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In This Issue:
Joe Place of Saratoga, NY, suddenly became ill while on a business trip this
past February. Forced to spend much of the time in a hotel room, he recalled,
“It was like I had a very bad migraine.” He called his wife and that
is when he noticed that his speech was not making any sense.
Place went to a hospital in Bronx, NY, where it was determined he had experienced
a grand mal seizure. “They said it was caused by blood vessels hemorrhaging
in my brain,” he said. “I was in the hospital for two days and they
ran a number of tests. Finally, I met with a neurosurgeon who told me that I had
a cavernous (brain) malformation.”
Shock led to panic, as Place and his wife decided their next step, but a chance
meeting with a neighbor changed everything. “One of my neighbors lost her
son to a brain tumor and told me to contact Brigham and Women’s Neurosurgery
Department,” he said. Place soon had an appointment with Neuro-surgeon Alexandra
Golby, MD, associate surgeon and instructor at Harvard Medical School. At their
first meeting, Golby reconfirmed that Place did have a cavernous malformation
and recommended surgery. “She told me that if I had a hemorrhage again that
it could affect my speech permanently because the tumor was so close to that part
of the brain,” he added.
Golby talked with Place and his wife about functional brain mapping, which
enables a neurosurgeon to locate critical motor, language and other key functional
areas in an individual’s brain, thereby guiding the removal of a lesion
in the safest and most precise way possible. “My wife and I drove back home
stunned, but we both decided it was the best thing to do,” he said. BWH,
thanks to Golby’s combined research and clinical expertise, is one of the
only centers in the country to perform such a delicate procedure.
Place had a pre-operative functional MRI a week before his surgical procedure.
During the scan, members of Golby’s team guided him through a series of
different language tasks. They acquired brain images in this way to assist in
creating a “map” of Place’s brain.
“The staff was just incredible and fantastic to me. They sat down with
me and went over the procedure process, from pre-op to post-op,” he said.
Place was awake during the six-hour procedure and was asked to perform a variety
of tasks, like counting backwards from 20 and naming objects depicted in a special
pair of goggles he wore. “I had to say things like ‘tree’ or
‘guitar’ so Dr. Golby would know if she was near my speech area.”
While Place performed basic language tasks, Golby worked with her team viewing
the state-of-the-art functional MRI images that acted as a virtual “global
positioning system” to guide the surgery. “I was very comfortable
with Dr. Golby and her approach left me with the feeling that everything was going
to be all right,” he said.
Now, weeks later, Place is starting to walk, run and even ride a bike again,
thankful for the staff who cared for him and for the technology that saved his
life. “Recovery was tough in the beginning but every day it gets better.
I am going back to work in September and meanwhile, I am spending time with my
children,” he said. Of Golby, Place added, “She is really dedicated
to her patients, their families and to her craft, and this just seems to be her