When a headache is not just a headache
In appreciation for potentially lifesaving care
Jessica Hanham Schneider is healing well and expected to make a full recovery thanks to the keen observations and accurate diagnosis by Paul File, an Emergency department doctor at Community Hospital.
Last year promised to be a year to remember. Schneider was turning 30, getting married, enjoying her dream job working with emotionally disabled children, and becoming a licensed clinical social worker. Then, two weeks before Thanksgiving, the headaches began.
The pain started on the upper right side of her head and it traveled down into her right eye. At first, she passed it off as stress. As the pain persisted, she finally called her doctor. Three visits to primary and urgent care doctors in Palo Alto and Los Gatos yielded the same diagnosis: a migraine, to be treated by an injection and prescription pain medication.
Nothing worked. As her headaches got worse, her doctors told her she needed to learn how to manage the pain. But it was intolerable.
On Thanksgiving, Schneider visited her parents in Carmel, hoping her mother, Ann Hanham, would intervene and help her find relief. Hanham spoke with her neighbor, a neurosurgeon, who recommended going directly to Community Hospital’s Emergency department. There, they met File.
“Dr. File considered the possibility of a migraine,” says Schneider, “but, unlike the other doctors, he noticed my right pupil was dilated and my eyelid drooped. He ordered an MRI, then a vascular MRI. After a cardiology consult, Dr. File told us I had a carotid artery dissection or tear."
File consulted with the chair of neurosurgery at Stanford Medical Center and Schneider was taken there by ambulance for treatment.
“Today, my headaches are gone, and my eye is back to normal,” says Schneider. “It’s hard to know what would have happened without Dr. File’s observations and diagnosis. Potentially, I could have had a stroke and died.
”I’ve learned it’s always important to go in and check things out. You never know.”
In appreciation for the care their daughter received at Community Hospital, Scott and Ann Hanham made a generous donation to Montage Health in File’s honor.
“We could have had a very different outcome if Dr. File had not been so observant and careful with Jessica’s care,” says her mother. “There are no words to express our gratitude.”