AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A teenager from China is eager to thank a Colorado doctor for successfully removing her brain tumor — and he did it without cutting open her skull.

Yue Yue Wang is healthy and happy just 6 weeks out of surgery. She’s a bright student, a talented pianist, and a very grateful young lady.

CBS4 health specialist Kathy Walsh paid a visit to Wang On Tuesday. She was practicing a Chopin waltz with skill and passion for what will be “thank you” notes for Dr. Kevin Lillehei.

At 14 years old Wang was diagnosed with a tumor on her pituitary gland, and she was having problems.

“Sometimes feel very tired, don’t want to walk,” she said.

Her doctors in China offered to operate.

“They can do the surgery but must open the head,” she said. “Yeah, that’s terrible.”

Wang’s family was worried the surgery would leave her disabled.

“Like cannot walk, and then cannot see very well, and then cannot take care of myself like that,” she said.

But Wang’s aunt from Aurora proposed an alternative. She called her former husband whose mother had a brain tumor.

“The tumor from Yue Yue was the exact same spot as my mom’s was,” Wang’s uncle Ralph Grills said.

Grills’ mother’s tumor was successfully removed through her nose.

“I believe she will be okay,” Wang’s aunt said.

Dr. Kevin Lillehei (credit: CBS)

Yue Yue had the same surgery in September at the University of Colorado Hospital with the same neurosurgeon — Dr. Lillehei. He has done about 1,200 of the transnasal operations.

“The tumor (is) gone — no more,” Wang said.

She said she’s feeling great. This month she’ll play piano at a gala honoring Lillehi. Thanks to him, she isn’t missing a beat.

The gala will be held Nov. 18 at the Marriott City Center. The money raised will go to brain tumor research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. To learn more, visit

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  3. Karen says:

    I’d just like to say that I was a patient of Dr. Lillehei’s and he is one of the nicest and most knowledgeable doctors I know. Wang was very fortunate to have him as her doctor.

  4. Lee Krock says:

    It is appauling to me read some of the comments that have been left on this page. How inconsiderate and insensitive can a person be? It is wonderful that you or people you know did not have much difficulty from the pituitary tumor but not everyone has it that easy. My daughter, 24 yr old college grad, has suffered greatly from the effects caused by this tumor. Each persons symptoms are a little different depending on where that tumor is sitting, the size and if it grows and what kind of mass it is. My child has had the past 2 years of her life robbed from her because of this tumor. Pituitary tumors are not very common. Many people die each year because of the symptoms it causes and the person has no idea what is going on with them until it is too late. My child has adrenal failure/Addison’s disease becasue of “that thing”. I am so very thankful this article is here for her to read because this is the doctor she has been referred to to have this tumor removed. I hope this youth has many happy, fulfilling years.

  5. Smith says:

    thousands of people die every every day in crashes and shootings. politicians cheat and lie every day. they even make news that “there might be news soon about this event”. yet somehow those are always newsworthy. a girl has her life saved through nasal brain surgery and now THAT isn’t newsworthy? people would rather read about cheating, scandel, and people dying than life being saved. is that the state of our society?

  6. Darby Bryan says:

    I find it disappointing that several people found it necessary to minimize the seriousness and/or importance of a successful transnasal approach – especially when they claim to have some experience as patients. If one were to take time and study what literary evidence is available on pituitary tumors one would find how rare these tumors are in children (about one per million) – as well that these tumors can differ greatly – from adenomas ( where in each tumor is classified by which hormone is oversecreted or supressed causing an array of issues including gigantism, precocious puberty, extreme bone growth or lack there of, Cushing’s disease, emotional liability, neurological problems… to mention a few) to craniopharyngiomas (which can be malignant), rathke’s cyst… all of which have a very significant impact on the quality of life ESPECIALLY for children. Catching these tumors early are extremely important in childhood or adulthood. I am grateful that this article, if anything, has brought to light an issue thatt many people do not know about. My daughter is 6 and has a pituitary tumor – the approach to management and care of pediatric patients is still very controversial because of the rarity of their occurence. I wish Yue Yue many years of health and happiness and pray that her quality of life has been improved.

  7. Just Jenn says:

    My father had a pituitary tumor in the mid 90’s- and his was removed using the as described above technique. They actually make an incision under the upper lip and use the nasal passage above the incision to gain access to the pituitary.How wonderful that this procedure exists for patients, but it’s a more than 15 year old idea! It is quite a break through, or was, 20 years ago when they began performing it this way.

  8. ali says:

    i agree, not newsworthy.. my mother had the same thing.. and removed through the nose.,its not a new development..this writer did not do their research

  9. Sal says:

    Well, I think its kinda news-worthy. When the standard route of surgery involved cracking open your skull… I think its a pretty big deal that now it can be done through your nose. Also, having a brain tumor removed and planning to play the piano within 2 months at a gala? Seems like quite a medical break through, even if its been around long enough for the Surgeon to do 1200+ of them.

  10. Lynn says:

    This is great but I have had the same thing for 16 years and it is not life threatening. Not news worthy at all!!!
    Its a pituiatary gland tumor and it affects hormones. When I first found out about it I was tired moody and a lot of other stuff. Meds work wonders! I was told 16 years ago that the only way to remove it was through the nose. There literally is no way to remove it by cutting the skull!!!!

    1. Nancy says:

      Lynn–while you may be doing great with medication, my ex-husband didn’t. Sometimes surgery IS called for. Also, trans-nasal removal is actually a relatively recent development for removal of these tumors. Thirty or so years ago they would have gone through the skull and between the frontal lobes. I cared for a person who the procedure done this way and it essentially caused him to have a lobotomy in the process.

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