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Grateful volunteer: Former patient giving back to the hospital that saved her life


When Mardi Caruso talks about why she volunteers at Adventist Health Glendale, her motivation is clear: “This hospital saved my life.”
Mardi’s path to becoming a hospital volunteer began about 18 months ago. Working full time for a major company as a designer/pattern-maker in men’s and women’s jeans, she was constantly traveling on a busy schedule.

“I hardly realized it, but my walking was slowly being affected. Friends noticed my gait was changing,” she recalls. “My equilibrium felt a little off. At first I thought it was stress.”
An avid hiker and outdoors person, she could tell her balance wasn’t getting any better.

Then one morning Mardi awakened with what felt like the flu, but her symptoms worsened over the next few days. She lost her ability to walk altogether, and she could not eat or drink. Friends assisted her to get medical help.

Seen by doctors at two L.A. area hospitals outside of Glendale, Mardi was referred to Adventist Health Glendale, where neurosurgeon Yaser Badr, MD, performed emergency surgery to remove a “cavernous malformation,” a non-cancerous lesion of dilated blood vessels in the portion of her brain that affects equilibrium.

“It was a huge lesion in a location that causes balance problems…this was not a common situation, Dr. Badr explained. “There was bleeding from the inside (of the lesion). It was significant because of its being close to her brain stem, very important blood vessels to the back of her neck.”

Mardi remembers the hours following the surgery mainly as a blur, but she’ll never forget opening her eyes and thinking, “I’m not dizzy anymore. I’m better.” And she also won’t forget Dr. Badr coming to her room with the lab results that the lesion was benign and his words, “You’re cured, you’re 100 percent cured!”

Reflecting on her experience at Adventist Health Glendale, Mardi speaks glowingly of “the incredible nurses, the whole staff was amazing. They explained everything to me.”

During many weeks of rehabilitation—relearning how to walk and eat—she fully understood the gravity of an unexpected chain of events in her life. She feels tremendous gratitude toward the entire hospital staff, and since last fall she has been volunteering in the hospital’s Facilities and Engineering Dept. It’s a perfect fit for Mardi, a graduate of USC with a degree in engineering!

“I feel like part of the facilities team. It’s rewarding because I can see the importance in what I’m doing that helps the hospital run,” Mardi says. “Volunteering here is one of the most meaningful experiences you can have. You are doing something worthwhile by helping restore someone’s health.”