Centennial resident Tomas Martinez went to bed on March 11 with the worst headache he’d ever had in his 36 years. When he woke the next morning, his thoughts were jumbled. “I told him to let his boss know he couldn’t work, and he didn’t recognize her name,” recalls Tomas’ wife, Tatiana. “His comments were scaring me. I knew something was seriously wrong.” By the time the frantic couple reached Sky Ridge Medical Center, Tomas could no longer recall his birthday.
Imaging scans revealed that Tomas had a meningioma, a brain tumor that forms on membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. The tumor had hemorrhaged, and blood was irritating and inflaming his brain. In addition, the enlarged tumor blocked the pathway for spinal fluid, leading to a condition known as hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. “People with hydrocephalus can deteriorate quickly due to increased pressure on the brain,” says Dr. Brent Kimball, director of neuro-oncology at Sky Ridge Medical Center and medical director of CarePoint Neurosurgery.
Approximately 48 hours after Tomas entered the hospital, he underwent a five-hour, highly complex brain surgery. “Because the tumor was located deep inside the brain, the only way to remove it was to make a dime-sized pathway through healthy brain tissue,” says Dr. Kimball, who successfully removed all of the noncancerous tumor.
When Tomas awoke after surgery, he had trouble communicating and couldn’t move the right side of his body. “While we try to minimize manipulation of healthy brain tissue, there’s always a risk of post-surgical complications,” says Dr. Kimball. “We expected that Tomas might experience weakness in his right leg and some speech delays. Fortunately, these effects usually go away in a few days.” By the time Tomas moved to a rehabilitation center three weeks later, his speech and movement had significantly improved. After two weeks engaged in intensive therapy designed to improve balance, movement and speech, Tomas regained normal function.
“People who undergo brain surgery are eager to return to normal life quickly, which is understandable,” says Dr. Kimball. “I have to remind patients and their loved ones that the brain just went through a major traumatic event. It can take a year or longer to fully recover.”
Six months after surgery, Tomas continues therapy to improve his memory and concentration. He bikes daily to build strength and improve motor skills. “It’s frustrating to not be able to do all of the things that once came so easily to me,” says Tomas. “But during my months of recovery, I’ve come to realize how lucky I am that the experts at Sky Ridge were able to save my life, so that I’m still here with my wife and daughter.”
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