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For Immediate Release:
March 23, 2017
Media Contact:
Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Piedra


Maria Emilse Muñoz Peña, 32, was in the middle of her pregnancy in December 2016 when she began losing her vision. Thinking it was a side effect of being pregnant, she initially didn’t pay much attention to it. But her vision progressively worsened – she could no longer read, could barely make out shapes and colors, and couldn’t recognize faces – so she went to an ophthalmologist for a checkup. When the doctor discovered her eyesight was perfect and not causing her vision loss, he instructed her to immediately go to the emergency room at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for a scan of her brain.

“He told me it was life or death,” Muñoz Peña recalled.

An MRI revealed that Muñoz Peña had a large, benign meningioma, a tumor that forms on the membranes that cover the brain. The size of an egg, the tumor was pushing against both optic nerves, causing near blindness.

“I was very afraid, mostly because of my baby,” she said. “When they say the word ‘tumor’ it is very scary. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Muñoz Peña was immediately sent to the obstetrics emergency unit at The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial. There, she was seen by UHealth – University of Miami Health System neurosurgeon Michael E. Ivan, MD, MBS, who reviewed her case and decided that surgical removal of the tumor was the best option.

Dr. Ivan led a complex, 12-hour surgery on December 29 at Jackson Memorial Hospital to remove the tumor. While operating, Dr. Ivan discovered a second benign brain tumor, which he also removed.

Because Muñoz Peña was 27 weeks pregnant, a team of OB/GYNs and anesthesiologists remained in the operating room throughout the procedure, closely monitoring the fetus. They were prepared to do an emergency Cesarean section (C-section), if needed, to save the baby.

Following the surgery, Muñoz Peña recovered in the neurosurgery intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial, where she almost immediately regained her vision. More importantly, she said, doctors did not have to deliver her baby prematurely.

In less than a week, Muñoz Peña returned to her Miami Beach home to continue recovering and finish the remainder of her pregnancy.

Muñoz Peña delivered Santino Michar Peña, a 7-pound, 2-ounce boy, via C-section on Monday, March 20, 2017, at The Women’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial.

“If I had to go through this ordeal, Jackson is the best place in the United States to handle such a complex case with the expertise of the physicians and the technology available,” she said. “This is a miracle times two – first me surviving brain surgery, and then my baby being born healthy.”

Muñoz Peña, her husband, Michar Peña, and their newborn son, will be joined by her physicians at a news conference to discuss her extraordinary medical journey.


Michael E. Ivan, MD, MBS, UHealth Neurosurgeon
Unzila A. Nayeri, MD, UHealth OB/GYN
Maria Emilse Muñoz Peña, Mother
Michar Peña, Father
Santino Michar Peña, Baby


UHealth surgeons at Jackson remove two brain tumors from pregnant woman and restore patient’s vision loss; full-term baby delivered three months later

When: March 23, 2017, 1:00 p.m.

Jackson Memorial Hospital
Ira Clark Diagnostic Treatment Center, Room 252
In the corner of N.W. 12th Avenue and 19th Street
Miami, FL 33136

Editor's Note:

Media can park in front of the Clark DTC.

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Jackson Health System
1611 N.W. 12th Avenue Miami, FL 33136