Fall. It's the last chance to take in the sights and smells before the flowers fade. But it's an experience Judy Studebaker has been left out of for some time.
"I was a florist for 25 years and for many of those years I couldn't smell the flowers!" Said Studebaker.
Judy's hasn't been able to smell or taste for the past ten years due to constant nasal and sinus problems. She had seen every specialist and reluctantly accepted her symptoms.
"They'd say here's a prescription, here's another nasal spray, I mean I had a collection like you wouldn't believe, I had shelves lined with stuff that was supposed to make me better and none of it was doing a thing." Said Studebaker.
Judy finally decided to get another opinion from Dr. David Wagner at Avera Sacred Heart. At first glance Judy's problems seemed to be another sinus flare up.
"But as you listen to her, like I listen to all my patients, there were parts of the story that just weren't typical." Said Dr. Wagner.
So Dr. Wagner ordered some images and found what he thought was a inflamed nasal polyp. But to be sure it wasn't something else he ordered an MRI.
"Those images singed the diagnosis, she had what's called an encephalocele." Said Dr. Wagner.
An encephalocele is a rare birth defect where the skull isn't completely enclosed and the brain or brain fluid can escape. Toward the back of the nasal cavity the skull is about as thick as a potato chip. In Judy's case there was a crack in that bone, which as bizarre as it sounds, allowed a part of her brain to seep into her nose.
"I kid you not I could sit there and the minute I bent over it was like a faucet! And I thought it was the runny nose but it wasn't a runny nose, it was brain fluid coming out." Said Studebaker.
Dr. Wagner says Judy is extremely lucky she did not contract a life-threatening disease with having her brain so exposed, for so long. But he says he's also fortunate that he and the previous doctors, didn't jump to the first conclusion to surgically remove the problem.
"It sure masqueraded as a recurrent polyp and having a history of that someone could have been head-faked into something that would have had a catastrophic outcome." Said Dr. Wagner.
Judy says she's living proof that there's someone watching over us. After special corrective surgery, Judy has a new lease on life. Before, she had to sleep in a chair to get any rest at all and for so long was unable to enjoy the simple things in life.
"But now I have energy and everything is slowly coming back and you just, the everyday stuff is a true joy, I have a new granddaughter I mean I can sit there and I can smell the new baby! I couldn't do that before!" Said Studebaker.
And to make up for those lost years, you can guarantee this former florist will always take time to stop and smell the flowers.
Dr. Wagner says he has only seen a handful of cases similar to Judy's and is glad they were able to determine the problem before things got worse.
For more information on ear nose and throat problems just call 877-at-avera