In 2011, Celeste Loyatho helped Team USA win the world championship for the International Federation of Roller Sports Inline Hockey in Rosacco, Italy. She helped them win gold again in 2013 in Anaheim, California. Over the last six years, she has also played a key role with the Anaheim Lady Ducks and Revision Vanquish hockey club.

Being passionate about athletics her entire life, she has been skating since she was four and playing roller and ice hockey since she was eight. Now she teaches Crossfit workouts and coaches ice and roller hockey teams in her free time.
The active routine Celeste was familiar with was suddenly halted in 2014 when she began experiencing unusual headaches and numbness on the left side of her body.

“The headaches were so bad that I had trouble concentrating when doing any type of sport. I also couldn’t feel anything on the entire left side of my body, which I felt was dangerous.”

Celeste went to her local ER after the third time she experienced the jarring numbness. Doctors soon discovered that Celeste harbored a giant tumor within the fluid-filled spaces deep in her brain. That’s when she was transferred to Keck Medicine of USC to see Jonathan J. Russin, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurological surgery and associate surgical director at the USC Center for Neurorestoration of Keck Medicine of USC.

“I saw Dr. Russin the next day. He told me about my condition and the surgery I needed.”

Dr. Russin told Celeste that the giant tumor required surgery as soon as possible.

“He told me that the tumor was filling most of the cavities in my brain. I started experiencing headaches because fluid was backing up inside my brain.”

Celeste says that thanks to Dr. Russin’s calm demeanor and clear explanation of the surgery and its implications, she was able to really process what was happening to her.

“I was nervous for about five or ten minutes, but Dr. Russin is so charming that he put both my mom and me at ease quite quickly. He’s a very calming guy and whenever you are feeling worried or have a question and need him in the room, he’s always there.”

The surgical procedure lasted several hours and Celeste recovered in the ICU at Keck Medicine of USC. She was sent home a little over a week after her surgery, and was cleared for exercise six weeks after the operation.

“As an athlete I pay a lot of attention to how my response times are and how my body feels. When I was able to move and began to connect my cognitive and physical thinking again, that’s when I knew I was getting better.”

In that January, Celeste was fully recovered and ready to play another hockey tournament for a charity. Currently, she is continuing her studies in Athletic Training. She will be studying San Diego State University and coaching in her hometown of San Juan Capistrano.

“As an athlete, you know that you have just got to keep playing and plugging away. My training as an athlete probably is a big part of what got my whole family and me mentally through this whole ordeal. They are athletes too and they’ve always supported me in all of my endeavors and tournaments, and now, brain surgery.”

Celeste made Team USA for the fifth time in 2016 and made a triumphant return to the highest level of roller hockey. Unfortunately, they fell to Canada in the final world championship game in Asiago, Italy. But, Celeste hasn’t let that stop her from perusing her passion and she is still coaching and playing for the Lady Ducks. That’s just another example of The Keck Effect.

By Ramin Zahed

Photo by Eddy Wegrzyn