Feb. 29, 2008 -- For the first time in as long as she can remember, Sugra Devi has a clear head.
She can thank the doctors at New Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, who removed the largest ever recorded brain tumor from her skull — 78 cubic inches, the size of two baseballs.
"Since there was no growth outside the brain, I was shocked to know that it was so big," 50-year-old Devi told a press conference in India's capital. "I only wanted to live and get back to my kids."
That she was able to live at all is a miracle. Her head looked healthy from the outside, but inside, a massive swelling threatened to kill her. She arrived in the hospital complaining of pain in her left leg, severe headaches, vomiting and blurred vision. Doctors operated for six hours to remove the tumor.
"She was suffering with symptoms for over six years, was critical when she arrived in the hospital. Even a slight delay in operating [on] the tumor could have caused paralysis and vision loss," Dr. Manish Vaish, a member of the team that carried out the operation, told reporters. "It was definitely life-threatening," he told ABC News. "These tumors are always life-threatening."
The surgery carried with it a 10-15 percent chance of death, her doctors said. The tumor was located next to the portion of the brain that controls limb movement and had obstructed the brain's major drainage channel.
"When the channel is totally obstructed by the tumor, the body adjusts to the blockage and creates additional channels," Vaish told ABC News. "The most difficult technical part of the surgery is to preserve these channels."
"We removed the entire tumor from its origin," said Dr. Rana Patir, the head of neurosurgery at the hospital. "There were no complications, and the lady made an uneventful recovery."
"Uneventful" may be a bit of an understatement, but Devi is healthy. The surgery was conducted in September and the hospital and her doctors decided to announce it only recently in order to be sure of the patient's recovery.
When she arrived in the hospital, the initial MRI scans of her skull shocked the neurosurgery team. None of them had ever seen a tumor that big before.
The tumor was a meningioma brain tumor, the most common form of benign brain tumor that develops from the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Seen mostly in women ages 40 to 60, the tumors generally do not spread to the central nervous system or to other parts of the body. But they can cause seizures, vomiting, headaches and — as in Devi's case — prevent walking.
But she got to the hospital in time. And just six hours after she got out of surgery, she was back on her feet.