Spine Tumor Removal Helps Man Walk Again

Spine tumor patient Dennis Hesker of Okawville, IL, is back to being active after neurosurgeons removed a tumor from his spineProfessional banker and grandfather, Dennis Hesker, 62, loved spending time with his family but found he was slowing down due to the emergence of some mysterious pain in his back and shoulders in early 2012. The pain was making it difficult to do the things he loved, including playing with his grandchildren and working on his rural property in Okawville, Illinois.

At first, Hesker thought nothing of the pain, although it came on without explanation. He tried treating the problem with home remedies to keep up his active lifestyle. It wasn’t until Hesker lost the ability to lift his foot and was forced to drag his leg as he walked that he finally decided to see his primary care physician about the strange symptoms. The doctor visit led Hesker through a series of ineffective solutions and therapies for his pain before he was referred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. It was there that he was diagnosed with spinal meningioma, a tumor on the membrane surrounding the spinal cord. The spinal tumor was compressing the cord and resulting in Hesker’s loss of motor functions.

Because of the size and location of the tumor Hesker believed the only solution then was to undergo surgery to have the tumor removed. He was then referred to Wilson Zack Ray, MD, a Washington University neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital who specializes in spine and nerve surgery.

“Dr. Ray addressed all of my concerns and really put my mind at ease,” Hesker said about his decision to have surgery.

For some patients, removal of a spinal tumor can prove too risky and, worst case scenario, result in paralysis. Other options for treatment are radiation therapy to shrink the tumor and prevent new ones from forming, or taking medication to simply treat the symptoms. Hesker, with the recommendations of Dr. Ray, went through with the surgery.

“Mr. Hesker’s tumor was reasonably rare because of its location, which made the procedure more difficult,” Dr. Ray said. “We did ultimately accomplish our goal and were able to remove it though.”

After the surgery, Hesker’s pain subsided and he regained the lost motor function in his legs. Something as simple as pulling his toes back, which had once caused him a great deal of pain, was no longer a struggle.

“It was really miraculous and I owe it all to the people at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University,” Hesker said.

Hesker eventually went home with his ability to walk normally restored and he was able to return to working in his yard and spending time with his family.

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Category: Neurology & Neurosurgery, Patient Stories, Spine

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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