Woman with advanced brain tumour now able to access care she needs

  • 22 September 2023

While on holiday, Ella walked into a plate glass door that was so clean it was hard to notice. She hit her head and the pain lingered a few days longer than expected. Ella wondered if the incident had tapped into an old head injury, so she saw a doctor.

A CAT scan revealed far more than an old injury resurfacing. Ella had a vestibular schwannoma, a type of brain tumour that normally grows slowly but was at an advanced state and very dangerous. The tumour surrounded her facial nerve; without surgery soon, Ella would be confronted with facial paralysis, difficulty eating or speaking and potentially fatal complications. In fact, even in a best-case scenario a fully successful surgery was going to rob Ella of her hearing in one ear due to the nature of the procedure. The news was devastating for Ella, and her family.

Her situation became even more distressing when the cost came into focus. Ella is a UK native living abroad with her husband and two children. Her husband works in Gibraltar where her children attend school, but since she lives in Spain, Gibraltar health care would not cover the costs of the surgery. The only doctor in Spain who can do the procedure is nearly 700 kilometers away, far enough from Ella’s home that her own health care would not cover it.

“The cost of this procedure was significantly more than an average Spanish household makes in a year, so the ability to pay for a procedure was a very real challenge for Ella,” said Brandon Sosa, CEO of the Barzilai Foundation. “Once the gravity of her condition sunk in she then realized the cost could be a show stopper.”

Between her savings and contributions from close friends, Ella mustered enough money to cover half the cost of the procedure. For the rest, Ella faced unappetizing options, such as having her 80-year-old mother mortgage her house or delaying care while trying to raise funds through community appeals.

“People in hard situations face gruesome tradeoffs,” said Sosa. “Ella couldn’t move forward with her care without funds. Her doctors wanted her to have the procedure quickly and the entire process was postponed until she was able to secure the rest of the money through online crowdfunding. No one should have to make that kind of compromise about their health.”

The Barzilai Foundation met with Ella and informed her that we are covering the remaining costs for her surgery, so that she can focus on getting better as quickly as possible and not risk further deterioration of her health. In addition, the Foundation is sponsoring travel and lodging for Ella’s family so that they can stay close during the procedure and its recovery.

“Medical crises can come out of nowhere and derail everything for a household,” said Sosa. “This diagnosis came as a shock to Ella and her family, but we are happy to be able to remove the barrier that stopped her from getting the care she needs to be safe and heathy.”

Woman with advanced brain tumour now able to access care she needs