A Life Restored Following Trigeminal Neuralgia

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laura reed crawford trigeminal neuralgiaThese days, life sounds pretty sweet for LA Neurosurgical Institute and Dr. Levesque patient Laura Reed Crawford. The newlywed leads worship, playing guitar, singing, and smiling from ear-to-ear – activities that weren’t possible 5 years ago, and Laura says she owes it all to Dr. Levesque and LA Neuro.

Following multiple emergency room visits for bouts of debilitating pain instigated by the slightest of noises – a bird chirping or the wind blowing, Laura was frustrated that no doctor seemed to be able to determine the root cause. Rather, she often left with very strong pain pill prescriptions, and was even accused of lying about her pain to obtain drugs, despite her requests for another treatment method besides narcotics.

In the meantime, the once outgoing mission volunteer found herself withdrawing from people. “I couldn’t stand a single noise. Someone would set a cup down on the counter and I would cry. I love people but it got to a point where I literally couldn’t stand sound.”

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One of Laura’s ER doctors did find her case particularly perplexing, and after taking her files home for further review on his day off, he placed a call to Laura.

“He apologized to me when he called, and said he thought that what I was experiencing was serious,” recalls Laura. “He recommended I see a neurosurgeon.”

Laura found a neurosurgeon in LA, about 4 hours from where she lived at the time. She underwent a special MRI test and given a definitive diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia, thought to be caused by abnormal compression of one or both trigeminal nerves located on the sides of the face. In Laura’s case, her pain was triggered by sound. She would need brain surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve, most often achieved by carefully separating an aging, rigid blood vessel from the nerve with a teflon pledget.

The cost? For his portion, the neurosurgeon quoted Laura $156,000. He could schedule the surgery for November 18, just two weeks from the date of her diagnosis, so long as his fees were paid in full ahead of time.

Laura was devastated. There was no way she could possibly come up with such that sum of money in two months, let alone two weeks, and the neurosurgeon’s fees were only a portion of the bill. The hospital also wanted half of their money upfront, not to mention the cost of follow-up appointments, medication, lost wages during recovery, and more.

On the brink of despair, Laura received some sound advice from a family friend and businessman.

“He told me not to settle; not to give up,” says Laura. “He advised me to always have a Plan A, Plan B, and beyond.”

She also received some interesting suggestions from well-intentioned, if perhaps a little short-sighted, people who wanted to help. “My favorite was when someone suggested I look for a neurosurgeon who had less experience, and might be willing to cut me a deal,” she recalls with amusement. “Find someone who isn’t experienced to operate on my brain?”

Instead, Laura started making her Plans A, B, and C.

“I researched neurosurgeons who had the highest success rate of treating Trigeminal Neuralgia without recurrence, and found Dr. Levesque, The Mayo Clinic, and a doctor in Houston.”

Like most any person in her position, Mayo Clinic became Plan A. Her experience with the Mayo Clinic staff was quite positive, but the timing and travel required to be treated there weren’t ideal, especially for someone with pain from Trigeminal Neuralgia.

Dr. Levesque - Our TeamLaura put Plan B in motion with a phone call to Dr. Levesque at LA Neurosurgical Institute. She would be able to be seen in just two days, and the office was within driving distance of her home.

“The surgeon who diagnosed me had said he was the only surgeon in the world who could guarantee a 100% success rate,” she says. “I asked Dr. Levesque and he said he’d never had a bad outcome but that he could never promise 100% certainty of success. Instead, he promised a 95% likelihood of successful treatment. I respected that so much, that he acknowledged the inherent variables with surgery and was speaking to me honestly.”

Plan B quickly became Plan A. Dr. Levesque could perform the surgery on November 19, and his fees were a lot less than the price she had been quoted previously. Within seven days, with help from media coverage, crowd fundraising, and incredible friends and family, Laura had the money for the treatment she so desperately needed.

After surgery, and throughout her follow-up visits, Laura continued to feel familiarity immediately established with Dr. Levesque, who Laura says was always asking about her activities, taking a genuine interest in her schoolwork and wellbeing.

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“To this day my mind is blown by the way he really cared for me,” she says. “It was nothing I had ever experienced from a doctor before. He is an amazing person and I would recommend him to anyone.”

Back to full enjoyment of her active life, Laura recently married her best friend. Of course, she shared photos of the special day with her LA Neuro family.

“I wouldn’t have married my husband if it weren’t for them. They’re good people and a huge part of who I am and how my life has changed in the last 5 years. It’s an honor to share my story because if I can impact one life the way Dr. Levesque impacted mine… it’s an honor. There is not a single day that goes by that I’m not thankful for him.”

She pauses, and you can’t help but feel like you’re special audience to one of those daily private moments of gratitude she’s just described.

“I’d call him every day, but neurosurgeons are kind of busy,” Laura acknowledges with a laugh – something she can do again freely without feeling stabbing pain in her jaw area, part of the agonizing experience for tens of thousands of currently untreated Trigeminal Neuralgia sufferers.

“Every single person wants to know, whether it’s an accountant, or a teacher, or a lawyer, or especially a doctor, that the person they are working with isn’t just in it for the money but really cares about them as a person,” says Laura. “I knew from the moment I stepped in Dr. Levesque’s office that he wasn’t just seeing me to take my business from someone else. He genuinely cared about me. That made me feel safe. It brings me to tears that for Dr. Levesque, the success isn’t in the paycheck. The success is in healing lives and bringing restoration to a person’s body.”