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Medical Student Set to Finish School After 6 Brain Surgeries, Says It’s a ‘Miracle’

By Paula Liu

A fourth-year medical student who underwent six brain surgeries to treat her brain condition is on her way to finishing her degree in medical school, according to multiple reports.

Claudia Martinez was a medical student at the University of Houston who is studying to become a neurosurgeon. However, when she started having headaches and blacking out, she sought out medical attention and was given devastating news—she was diagnosed with the brain conditions Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia, ABC reported.

“When I got my diagnosis, I was sent to a neurosurgeon,” Martinez said, according to ABC123. “He told me that I needed brain surgery as soon as possible. If not, I was going to be paralyzed from the neck down. And so within a week, I was undergoing my first brain surgery.”

She said that despite her diagnosis, she managed to graduate from the University of Houston and went on to attend UTHealth McGovern to pursue her medical degree. In that time, she has had to undergo five more brain surgeries, not all of which have been smooth sailing.

She recalled that during one of the surgeries, she suffered a severe stroke. After she woke up from the operation, she found herself unable to move from the neck down, according to Daily Mail. Going into the surgery, Martinez was told that the procedure was experimental and risky, but it was the only procedure that could possibly save her left. So she had the operation in February 2017.

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I wish I could thank each and every one of you for all the support you have shown me these past years. I wish I could respond to each of your messages, but for now I am learning how to voice text. By far having my last brain surgery and then suffering the stroke has been the hardest battle we have faced. We take for granted what we have each day. But we always have to be thankful because things can always be worse. This shirt speaks volumes and I am sad the nurse had to cut it off the other day. But no matter what I will never give up and nothing will take this smile off my face. Now that I am at TIRR Memorial Hermann, I am ready to learn how to hold things, write, type, eat, dress, shower, sit up and walk etc on my own. #feedingtube #medschool #premed #brainsurgery #stroke #claudiastrong #uofh #medicalstudent #hospital #doctor #nurse #medicine #chronicillness

A post shared by Claudia Martinez, MS4 (@claudiaimartinez) on

“By far having my last brain surgery and then suffering the stroke has been the hardest battle we have faced,” Martinez wrote, in regard to the stroke she suffered when she underwent the surgery. “We take for granted what we have each day. But we always have to be thankful because things can always be worse.”

Her condition also left her with an abundance of problems, one of which had left her stomach partially paralyzed—unable to function normally. Throughout her three year recovery, she had a feeding tube connected to her.

When she documented the usage of her feeding tubes on Instagram, she expressed the desire to be able to eat by herself.

“All I wanted for Christmas was the ability to eventually eat one day, I think I might just get that,” she wrote.

She has shared her journey to recovery on her Instagram, where she would update people on her progress.

On March 31, she announced in an Instagram post that she has recovered enough to eat food by herself, and no longer needed to the feeding tube, provided that her intake of solid food was taken in along with liquid supplements.

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____________ I am officially off my feeding tube feeds after 3 years! • In December I had surgery on my stomach for my Gastroparesis (partial paralysis of the stomach). The surgery was a great success and I have been able to maintain and gain weight eating orally since then, while weaning off the feeding tube. I am hoping to get my feeding tube removed in the next couple of months, but it has to stay in for now. • Now I have to follow a special diet because my stomach is still partially paralyzed, but at least now I can eat a good amount of food and just supplement with liquid calories. • I still use my port in my chest quite often to receive IV fluids for my Gastroparesis and Dysautonomia, but I am glad to be off one source of artificial nutrition. • Life has been really busy as I am finishing up my last couple of weeks as a 3rd year medical student, but we have been working on a very special project close to my heart that I hope you all will help me with soon. ????

A post shared by Claudia Martinez, MS4 (@claudiaimartinez) on

“Now I have to follow a special diet because my stomach is still partially paralyzed, but at least now I can eat a good amount of food and just supplement with liquid calories,” she wrote. “In December I had surgery on my stomach for my Gastroparesis (partial paralysis of the stomach). The surgery was a great success and I have been able to maintain and gain weight eating orally since then, while weaning off the feeding tube. I am hoping to get my feeding tube removed in the next couple of months, but it has to stay in for now.”

Martinez started her fourth and final year at McGovern Medical School at the beginning of May.

“One more year left of medical school and in May 2020 I will get to be called Dr. Claudia I. Martinez,” she wrote on her Instagram post.

Martinez said that when she completes her training, she unfortunately won’t be able to pursue the path of becoming a neurosurgeon anymore because she has lost the ability to use her hands. In her Instagram posts, she said that being a neurosurgeon has been a dream since she was about eight. To her, having the brain condition is ironic, given her dream career. However, despite all the adversity, she has managed to pull through and said she will just change her career path and become a doctor.

She explained that she is thankful that the whole process she has been through has opened her eyes to another field of medicine, and that she would be pursuing the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurology. She said she believed everything happens for a reason.

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A couple of weeks ago I received my Step 1 score. I scored higher than I expected (see my step studying post). • Since I was 8 yrs old I wanted to become a Neurosurgeon (it’s ironic that I later developed Chiari Malformation and Hydrocephalus and needed multiple neurosurgeries myself). So for my entire life I worked as hard as I could to see this dream through. • There on the computer screen was the score I needed to be able to do Neurosurgery. When I saw my score I had the biggest smile and I whispered to myself, “You did it…”. But tears immediately filled my eyes knowing I can never be a neurosurgeon bc I’m missing the main thing I need to pursue Neurosurgery as a career, the functioning of my hands. • I’ve made an incredible recovery from my stroke, but the biggest deficit by far remains in my hands. • I only share this with you bc I honestly think everything happens for a reason. Today I look down at my hands and thank God for my deficits bc I like to think He redirected me from having a career in surgery and opened my eyes to the field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and Neurology by taking the one thing I really needed to perform surgery, my hands. • Thank you God for taking away something I thought I wanted and introducing me to a field of medicine that I’d have otherwise never been exposed to, one that is perfect for me. Thank you for always preserving my intelligence during my many brain surgeries and for using my brain, even though at times my biggest defeat, as my biggest ally. #collateralbeauty #embracethejourney

A post shared by Claudia Martinez, MS4 (@claudiaimartinez) on

“I only share this with you bc I honestly think everything happens for a reason. Today I look down at my hands and thank God for my deficits bc I like to think He redirected me from having a career in surgery and opened my eyes to the field of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and Neurology by taking the one thing I really needed to perform surgery, my hands,” she wrote on her Instagram post.

“Thank you God for taking away something I thought I wanted and introducing me to a field of medicine that I’d have otherwise never been exposed to, one that is perfect for me. Thank you for always preserving my intelligence during my many brain surgeries and for using my brain, even though at times my biggest defeat, as my biggest ally.”

Watch Martinez’s journey in the video below.