Baby Saved by Stanford Children’s Health Doctors Is Now a Healthy Child

Nearly six years ago, Karina Barger and her husband, David Goldman, lived through every parent’s worst fear: Their 2-month-old baby, Bobby, was diagnosed with a brain cyst and needed emergency surgery. Fortunately, Bobby had access to the world-class physicians within Stanford Children’s Health, and their swift action saved his life and sight. The care network is celebrating its 10th anniversary in April.

It all started when Barger noticed that Bobby was suddenly looking only to the left. It didn’t seem like a big deal, but as a mother of four and a school principal, Barger felt in her gut that she needed to take her son to their pediatrician, Todd Dwelle, MD, of the Pediatric Group of Monterey. Having been the family’s pediatrician for many years, Dr. Dwelle took Barger’s concerns seriously and after the exam told the family to head directly to the emergency department at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

“I’d been caring for Bobby since birth, so when his mother brought him in for some kind of discomfort, I knew she was worried,” he said. “Infants don’t have tremendous reserve and can’t communicate their needs, so I felt we needed to better understand the problem immediately in case time was critical.”

Thanks to the seamless network of care between the practice and the hospital, Dr. Dwelle was able to consult with a pediatric neurologist and alert the emergency department of Bobby’s arrival so that the family could be seen right away. At the hospital, Bobby was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst in his brain that was putting pressure on his optic nerve. Although the tumor was benign, it posed a significant and immediate risk to Bobby’s health and required surgery to drain the cyst.

Despite being in a frightening and stressful situation, Bobby’s parents were comforted to know that he would get top-tier care with Stanford Children’s Health. “That first night in the hospital after Bobby was diagnosed with the brain tumor, I was on my phone googling the best neurosurgeons in the country,” Barger said. “I was super-relieved when Stanford was right there at the top for pediatric neurosurgery, and I could see the Stanford Children’s Health network listed as one of the best in the country.”

Bobby at hospital

In the midst of dealing with their son’s health crisis, the family received tremendous support from the staff, allowing them to focus on helping their child recover. “From top to bottom, they made it as stress free as it could possibly be. The fact that there were showers and beds where we could sleep … they had really thought of absolutely everything,” Barger said.

She remembers the kindness they were shown on every level, from the billing department staff who filled out all the paperwork for them to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurses who brought her a breast pump so that she could pump while Bobby was in the hospital.

“Everything from the parking when you pull up to [the hospital] to the toys that they brought Bobby when he was in intensive care, to the patient care coordinator, to the billing department who filled out all the forms for me so all I had to do was sign, down to the artwork on the walls… It was all so comforting.”  

The family also credits the network with helping lift the burden of Bobby’s postoperative medical needs over the years. The technological benefits of MyChart and telehealth visits made it easier to communicate and coordinate with all of Bobby’s doctors. “The follow-up and the communication with all the different departments was so intense in the years after [Bobby’s surgery],” Barger recalled.

“I’m a very busy multitasking mom of four and principal of 500 kids, so the Stanford Children’s Health network made all the difference in my ability to continue in all of my different roles. Without that level of follow-up, it would have all fallen on me to research all the doctors and to communicate and try to coordinate services across so many different platforms. So much can be lost in translation, but that just never, ever, ever happened. During that whole process, everybody was perfectly in sync … it was really incredible.”

Bobby smiling

Thankfully, Bobby’s surgery was a success, and he made a full recovery. He is now a happy and healthy 6-year-old who only needs to go back to the hospital for an MRI every two years.

“The MRIs have all been clear; he’s doing really well. He’s in kindergarten and totally healthy,” Barger said. “There’ve been no side effects at all from the brain surgery. He’s doing great in school. … Other than the little baseball scar on his head, there’s no signs of anything.”

Barger and Goldman still go to the Pediatric Group of Monterey because of the excellent care they receive every time their kids need medical care. “One recent Thanksgiving, my now-14-year-old, Mateo, got a cellulitis infection on his face, and his face really swelled up. We went to the local hospital, and Dr. Dwelle happened to be the pediatrician on call that day,” Barger said. “[Dr. Dwelle] stayed with us all through Thanksgiving in the hospital to make sure that [Matteo] was OK, and he kept following up afterward with phone calls. He’s really been an incredible asset to our family.”

According to Dr. Dwelle, the Stanford Children’s Health network gives families who live farther out from major metropolitan areas access to premium medical care. “The network takes away the barriers between specialty care and primary care in more rural communities like ours,” he explained. “It allows rapid, efficient communication both for diagnosing as well as providing coordinated ongoing care once the plan has been created.”

Learn more about Bobby’s original diagnosis.

Learn more about our 10th anniversary.

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