“We got our Christmas miracle.”
Paul Hughes finally took a breath.
“The doctors are all smiles and just as shocked as we are with everything,” the man said.
His teenage daughter, Cheyenne, pulled through her much anticipated, hours-long risky surgery, much to the bewilderment of every person close to the girl’s procedure.
Doctors had warned of lethal risks associated with the Golden Valley High student’s surgery to remove a mass from her spine. The possibility of paralysis due to the tumor’s location on the C-2 vertebrae was also high.
Christmas was held for the girl a few weeks ago in anticipation of Wednesday’s grim outlook.
Nonetheless, at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, the 15-year-old went into the operating room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to begin what was planned to be a 29-hour procedure.
Before the procedure began, the surgeons had not agreed on what approach to take and on how to attack the mass, Paul Hughes revealed.
“We were updated a few times during the first five and a half hours,” he said.
“Chey was stable and surgery was going as expected.”
Seven hours in, a pair of surgeons left the operation room and approached the Hughes family.
“We all held our breath as we thought something went wrong,” Paul Hughes said.
A stoic expression on both doctor’s faces soon turned to grins. The air held inside the lungs of a distressed father soon escaped.
Solely based on the facial expressions of the visibly exhausted doctors, a sense of relief had taken over the surgical waiting room.
“The doctors told us that they decided to go with the (ear, nose and throat surgeon’s) approach and were able to get all the tumor,” Paul Hughes explained.
“At this point my wife and I knew we had gotten our Christmas miracle.”
To add icing to the cake, a section of the tumor behind Cheyenne’s throat, not initially planned to be taken out, was removed.
Orthopedic surgeons planned to fuse Cheyenne’s spine using rods, plates and screws.
“They informed us that they had to attach the rods all the way down to the C-7 vertebra in order to find bone strong enough to use,” Paul Hughes said.
The radiation the teenager received had weakened her spine, the doctors explained.
By 7 p.m., the surgery was complete. The young woman at the focus of tremendous community support was not only awake – she was speaking and moving. No paralysis had occurred.
“Cheyenne was swollen and in a lot of pain but talked to us and most importantly moved her toes and fingers,” Paul Hughes said.
Overnight, additional testing revealed more improvements and steady healing.
By Thursday morning, the teenager had, once again, put the medical staff in stitches. Her father noted her personality which he credited to giving him strength through his own battle with cancer, had returned.
“This was a miracle,” he said.
“The medical staff knows it. My wife and I know it.
“We also know that without all the support and prayers from the community joining Team Hughes, results might have been different.”
The girl from Canyon Country defied the odds, and proved even the medical professionals wrong.