and better ways to deliver personalized treatments that meet the unique needs of each patient.

Donor gifts enabled the purchase of highly specialized technologies, including the MR-Linac that combines magnetic resonance imaging and radiation therapy and the Gamma Knife Icon that allows teams to precisely target and destroy 30 or more hard-to-treat brain tumours in a single treatment.

As the Waugh Family Chair in Twin Fetal Medicine Research, Dr. Melamed is also leveraging donor support to better understand the physiology and genetic factors in preterm birth and how to ensure the best possible outcomes in high-risk pregnancies like that experienced by Liz.

Sunnybrook’s DAN Women & Babies Program is a leader in the management of high-risk pregnancies and maternal-fetal medicine,” says Dr. Melamed. “Donor support is invaluable to clinicians like me, who are also focused on innovative research that translates into better care and better outcomes.”

Liz’s journey was one such happy outcome. Three weeks after her craniotomy, she and her fiancé, Justin La Pointe, returned to Sunnybrook so Dr. Melamed could deliver their healthy baby daughter, Josie.

Looking ahead

“I think with everything that had happened, it really pushed me through some difficult times so that having a baby felt like not a problem,” Liz says cuddling her newborn daughter. “I think I’m more grateful with everything that happened at Sunnybrook.

“I just want other people to know that it might be bad now but it’s going to be better tomorrow.”