Cheri Fleming is a community philanthropist and long-time supporter of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. She serves on its board, and as a former director of the Henry Mayo Newhall Health Foundation has helped to raise millions of dollars to expand critical life-saving services and specialized care. But in 2016, Fleming had a new role – she became a first-time patient.
In October of 2016, Fleming saw her primary care doctor after suffering five consecutive days of headaches. 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 Los Angeles hospital, resulted in a punctured artery in the base of her neck and a stroke in her cerebellum. Fleming eventually recovered, but had to relearn how to do simple tasks, including learning to walk again.
Naturally, her mind raced back to that stressful period, and unfortunately, her intuition proved to be correct. A CT scan showed her cervical spine was again unstable, and this time, it affected a far greater portion.
Fleming was referred to Dr. Mark Liker, a neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at Henry Mayo and the founding and senior partner at the California Neurosurgical Institute. Liker has a broad range of technical and clinical expertise, mastering both complex and minimally invasive spine and brain surgery.
Fleming quickly learned that “the previous surgery was failing and my (cervical vertebrae) C3 was fractured and fused to my C4. Literally, my head was falling forward…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.
She has since made a full recovery. “The surgery changed my life and I’m forever grateful,” Fleming says, adding, “we are so fortunate to have Dr. Liker, one of the nation’s top neurosurgeons, practicing at Henry Mayo and an excellent health care team. Everyone at the hospital was amazing.”
As a board member, Fleming has always talked about the hospital’s excellent and compassionate care, “but now, I can speak from my heart because I have first-hand experience.”