HOUSTON -- Not a single doctor in California would take on a risky surgery for a 12-year-old boy there. So now, R.J. Kahaunaele is in Houston, where he will undergo an operation to remove a glandular cyst right in the middle of his brain.
It has been a long journey for R.J. to get to neurosurgeon Dr. Dong Kim at the Texas Medical Center. R.J. is from California and that is where he was diagnosed with a pineal cyst in his brain three years ago. Not all cysts cause problems, but it did for R.J.
The Kahaunaeles met the Director of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann Hospital for the first time on Tuesday and the operation was scheduled for the next day.
Dr. Kim, also Chairman of Neurosurgery at UTHealth Medical School is 1 of only a few surgeons in the country who specialize in removing pineal cysts. R.J. hopes the operation will end his debilitating headaches and other symptoms.
“My double vision, my blood gushing out of my nose, my dizziness my numbing all over my body,” R.J. said.
Dr. Kim screens many candidates and performs about 50 to 75 surgeries a year on the patients most likely to see relief. 95% of his patients have some relief. 80% are dramatically better.
While the family has insurance, out of pocket expenses are huge. So they turned to the Go Fund Me website for donations.
After KXTV in Sacramento aired their story, the donations poured in.
“It was rolling so fast, it was like a slot machine: ding ding ding,” R.J.’s mom Janice Kahaunaele said.
Social media has also led patients directly to Dr. Kim, who estimates 80 percent of his patients for pineal cysts come from social media.
R.J. Kahaunaele is among those patients.
His dad Robert Kahaunaele is grateful for supporters and donors who have generously allowed him to travel with his son.
“They’ve been like a miracle to us, like a bunch of flying angels coming in,” he said.