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Trust Rewarded: Lisa Kellar’s Story

After nearly dying from an ear infection in 1996, 16-year-old Lisa Kellar and her family take earaches very seriously.

“She had an earache in each ear in the early part of January 1996,” recalls Lisa's father, Ralph, of Indiana, Pennsylvania. “We took her to the pediatrician; he prescribed some medicine and it went away.” But the pain recurred later that month, when Lisa woke one morning with terrible pain and a fever of 103 degrees. Lisa's pediatrician was out of town, so Lisa was instructed to go to the emergency room at Indiana Hospital. By the time she was seen in the emergency room, Lisa's temperature had risen to 106 degrees. Lisa was admitted to Indiana Hospital where she received intravenous antibiotics to reduce the fever.

Two days later, Lisa began to complain of soreness behind her right ear. A CT scan revealed an extra layer of bone behind her ear that was preventing fluid from the ear infection from draining.

Specialists at Indiana Hospital immediately made arrangements for Lisa to be transferred by ambulance to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. “The pain was so excruciating by that time she had to pull her hair up in order to lift her head,” recalls her father. “I was never so scared in all my life, he said. “When we arrived at Children's Dr. Bluestone explained Lisa's diagnosis to us.”

Lisa had fibrotic dysplasia, which caused an acute inflammation of the mastoid and a brain abscess. She also had a blood clot in her neck from the pressure behind her ear and a systemic infection. Dr. Bluestone would have to perform an operation to remove the mastoid, remove a bone in the middle of the ear and open the ear canal so the fluid could drain. But the procedure was not risk-free. Paralysis of the right side of her face, pneumonia and hearing loss were among the dangers of the surgery. Ralph Kellar recalls, "I remember saying, 'What if you don't operate?' and Dr. Bluestone said, 'You will lose your daughter.' What could we do? We said do it, but please be careful with our little girl.”

The surgery lasted through the night. The procedure took twice as long as expected because the extra layer of bone was very hard to penetrate. Lisa was placed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where she recovered for three days.

Soon Lisa began to feel like herself again and was transferred to a regular floor. She continued to receive antibiotics and was carefully monitored during her stay. “Having a computer in my room was fun,” Lisa recalls.

But Lisa wasn't fully recovered yet. Shortly after leaving the PICU, Dr. Bluestone feared that the abscess wasn't draining. “They removed the packing around her ear and fluid began to drain. I thought that was a good sign until Dr. Bluestone suspected the liquid might be brain fluid,” recalls Ralph. A second surgery was performed to insert drains that would evacuate the fluid that had been built up in her inner ear. “I think we were more scared than Lisa,” says her mother, Paula.

After the second surgery, Lisa's ears drained, and the tests showed the drainage was not brain fluid. “She really began to improve after that,” says her mother. She then left the hospital to recover at home, where she continued to receive in-home intravenous therapy for two weeks.

Today, Lisa can hear everything except very high-pitched noises and the fibroid on the bone has not changed. When asked about her experience at Children's Hospital, Lisa said she wanted to send special thanks to her mom, dad, brother Ron and family for taking care of her and to Dr. Bluestone for “saving my life.”

Last Update
April 15, 2010
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Last Update
April 15, 2010