Augusta, GA (WJBF) — As millions of Americans focus on their health as we head into the new year, one Augusta man is thankful for his after undergoing brain surgery.
Six weeks ago, Dr. Stuart Thomson had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Now, less than 2 months later, he is back to work thanks to an approach that allows surgeons to access the brain through the nose.
“They were really lucky that they found this when they did,” says Dr. Thompson about his tumor.
He went in for an MRI because of family history of a genetic disease. He was not expecting to learn he had a type of cancer in his brain called multiple myeloma.
“Little bit of disbelief,” Dr. Thompson says about when he got the news. “You know, I expected the negative result for the other thing, but it was just completely out of the blue… and then I had to go home and break the news to my wife.”
A few weeks later, he had surgery to remove the tumor. As a microbiologist who studies infections, that was one fear Dr. Thompson had ahead of surgery. He explains some of his other fears.
“Just the idea of anything going on with instruments right at the margin of my brain was pretty scary. Originally, before I learned that I was a candidate for the endoscopic surgery, I didn’t know and the thought of somebody actually cutting open my skull was pretty terrifying,” Dr. Thompson says.
Thankfully, he was a candidate for a less invasive procedure in which his surgeon, Dr. Martin Rutkowski, accessed his brain through his nose.
“Classically, we used to approach these types of tumors by actually going through the head, so we’d have to make a large incision where we went through the scalp, removed a large part of the forehead and basically went underneath the surface of the brain to access these tumors and remove them to the best of our ability, but recently, over about the past 2 decades or so, we’ve developed a technique of using very tiny cameras that we can insert through the nose and access these tumors through a much more minimally invasive approach,” Dr. Rutkowski explains.
Dr. Rutkowski says endoscopic endonasal brain surgery means less risk and down time for patients like Dr. Thompson
“The recovery is certainly a lot easier as opposed to recovering from a very large incision, a much more invasive approach that involves a longer time in the hospital, a little bit more rehabilitation and then recovery from the surgery itself,” says Dr. Rutkowski. “There are also obviously, the cosmetic concerns– not having to make an incision in the head or the face is a much easier and less disfiguring operation.”
The day after his brain surgery, Dr. Thompson was already sitting up and making jokes with his wife in the neuro ICU. Now, just weeks after brain surgery Dr. Thompson back to heading to work each morning, just like he did beforehand.
“A lot of people can’t believe it,” says Dr. Thompson. “I”ll email somebody and they’re like, ‘why are you even emailing me? You just had brain surgery’ and it’s just like, well you know I’m able to so why not?”
Dr. Thompson still has a tough road ahead with chemo, radiation and a stem cell transplant planned, but he stays hopeful.
“Treatments and surgeries and everything are much much better than they used to be and I’m looking forward to a long and healthy life from here,” Dr. Thompson says.
He encourages those of you like him, who will start the new year with a tough diagnosis to remain hopeful as well.
“I’m trying to focus on my faith number one and on hope because a lot of people, in fact, friends of ours have had multiple myeloma and have been successfully treated by my same oncologist Dr. Jillella and they have had long and happy lives after it so you can focus on the positive or focus on the negative and the negatives always creep in. We’re choosing to focus on the positive,” says Dr. Thompson
Dr. Thompson is a microbiologist at the Medical College of Georgia. This week he went back to his research of things like campylobacter, a bacterial infection that ironically made headlines earlier this month.
CLICK HERE to learn more about campylobacter.