Caring for children with brain masses takes a team of hundreds: Chase’s story

Sometimes things happen a certain way for a reason. When the Chief of Neuroradiology at OHSU called me one evening a year and a half ago, he sounded worried. He was looking at the scan of a young child with a brain mass and pressure. The child and his parents were headed home, but Dr. Jim Anderson took the extra step to consult immediately with me about how urgent his condition might be.

Jim was working late and I was about to wrap up and head home myself. We stopped what we were doing and reached out by phone to Chase’s parents. Amazingly, when I walked out to the parking lot, I saw a young couple and their boy, very worried, heading toward the hospital. As you will hear in their touching account of that evening, it was Chase and his folks:


The next day, Chase had surgery to remove a mass, the pressure subsided and Chase went back to what he should be doing: growing up a happy, normal kid.

It seems simple, but Chase’s case made me think of all the people necessary to delivery this kind of complex care to a little boy.

There are the technicians, sedation nurses, anesthesiologists, MRI physicists, safety experts and radiology schedulers that allowed us to have the spectacular images of Chase’s brain that diagnosed his condition precisely and helped me form a plan for surgery.

There are the wonderful OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital operating room scrub techs, nurses, anesthesia faculty, residents and technicians, and recovery room team, who help children through surgery, and the CT scan technologists who perform a safety check scan immediately after surgery.

There are the doctors, residents, nurse practitioners, respiratory technicians and pharmacists caring for children in our world class OHSU Doernbecher Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and the fantastic nursing and aide team on the neurosurgical inpatient step down unit.

There are the child life specialists, teachers, occupational, physical and speech therapists that help children begin their recovery when needed.

There are specialized neuropathologists whose entire training is to investigate brain masses and help reach a precise diagnosis, super subspecialized pediatric neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, technicians and aides who are prepared to give additional chemo or radiation therapy to those children who may need it (although it is only needed in some cases).

In sum, taking care of children with brain masses involves a complex team of hundreds. There are relatively few such centers in the country, and Doernbecher is proud to house one of the best. The technological complexity of this care, in total, is in some ways like launching a moon rocket. Most importantly, though, we always remember that the ‘astronaut’ atop the rocket is a precious child, so those of us in ‘mission control’ must do everything we can to assure a safe landing.

And that is the Doernbecher difference, the personal connection that Chase, his parents and I formed that night over the phone, and in a chance meeting in the hospital parking lot. I am confident that Chase and his folks formed dozens of such connections with my colleagues during their stay at OHSU Doernbecher, to help them navigate a challenging and important moment in his life.

Nathan Selden, M.D., Ph.D.
Mario and Edie Campagna Chair of Pediatric Neurosurgery
Director, OHSU Neurological Surgery Residency Program
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital