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Medical science is evolving every moment, making breakthroughs, expanding boundaries, redefining the possibilities and improving life as we know it. Keeping up with this continuous evolution isn’t easy and requires constant upgrading of hospitals and the skill set of the doctors.

For many of us, doctors are like powerful tools in the hands of God. What we fail to realize is that they are humans too and can commit a mistake at any given point. Our bodies are complex and are patients in a complex health care system. It’s a challenge.

The story of Claire Snyman is that of courage and willpower. It is a tale of a woman’s fight not just against her brain tumor but also against negativity, pain, and hardships.

Born in South Africa and living in Canada, Claire was unaware of the ticking brain tumor time bomb in her head. One fateful night in 2010, she woke up at 3:00 am with a severe headache, nausea and dizziness. So much so that she was crawling on the floor before her husband rushed her to the emergency room.

Claire went through a serious of tests. Her brain scanned revealed a non-malignant brain tumor. This was a life-changing moment for her. Her world was turned upside down reminding her just how fragile life was. It was not only her that was affected by this news but her husband and family.

The doctors also diagnosed her with viral meningitis another reason behind the severe headaches.

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The next few months were physically and mentally exhausting for Claire. Visits to the family doctor, neurologist, neurosurgeon, various tests and multiple medicines. With every second the task became more challenging and daunting.

At times, Claire felt scared, nervous and uncertain. She decided to take control of the situation, to be more strategic and to help her feel more confident.

She realized that navigating through the complex health care system was overwhelming so that became her first step. Simplifying and navigating the complex system which she was now part of.

Claire Synman

She devised an approach that would help her navigate this complex system and assist her feel less uncertain and powerless. Her T.E.A.M approach.

T stands for TRACK – she realized she needed to track her medications, medical records, symptoms, and reports.

E stands for EDUCATE – she realized she couldn’t just rely on the doctors to give her information. She read as much as she could about her condition so she was educated about it

A stands for ASK – she needed to ask questions such as why, what if and how can we do this together to help her understand what the doctors were saying.

M stands for MANAGE – managing all aspects affecting her health

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Claire started using her T.E.A.M Approach to help her manage her health with her medical team. By being more active in her health care, it helped her prevent medical mistakes that happened when she was a patient.

Mistake 1 – The medical standard of care for her brain tumour was yearly brain scans. However, hers were discontinued after she was considered “stable”. Claire asked for a second opinion who said to continue yearly brain scans.
Two years after her diagnosis, Claire got acutely ill with severe dizziness and headaches.

Mistake 2 – She complained to her neurologist of the dizziness and visual problems. However, he dismissed her symptoms as an ear infection.

Mistake 3 – She developed a headache, which would not resolve with her usual medication so she went to the ER. The doctor in charge relied on the prescription of her neurologist, the specialist, and didn’t make his own diagnosis. Claire even asked for a brain scan.

Claire Synman

She went back to her family doctor to ask more questions when she didn’t get better.

What was not picked up was that Claire’s brain tumor had doubled in size and her brain was swollen.

These seemingly innocent and human mistakes are often the result of a complex system, lack of resources and gaps in communication.

Her family doctor advised Claire to get a private pay MRI. The results showed that her brain tumor had doubled in size and without further delay; she underwent brain surgery.

It took her about two years to recover from the swelling of her brain, brain surgery and post-surgical meningitis.

Claire to date thanks her husband, family, family doctor, her support group and her T.E.A.M approach that helped her listen to her body and ask the right questions at the right time. All of these helped save her life.

Liked hearing her? Subscribe Claire Snyman’s Channel on YouTube.


Interview Timestamp

Q.1| 0:47 How did you come up with the idea of TEAM approach?

Q.2| 03:07 Can you share your revival journey briefly?

Q.3| 05:08 What mistakes did your doctor and neurologist commit which led to the enlargement of your brain tumor?

Q.4 | 07:28 What were your personal struggles in fighting brain tumor?

Q.5 | 10:52 What did you learn when you collaborated with patients and the healthcare system?

Q.6| 13:44 Why do doctors commit such mistake according to you? Does this problem occur because they have a truckload of patients to deal with?

Q.7 | 14:29 How can people become more aware of such mistakes?

Q.9 | 16: 08 What are you planning to achieve in 2018 & what’s your life ultimate aim?

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