How often do people get the wrong diagnosis? Too often.
There are things you can do help protect yourself. Things like, asking questions, being sure everything makes sense to you, not doing anything you’re not sure about.
At Best Doctors, helping people do this is what we do every day, and so I want to tell you a story. It’s about my brother. I want to tell it to you it because it will help you understand the important work we do here, and because of something very special that happened for him this weekend.
My brother’s name is Brad Falchuk. He’s about a year and half younger than me.
Imagine being a kid, like we were, back in the 1970s. There were no video games or Internet, so we spent most of our time on more productive things. Like, beating each other up. And, more importantly, talking about, and playing baseball. When our sister Aimee came along, she got right into the mix, too. We were a pretty focused little group.
Now, the Red Sox of the late ’70s were as good as they had been in decades. We became enthralled with everything to do with the Red Sox. We spent most our afternoons in the back yard pitching and hitting and pretending to be our heroes. I even kept a scorebook of our games.
As we grew up, our lives went in different directions. Brad went to Hollywood, where he became executive producer of the TV show Nip/Tuck, and the co-creator and executive producer of the TV show Glee. I became an attorney, but ten years ago I gave that up to come back to Boston and join Best Doctors, the company our father founded. My sister became a health care executive and now works for Genzyme. We’ve grown in different directions, but we haven’t grown apart.
One day, about two years ago, my father told me some shocking news. “Brad’s been diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor,” he said. I couldn’t believe it.
When I called my brother he told me the same news. It was true, he said, and he was afraid he’d never walk again. He was with good doctors, he said, but he was worried that he didn’t understand what was going on.
What happened next was what makes Best Doctors so special.
Our medical team spent hours talking to him and poring over his medical records. In them they found something very important that had been overlooked.
We have a family history of a kind of malformed blood vessel. In my case, and in our father’s and grandfather’s, these have all appeared in the brain. But, one of the Best Doctors team wondered, isn’t it possible that what was going on in Brad’s spinal cord was really just one of these malformed blood vessels? We contacted an expert in exactly this kind of problem, and he agreed. Yes, it could be, he said, and he recommended a test to find out. Meanwhile, don’t do radiation or surgery until you know for sure, he warned, it could be dangerous. We gave that information to Brad, and his doctors, and they followed the advice.
The result: They found exactly what the expert thought they might. The “malignant” tumor was just one of these bad blood vessels.
Brad needed a major surgery to fix that problem, too, but it was a completely different situation. The (unnecessary) radiation that had been planned was terribly dangerous. It could have made the vessel bleed, causing the very paralysis my brother was afraid of, or even death. It’s something of a miracle, really. When our father founded Best Doctors, he never could have imagined that 20 years later, the company would save his son’s life.
Brad’s recovery has been excellent, but challenging. At the beginning, numbness and pain made it hard for him to do the things he was used to. He’s worked hard, and has been able to get back to exercise and some sports. Still, I thought his days of playing baseball were over.
I was wrong.
Brad donated some things from Glee to the Red Sox Foundation to help in their charitable work. The Red Sox, as a thank you, asked him to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park at a game, which was this past Sunday.
And so it happened that Brad Falchuk took the mound at Fenway Park. It’s not exactly the way we pictured it happening when we were kids. But you know what? This was much better.
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*