When the problem can't be fixed

care for elderly

When Brandy Lawrence began to suffer crushing pain in her head, it was one more health problem on a long list.


Caring for the elderly

Caring for the elderly and medically fragile

Complex, choreographed care

The breast cancer survivor also had high blood pressure and osteoporosis and required insulin injections for diabetes. By the time she went to her local hospital and was referred to Emory University Hospital for surgery, the mass in her brain—a meningioma tumor—was the size of a small lemon.

Emory neurosurgeons placed a shunt to help drain the liquid built up in her brain and then painstakingly removed the tumor and its tentacles.Technically, the operation was perfect. But the brain is unforgiving, and the price was high: neural damage and stroke, followed by paralysis and respiratory failure. 

After being stabilized, Lawrence was transferred to Emory’s Wesley Woods Hospital, where she could be seen by specialists in managing patients needing ventilator therapy.

The team was able to wean her from the ventilator, but her tracheotomy prevented her from speaking. She often appeared to have no awareness of her surroundings. Her family visited often. Was Lawrence able to hear and understand? The nurses believed so. At times, tears would roll down her cheeks.

After a year, there had been little change in Lawrence’s ability to function, and her family wanted her closer to home. When Wesley Woods social workers began the search for a long-term nursing facility, one after another said no—the patient was incapable of participating in therapy. Almost two years after her surgery, Lawrence was finally moved to a facility closer to her family. Lawrence’s insurance company had balked at paying for much of her care, and her unpaid account currently stands at more than $400,000. Wesley Woods does not anticipate being reimbursed. That hurts the bottom line, but what hurt the most, say members of the team who cared for her, was being unable to restore Lawrence to her old life, no matter how hard they tried.

Table of Contents

emory health fall