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Liver Tumor Patient’s Research Points in NorthShore’s Direction

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:48 AM

From a full-time job to family commitments and vacation plans, Trina Johnson Gardner prides herself on staying on top of a busy life. She also is someone who does her homework when it comes to making thoughtful decisions on the best medical care. That approach paid off when faced with an unexpected health issue last year.

Liver Patient Trina Johnson Gardner

Sour Stomach
“It started with an upset stomach, only it lasted for several months,” recalled the typically healthy 49-year-old from Evanston. “One evening I pressed the upper left side of my abdomen and felt something really hard. Right away my primary care physician ordered an ultrasound, which revealed a large mass.” Johnson Gardner’s physician referred her to renowned NorthShore Surgeon Mark Talamonti, MD, for further evaluation.

“Trina had a very large, 20-centimeter benign tumor in the left lobe of her liver called a hemangioma,” explained Dr. Talamonti, the Stanton and Margaret Rogers Palmer Chair of Surgery. “The tumor was compressing the bile ducts in her liver and delaying the emptying of her stomach, which contributed to her symptoms. Surgery was the only option.”

“You can’t imagine how nervous I was to find out I needed major surgery on a vital organ,” added Johnson Gardner. “Through my research, I learned that Dr. Talamonti is not only an outstanding liver and pancreas surgeon, but he’s also one of only a few physicians in the country pioneering the latest techniques in complex GI surgeries.”

Informed Decision
Over the course of several presurgery appointments, Dr. Talamonti took the time to answer all of Johnson Gardner’s questions. “He was so reassuring, and his nursing staff was so informative. They totally put me at ease,” she said.

“Trina truly gave ‘informed consent’ because she wanted to fully understand her treatment options and any potential complications,” noted Dr. Talamonti, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “At NorthShore, we’re now using a robotic-assisted, minimally invasive approach to remove liver tumors. But based on the size and location of Trina’s tumor, we recommended a traditional, open procedure.”

In March 2018, Johnson Gardner underwent a five-hour surgery—with complete success and no complications.

“I’m so grateful to Dr. Talamonti and the comprehensive care team with me every step of the way,” said Johnson Gardner, who quickly recovered and is now back to her busy, active life. “That’s why NorthShore is the hospital I trust!”