It was a Sunday evening like any other at the Romani home in Mandeville, La. Thirteen-year old Adrian was doing homework when his left eye began to feel a bit strained. The eye seemed to have a mind of its own, wandering off to the side, away from his books and papers.
Adrian slept poorly that night. He went to school as usual the next few days, and experienced a few mild headaches. There were no other symptoms to indicate anything was wrong.
But when Adrian came home on Wednesday and looked at his mom, Desi, she knew there was something more going on.
“His eye deviated to the left,” said Desi. The family has a good friend, an ophthalmologist who did his residency in Memphis. Desi took a picture of Adrian’s eye and sent it off for an opinion. The return message was frightening: Go immediately to the emergency room.
By coincidence Adrian’s father, radiologist Dr. William Romani, was on duty and was the first to read the results of his son’s CT scan. It revealed the presence of a mass between Adrian’s pituitary gland and optic nerve. An MRI provided a more detailed view of the pituitary macroadenoma, a tumor that occurs in the pituitary gland. Their ophthalmologist friend had a connection to Dr. Paul Klimo, Le Bonheur’s chief of pediatric neurosurgery, and connected the Romanis with Dr. Klimo.
By Friday afternoon, the Romani family was at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for surgery to remove the benign tumor, and moving into FedExFamilyHouse for the duration of his treatment. Desi’s aunt and cousin came from her native Colombia to help.
Yet another coincidence for the Romani family is that a lifelong friend of Desi’s, a FedEx employee in New Orleans, is a donor to FedExFamilyHouse. “She had just seen him the week before and the tumor came out of nowhere,” remembers Desi. “I was telling her about FedExFamilyHouse. And she says, ‘None of my coworkers can believe what it is’. I said, ‘Well, you tell them what they're doing for us’.”
For Desi and her husband, the chance to be just across the street from Adrian was priceless, and they immediately felt welcomed and very much at home. “It just felt like I never left home, to have the kitchen and have a pantry, to have a washing machine,” says Desi.
Adrian didn’t see or stay in FedExFamilyHouse until after his second surgery, and quickly became enamored with its teen-friendly amenities.
“First of all, the two planes in the lobby,” says Adrian, self-described airplane fanatic. “And then on the third floor, they have a foosball table, second floor they have computers, a little library,” says the teen, who also enjoys the pantry full of snacks and food. “And they are so nice.”
Adrian is home now, catching up on school work and preparing for his freshman year of high school. He’s an avid musician and his post-surgery therapy and check-ups won’t get in the way of his tuba or piano playing. His mom thinks about their experience at FedExFamilyHouse, and looks forward to a day when the expansion is complete and there is more room for the families of Le Bonheur patients.
“To know that there are families that cannot stay across the street, it breaks my heart to know that they don't have the convenience and the peace of mind to be close to their kids,” says Desi.