Dr Charlie Teo’s miracle patient Monica Lopresti writes exclusively for Daily Mail Australia
The idea of Dr. Charlie Teo being cold or calculating, or reckless, or waiting for money before agreeing to have surgery is as puzzling as it is shocking to me.
This is nothing like the person I knew through one of the scariest times of my life.
I was 23 and thought I was the perfect picture of health.
I had a great social life, worked full time, and walked 10,000 steps a day.
Monica Lopresti flew to Spain to have a benign cystic tumor removed from the center of her brain by Dr Charlie Teo (pictured Monica Lopresti, center, with Dr Teo)
Monica was nervously crying before the operation and found Dr Teo so empathetic that she now considers him ‘like family’
Everything changed in July 2021. I became someone no one recognized – bedridden, pale, withdrawn. I had memory lapses.
The ordeal and recovery of Monica Lopresti
A Sydney woman, Monica Lopresti, was bedridden, pale, having blackouts and losing her memory after turning 24.
He was diagnosed with a benign cystic brain tumor which, due to its location, was likely to lead to brain damage or death.
But her family was told the tumor was inoperable in Australia.
The family contacted Dr Charlie Teo who agreed to operate – but in Spain as he is not allowed to work here.
He managed to remove Monica’s tumor at the end of July, Ms. Lopresti is healthy and back to work full time.
An MRI revealed a benign cystic tumor in the middle of my brain.
While the tumor was benign, its location blocked the normal circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
We were devastated when we were told that the pressure caused by too much CSF prevents the brain from functioning properly and can lead to brain damage and death.
By the time the neurosurgeons my mother contacted – seven of them – told me they couldn’t operate, I was already losing my sight.
My father had died of brain cancer eight years earlier. I was extremely scared.
So who is Charlie Teo really? I can only describe it from my own experiences and stick to those.
Let’s get rid of those horrible money stories first.
I heard that Dr. Teo is asking for $50,000 before an operation. This never happened in our situation.
He never even mentioned money in any consultation.
Of course, nothing in life is free, but this idea that Dr. Teo gets some of the money is just plain wrong.
They can’t take someone to hospitals until they make the payment, so we made the payment before the operation.
We don’t want to talk about the specifics of what it cost our family except to say it was worth it.
Monica was told that a tumor blocking the flow of cerebral fluid in her brain (the scan on the right) could cause brain damage or kill her. By the time seven neurosurgeons told her nothing could be done, she was already losing her sight
Ms Lopresti argues Charlie Teo is not ‘money hungry’ and never mentioned payment during consultations. The funds his family raised for his operation mostly went to the private hospital where he operates in Madrid
People pay thousands of dollars for cosmetic surgery and cars and no one questions that.
When a patient spends thousands of dollars on life-saving surgery, how can you price it?
But the money was not important to Dr. Teo, what was important to him was that we knew the risks of the surgery.
People pay thousands of dollars for cosmetic surgery and cars and no one questions that, says Ms Lopresti (pictured, Monica and Christina Lopresti)
Within four days of Dr Teo’s brain surgery in Spain, she was well enough to explore Madrid (pictured)
When you’re going through a storm in life, you want to meet someone who can guide you, give you clear and honest information. It’s even better if they’re nice.
Monica Lopresti said Dr Teo was a much better listener than most medical experts she met
It’s Dr. Teo that my family knows.
But that’s not the only thing that makes him special for us, he also has a great personality.
He was humble, down to earth, empathetic and gentle – a man who listened far more than most doctors I have met.
For the 10 months leading up to my operation, I was in medical centers week after week trying to get answers about my debilitating symptoms – but I was treated like a number, not a person.
People would listen to me for about a minute before either dismissing what I had to say or coming up with an answer. It was like nobody cared.
But when I met Dr. Teo, I walked into his room and felt like I was heard for the first time. He had a lot of knowledge, he recognized all my symptoms, he made me feel human.
When we were in Madrid before the operation, we had a very bad night. We had lost my father to brain cancer eight years ago and his wish was to stop treatment. The emotions were so strong.
Dr. Teo had made it clear to us that he was only a phone call away. My mom, Christina, texted him at 2 a.m. and within 15 minutes he was in front of me.
I sat there and cried and he just listened to me vent. I treated him like a therapist. And he listened to everything. That’s when he became like family to us.
He was also candid about the risks. He’s not a man who trades in false hopes as I’ve heard.
On the day of the operation, he was there before, during and after and it was an incredible comfort.
We had a preoperative appointment during which we reviewed everything and met some of his team.
Dr. Charlie Teo: A Timeline
1957: born in Sydney on December 24
1981: Graduated from UNSW with a BS in Medicine and a BS in Surgery
1982: started in pediatric surgery, then in neurosurgery, then in pediatric neurosurgery in Sydney
1989-1999: Became Australia’s only American Medical Board-certified neurosurgeon, refining a minimally invasive keyhole surgical technique while there
2000: begins to focus on so-called inoperable tumors, which creates friction with peers
2001: Creation of the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation in 2001
2004: Creation of the Center for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery
2008: Complaint “I would not send my dog to a public hospital”
2011: Appointed Member of the Order of Australia
2012: Delivered the 2012 Australia Day speech
2012-14: Named Most Trusted Australian
2013: Addressed the US Congress on the need for funding for brain surgery
2017: Switched only to operate privately
2019: Criticized for high fees and behavior in a media article, and patients needing to raise funds publicly by Professor Henry Woo
2020: engaged to former patient and international model, Traci Griffiths
2021: NSW Medical Council bars him from performing types of brain surgery in Australia without independent approval, placed under investigation by the Healthcare Complaints Commission
2022: Beginning of surgical operations in South Africa and Spain
After the operation, he waited in my room while I recovered and surprised my mother. He kissed her and told her how amazing I was.
How often does this happen?
My surgery was done on time and I was told that when I wake up my vision will be a little weird, which is normal after brain surgery.
When I woke up the majority of my symptoms were gone and within four days I was out of the hospital and exploring Madrid.
I was lucky – but it’s important to note that it’s not just me who thinks highly of Dr Teo.
The most common thing you hear from his patients is about his kind and caring nature.
Look at the pictures of him with patients. In each photo, he has his arm around them, he is smiling.
This feeling that he is cold or selfish, I don’t understand where it comes from.
To me, it seems crazy to say someone is cold when you haven’t met them.
Today, I am in good health but still recovering. I work full time in insurance as a loss adjuster in Sydney.
My weekends are like coffees and walks with friends, or movie nights and like everyone else, I spend my days at the beach and love swimming in Bondi.
I live a fairly normal life and have to thank Dr Teo for that, I’m sure he was born to save lives.
I am eternally grateful to him and because of that I will always be in his corner.
If I fear for the future, it is the fear that a person will be diagnosed with a high-risk tumor and die because of this risk.
Won’t future surgeons innovate because they are afraid of being shunned by their peers?
It is difficult to understand why patients are denied the right to choose their surgeon.
If it was for your life or that of your child, what would you do?
This is the choice that many families have faced and most of them have not regretted choosing Dr. Teo.