As one of the most well-known philanthropistsand volunteer in the Santa Clarita Valley, Cheri Fleming is recognizable as an advocate for many nonprofits. Along with her husband Don, she has been a long-time supporter of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, serving on its hospital and foundation boards and countless committees over the years. Cheri has helped raise millions of dollars to expand critical life-saving services and specialized care at the hospital, believing in its mission to deliver quality healthcare to its community. Then, in 2016, Cheri viewed the hospital from a different perspective when she became a first-time patient.
After suffering five consecutive days of headaches in the fall of 2016, Cheri made an appointment with her primary physician. The Valencia resident and co-owner of Valencia Acura had a hunch that the headaches were related to a 10-year-old surgery on her upper cervical spine which was performed to correct her cervical instability.
That surgery, performed at a hospital in Los Angeles, resulted in a punctured artery in the base of her neck and she consequently suffered a stroke in her cerebellum. Fleming eventually recovered, but had to relearn how to do simple tasks, including learning to walk again.
Naturally, she wondered if that past surgery was a contributing factor, and unfortunately, her intuition proved to be correct. A CT scan showed her cervical spine was again unstable, and this time, it affected a much larger area.
Fleming was quickly referred Mark Liker, MD, a neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Henry Mayo who is also the founding and senior partner at the California Neurosurgical Institute. Dr. Liker has a broad range of technical and clinical expertise, mastering both complex and minimally invasive spine and brain surgery.
Upon consulting with Dr. Liker, Cheri learned that her previous surgery was failing, and her cervical vertebrae C3 was fractured and fused to the C4 vertebrae. “My head was literally falling forward,” recounts Cheri. “Imagine my fear when I learned the slightest of events could change everything – a small fender-bender, a dog pulling too hard on a leash, or even a fall.”
Ten days later, Fleming underwent a five-hour surgery, which involved fusing six of seven vertebrae. She was in the hospital for four days and wore a neck brace for three months to keep her neck stable while she healed.
“The surgery changed my life and I’m forever grateful,” Fleming says. “I believed in Henry Mayo before I became a patient, and my experience proves my trust is well-placed. We are so fortunate to have Dr. Liker, one of the nation’s top neurosurgeons, practicing at Henry Mayo along with an excellent health care team. Everyone at this hospital is amazing.”
As a volunteer board member, Fleming has always talked about the hospital’s excellent and compassionate care, “But now, I can speak from experience—and from my heart. We are so very lucky to have Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in our community.”