A survivor in so many ways

Renee Uribe-Sayah in a portrait photo.

Renee Uribe-Sayah in a portrait photo.
Photo courtesy John L. Scott Real Estate media relations

MONROE — Renee Uribe-Sayah feels grateful to have half her hearing.
After all the trauma she’s endured — the domestic abuse, the migraines, the car accident, the brain tumor — sacrificing the hearing in her right ear doesn’t seem so bad.
“I’m a very positive person. I’ve never asked, ‘Why me?,’” Uribe-Sayah, 40, said. “My attitude is, ‘This is going to suck, but I’m going to get through it. It’s going to be fine.’”
In 2010 her marriage went south after her husband returned from military service with post-traumatic stress disorder and began abusing her.
In 2017, after divorcing, remarrying and moving to Monroe, she was in a head-on collision with a Ford F-250 truck in downtown Seattle.
“I suffered whiplash,” Uribe-Sayah said. “It was terrifying.”
It was also a blessing, in a way.
The accident prompted a brain scan that revealed a large tumor — her source of constant migraines and dizziness for the previous two years.
Ironically, Uribe-Sayah was on shift at her previous job as an emergency room technician when she received the news.
“I just blacked out. I handed the phone to the emergency room doctor,” she recalls. “I could not process. You think you’re going to die.”
The tumor, called an Acoustic Neuroma or a Vestibular Schwannoma, is a benign type. However, this tumor wrapped around her vestibular and auditory nerves, which control motion and hearing.
Uribe-Sayah would need surgery as soon as possible. But now she faced a new obstacle: COVID-19.
The pandemic restricted all but the most vital medical procedures. Just getting a consultation with a physician was often difficult.
Uribe-Sayah treated this challenge like a full-time job.
She refused to take no for an answer, even hand-delivering her records to the University of Washington after being told it wasn’t accepting new patients.
“She’s tenacious,” said her husband, Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue firefighter Ray Sayah, “and she’s great at navigating the health-care system.”
Surgery was eventually scheduled at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.
It was a top-notch surgeon, but the outcome was uncertain. The worst scenario would be complete facial paralysis.

Photo courtesy John L. Scott Real Estate media relations

Renee Uribe-Sayah stands for a side profile shot which shows where surgery removed a benign tumor under the vicinity of her ear.


So, when Uribe-Sayah awoke from the operation with only partial hearing loss, she saw her new circumstances as reason to celebrate.
“She doesn’t let things get her down. She just doesn’t,” said friend and neighbor Rose Zajac. “She isn’t letting this define who she is.”
Not only is Uribe-Sayah back to selling houses at the Bothell John L. Scott office, she continues to work a few 12-hour shifts a month as an emergency room technician and is a mom to three girls.
She also advises others with hidden disabilities similar to hers.
“I love to help people,” she said. “It’s what makes me ‘me.’”
Balance is challenging, and missing out on conversations can be frustrating. But Uribe-Sayah is determined to keep adjusting.
She’s resumed Zumba classes and changed her diet. New medications have reduced her dizziness. She said she feels the best she has in years.
“This surgery stuff makes you feel like a bad ass,” she quips. “Like you can overcome anything.”
And she has.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or know someone who is,
Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County has a 24-hour hotline:
 425-25ABUSE (425-252-2873). Calls are free and confidential.