Megan Butterworth practicing her nursing skills in a lab

Future Nurse Brings Personal Perspective to Patient Care

Megan Butterworth enrolled at The University of Alabama in fall 2020 with the goal of becoming a nurse. The Cary, North Carolina, native credits her passion for helping others as a catalyst for choosing her career. 

But when she went to see a doctor for what she thought was just a sinus infection in April of her freshman year, her perspective of her future was dramatically altered by a shocking diagnosis.

After experiencing a high fever, Butterworth went to the emergency room at DCH late on a Sunday night. And while she did have a sinus infection, her symptoms showed there could be more. 

“The doctor believed I might have meningitis, which is diagnosed with a spinal tap,” Butterworth said. 

Wanting to avoid a painful spinal tap, Butterworth and the staff at DCH opted to first do a CT scan to look for inflammation. 

“So, they did the CT scan and, well, surprise.” 

The CT scan revealed that Butterworth had a 34 mm tumor in her brain. 

A brain scan showing Megan Butterworth's tumor
The CT scan showing Megan’s 34 mm brain tumor.

“Shock is the only way I can describe it,” she said. “It took a long time for what was happening to set in.” 

Since the tumor didn’t present any urgent complications, Butterworth finished the spring semester at UA and elected to have it removed closer to home at Duke University Medical Center by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Allan Friedman. 

“The process for removing the tumor was really fast,” Butterworth said. “I got home on a Sunday, met with Dr. Friedman on Tuesday and he had an opening for surgery on Friday. I decided to go ahead and have surgery then because I was starting nursing school that fall and I wanted plenty of time to recover.”

Butterworth had an awake craniotomy and spent six days in the hospital, a couple of which were in the ICU due to complications with swelling that caused her to briefly lose her speech. 

“It was super frustrating because I knew what I wanted to say but I just couldn’t get it out,” she said. 

Aside from her brief speech loss, Butterworth’s recovery process in the hospital went well and her only lasting side effect is peripheral vision loss in her right eye. And as fate would have it, a member of her nursing staff at Duke was a UA graduate. 

Butterworth returned to Tuscaloosa in the fall and started classes at the Capstone College of Nursing. And while she was excited to be back, she was also a bit nervous. 

Megan Butterworth wearing crimson scrubs standing in front of the Capstone College of Nursing

“I was a little worried about having brain fog because I had a bit of that after surgery,” Butterworth said. “But all of that eventually went away.”

As she has completed her requirements for her Bachelor of Science in nursing and will complete her minor next semester, Butterworth believes her journey has already made her a better nurse. 

“For a while I would wonder, ‘Why in the world did this happen to me?’” she said. “But now I see why it did. I feel like I can better relate to my patients. I know where they’re coming from because I’ve been the patient and I think that’s made me a better patient advocate than I would’ve been otherwise.”