Carla Popp is a happily-married mother of three young men in their twenties. For the last 32 years, she has worked 60 hours per week as a hair stylist. Carla and her husband enjoy being involved in their church, going to concerts, riding in their Jeep and traveling together. They were thrilled when their youngest son started college. They decided to start working toward retirement and traveling more.
As they would often do, Carla & her husband made plans for a trip near their birthdays late in the year. This time they planned a trip to Texas with friends. Unfortunately, those plans changed. Just seven days before Carla’s 50th birthday she got a call that would change her life forever.
Carla had gone to the doctor for a well check visit. She complained of sinus problems, and had noticed she was having some slight episodes of vertigo. Everything else seemed great. Over the past year, she had noticed some changes in her hearing but attributed it to using a blow dryer for 30 years. Her family doctor decided that it might be a good idea to have an MRI done to make sure everything was alright. At 6:30 that same night, Carla's doctor called and asked her and her husband to come to the office.
“The rest of the night was a blur, and all I remember hearing was ‘brain tumor,’" Carla said.
Carla called her sister, who is a nurse. She recommended some doctors at the University of Louisville. By eight o'clock the next morning, they were on their way from Jasper, IN to Louisville, KY. It was confirmed that Carla would need surgery. The doctors revealed the tumor was pressing on her brain stem and optic nerve. They told her she would likely lose the hearing in her right ear with surgery, but she knew she needed the procedure. In order to assemble the proper team to perform the surgery, Carla had to wait over a month to schedule the 12-hour procedure. In the mean time, Carla attempted to live her life as normal as possible.
On surgery day, things didn’t go quite as planned. The surgery lasted 24 hours instead of 12. The tumor was wrapped around her optic nerve and near her brain stem. She woke up about four days later. Her vocal cords were paralyzed and she could barely get a whisper out. Her eyes were constantly moving, unable to stay focused. The tumor had been located on her cerebellum, which affected her balance and ability to walk.
After ten days at the hospital, and eight weeks of inpatient rehab, Carla began to be able to walk on her own. They decided that she could return home, as long as Carla continued with outpatient rehab.
The closest neuro rehab was Southern Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital. It was still over an hour from her house, but Carla was determined to get her life back. Immediately, she was able to meet with Jennifer Fellmeth, program coordinator of the neuro rehab program at SIRH.
“She was so wonderful and kind, and understood the situation. She got my insurance lined up and introduced me to my team of therapists,” Carla recalled.
Carla added that she “cannot express how wonderful the staff is. They are so encouraging and uplifting. I was made to feel like family. My care was outstanding. Everyone listened to me and got to know me and my goals."
Carla would like to specifically thank a few individuals. Jennifer, for making sure she got the best care. Her physical therapist, Laura, for working on her balance and core strength. Krista, her occupational therapist, for working relentlessly on her hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, her thought process, making sense of directions, and arm strengthening. And her speech therapists, Jennifer and Katie, for putting the missing pieces of her puzzle back together by working on long- and short-term memory, telling time, working on a check register and other every day stuff.
“They were all encouraging and reminded me of my goals," Carla stated. "Everyone listened as I cried and always showed compassion. They even showed me that it was okay to laugh at myself, to slow down and enjoy life, to give myself time and grace, to love the new me, to take it easy on myself and to rest and give myself time to heal. I might not be the same person but life could still be great again.”
Carla’s tumor was not cancerous, and she is now back to working a 40 hour week, driving her five-speed jeep and keeping up with her husband as they travel.
Along the way, Carla has learned a few lessons. She understands the importance of knowing her limits and sometimes telling people "no." There are the occasional bad days -- "the constant fatigue and not being able to hear everyone or everything is tough" -- but she's able to put it in perspective.
"A bad day doesn't mean a bad life," Carla reminds herself. "Sometimes, I need to take a step back, take a nap, or just remember the time I spent at Southern Indiana Rehab, and think how far I have come."
“I am excited for the future, and I take nothing for granted," Carla added. "I am so truly thankful to have had such a wonderful place to recover and heal. We are all so very fortunate to have this hospital in our area and the talented staff that make it so very special. They will live in my heart forever."Posted By