Donâ€™t sweat the small stuff.
Thatâ€™s the motto 36-year-old Jennifer Giliberto now lives by after recently welcoming a third child into the world. Late night feedings, diaper changes, mounds of dirty laundry and caring for two older boys (ages six and eight) would certainly be a challenge for most moms. But this mom is different.
Four years ago, Giliberto was diagnosed with a brain tumor â€“ a slow growing Grade II astrocytoma located in her posterior right temporal lobe. The shocking diagnosis left Giliberto and her family with many choices and decisions to make.
Gilibertoâ€™s inspiring story was profiled on CNN on Aug. 16, 2011 in a special â€œHuman Factorâ€ segment, which takes a look at people accomplishing something significant after overcoming the odds.
The Long Road Ahead
After her second child was born in 2005, Giliberto began noticing a pattern of problems with her fine motor skills. Neurological testing revealed little, but an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) revealed a lesion and possible tumor in the brain. Follow-up MRIs over the next year showed no new growth, but in June 2007, a definite brain tumor was detected by MRI.
While taking the watch and wait approach to determine if the tumor would grow, she became involved with the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation (SBTF) as a volunteer. She focused her efforts on raising money to support critical brain and spinal tumor research. She also met Emory neurosurgeon Costas Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD.
Hadjipanayis, an assistant professor in Emoryâ€™s Department of Neurosurgery, would soon become Gilibertoâ€™s physician. He confirmed her diagnosis and recommended surgical removal of the tumor.
Costas Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD and patient Jennifer Giliberto
On August 18, 2008, at Emory University Hospital Midtown, Hadjipanayis removed Gilibertoâ€™s brain tumor. â€œJennifer underwent a craniotomy and had a gross total resection of the tumor, with no complications,â€ explains Hadjipanayis, who is chief of neurosurgery at the hospital. â€œShe spent one night in the neurosurgical ICU and her recovery afterwards went well.â€
Then he encouraged her to embrace life and live it to the fullest. Giliberto has taken her doctorâ€™s orders to heart, and lives life with a new purpose than before.
To support and encourage other brain tumor patients, Giliberto serves as a patient and family advisor at Emory University Hospital Midtown. She visits with hospitalized patients and their families who are in similar situations as the young mother of three.
â€œThis has been a very fulfilling experience and an outlet to give back,â€ says Giliberto. â€œBeing a patient is lonely, even when you know you have support. Working to assist other patients and families and improve a system goes a long way to ease that lonely journey of the patient experience.â€
Patient and family advisors also work to improve hospital processes and procedures from a patient perspective.
She also serves as vice president of the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, continuing the mission to raise funds for research. The SBTF consistently funds innovative brain tumor research at Emoryâ€™s Winship Cancer Institute.
And she is a devoted wife and mother.
Last year, when Giliberto and her husband decided they would like to expand their family of four, she consulted with Hadjipanayis. He, once again, encouraged her to live life and move forward. They did, and their youngest child was born in July 2011.
While Giliberto has remained stable since her surgery in 2008, she continues to have MRIâ€™s every six to nine months to check for any tumor recurrence. Astrocytomas, even once removed, can recur and can also become cancerous.
But for now, itâ€™s on with life as she knows it â€“ stable, moving ahead and enjoying every day with a new sense of hope.
And as for the small stuff â€“ Gilibertoâ€™s learned thereâ€™s just no reason to sweat it at all.
Dr. Castellino explains his research on medulloblastomas to participants attending the SBTF’s Grant Award Ceremony.
Two Emory researchers are being recognized by the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation (SBTF) for their work in pediatric brain tumor research.
Tracey-Ann Read, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Laboratory at Emory was awarded a $75,000 grant for her work. She is studying the cell of origin that is responsible for the highly malignant pediatric brain tumor known as an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT). She is also developing a mouse model to study this very lethal brain cancer that occurs in early childhood.
Robert Craig Castellino, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory and pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Childrenâ€™s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston received $50,000 to support his research efforts. He is studying how the childhood brain cancer, known as medulloblastoma, can metastasize from the brain to other sites in the body, specifically the spine. Medulloblastoma is the most common pediatric malignant brain tumor.
SBTF board members and researchers who were awarded grants pose following the April ceremony.
Read and Castellino received the awards at the SBTFâ€™s Grant Awards Ceremony in April at Emory University Hospital Midtown. Two other researchers from Duke University were also presented with grant money for their contributions in brain tumor research in adults.
Emory neurosurgeon Costas Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD, is the president of the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation. He says research, from young investigators such as these, is crucial in the race to find a cure for brain tumors. As federal research funding becomes even more difficult to obtain with cuts in funding, private foundation grants, such as from the SBTF, can permit researchers to start important research projects that can provide preliminary data for bigger grant proposals.
The SBTF awards $200,000-300,000 each year to major medical centers throughout the Southeast in support of cutting-edge brain and spinal tumor research.
A new pilot simulation laboratory at Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM) is providing medical students, residents, nursing students and staff with hands-on training to develop, perfect and maintain their skills. Located in the former obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) operating rooms, space that wasnâ€™t currently being utilized, the lab focuses on team building, clinical competencies and research. This is the first simulation lab of its kind at EUHM.
The simulation lab is a joint venture of Emory Healthcare and Emory University School of Medicine, both providing equipment to outfit the lab and a wealth of expertise. Nursing Education, a department within Emory Healthcare, and the Emory School of Medicine have worked together in the development of the simulation lab. Some equipment being used has been donated or given to the hospital for training purposes.
One side of the simulation lab is set-up to train OB/GYN residents and students in deliveries and laparoscopic surgeries, cardiac arrests, mock codes and low volume/high risk procedures.
The other side of the lab focuses on nursing training, nursing education, central-line and intravenous insertion and medication dispensing. It is also being used by nursing for competency validation for new nursing employees and for annual skills assessment of current nursing staff.
Those instrumental in setting up the nursing side of the simulation lab are Sharlene Toney, PhD, RN, executive director, Professional Nursing Practice for Emory Healthcare, and Beth Botheroyd, RN, BSN, MHA/INS, nursing education coordinator for Emory Healthcare.
Toney says the lab is a critical part of the training and education of new nurses and current nursing employees, while also focusing on process improvement activities concentrated on patient safety. Nurses also have the opportunity to test their skills on training simulators and new equipment while in the lab.
Douglas Ander, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and director of the Emory Center for Experiential Learning, and Jessica Arluck, MD, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics and associate director of the OB/GYN residency program at Emory, both oversee the training of residents and medical students in the simulation lab.
Ander describes the lab as a â€œproof of conceptâ€ center, with the small set-up being only the first step in the process. Down the road, he envisions a larger simulation center for all Emory Healthcare employees, Emoryâ€™s School of Medicine and even the community.
Arluck observes as resident Hudson performs an ultrasound on Noelle, the birthing simulator.
Arluck says she uses the simulation lab regularly with OB/GYN residents, teaching them the basics of laparoscopic surgery on a training module and monitor. She also teaches students with the help of an adult-size doll named Noelle, which simulates delivering a baby and going into cardiac arrest.
The simulation lab has also opened the door to medical education research. Emory pulmonary critical care fellow, Jenny Han, MD, is studying to see if a standardized, advanced cardiac life support simulation training has any effect on real patient outcomes in the hospital.
In the future, plans include adding cardiac catheterization simulator capabilities, as well as emergency department and nursing station simulation space.