After surviving a terrible car accident earlier this year when his car flipped and hit a tree, Julio Molina went to the emergency room to make sure he didn’t have any internal injuries. Luckily, the wreck only caused a few scrapes and bruises – but, scarily, the X-rays revealed a significant and possibly cancerous tumor growing on his cervical spine, threatening his mobility and quality of life.
“I was dealing with so many obstacles — the total wreckage of my car, finding out I had a tumor — and a week after the accident I learned my girlfriend and I would soon welcome our first child into the world,” Molina said in a recent press release. “That was a lot to digest at one time.”
Two months after the accident, Molina underwent an intricate, eight-hour spine procedure performed at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano to remove the tumor. The tumor that doctors may never have found in time without the car accident!
Ricky Kalra, M.D., a neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano and chair of the hospital’s surgery department, said “He had a large Schwannoma tumor destroying his spine. Located at the base of his skull, the tumor was compressing his cervical spinal cord and the vertebral artery. Because of their size and location, these types of tumors can cause devastating symptoms, including muscle weakness and numbness, hearing problems and even facial paralysis.”
When he heard this, the pieces started to fit together for Molina: he had been experiencing what he thought was a pinched nerve in his back for more than two years.
“At the time, I just thought I had a pinched nerve in my back,” Molina said. “Sometimes my neck and the back of my head would feel numb, and every couple of months, my hands would become numb. I didn’t know it, but the tumor was putting pressure on my spinal cord.”
To stop the tumor from corroding the vertebrae in Molina’s spine, Kalra performed a laminectomy, in which he removed the corroded vertebrae. He then performed a spinal fusion to permanently connect several vertebrae in Molina’s spine.
“It’s an intricate process that involves a surgeon using an intraoperative CT scanner and a GPS navigation system along with a high-powered microscope, all to find and extract the tumor,” Kalra said.
Molina’s tumor, about the size of a lemon, was surgically removed.
“My mind was racing. I didn’t know the outcome of the surgery, and I still didn’t know if I had cancer,” Molina said. “I just knew I couldn’t give up. I had to be there for my unborn child.”
Spending several days recovering at Texas Health Plano, Molina worked with physical therapists. “I started out using a walker, and then the therapists tied a belt around my waist to help me with my balance,” he said. “By the time I left, I was walking without assistance, which was great.”
A pathology report soon determined the tumor was non-cancerous, and Molina now has six screws and two rods securely holding his spine in place.
“I have to admit, I was depressed at times, but my faith in God and my family got me through everything,” he said. “I never imagined I’d be where I am today. After surgery, I had to learn how to walk all over again. But now I’m back at work and walking on my own. I’m enjoying life and looking forward to welcoming my child into the world next year.”
To learn more about customized care at Texas Health Plano, click on Neuroscience Services.
Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 27 hospital locations. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,000 licensed hospital beds, 6,200 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 23,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org