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Peebles man saved by three men and a miracle

Source: The People's Defender

Author: Carleta Weyrich

Published: August 14, 2013

Last November, about five days after Thanksgiving, Ronald Porter, 63, of Peebles had an upset stomach. Thinking he had a virus, he and his family had no idea that within six weeks he would be diagnosed as a cancer victim with no hope. Enter into this man's life a team of three men and a miracle procedure.

Porter's illness did not improve, but instead his discomfort got worse, and he started having weakness in his right arm and leg, making him unable to work. By Jan. 2 of this year, he was at The Ohio State University James Cancer Center for a laparoscopy to remove his gall bladder, which was cancerous.

"The cancer had spread to his liver, lungs and brain," said Nadine Porter, his wife. "We were told nothing could be done. They recommended hospice and sent us home."

Porter's ability to walk was impaired, and his condition was quickly going down hill. Not willing to give up, his son, Jason Porter, looked for someone to give a second opinion. Fortunately a relative of Porter's stepson, Shawn Swayne, saw information about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America on TV. Shawn called Jason, who contacted the center. The next day, on Jan. 4, staff at the center set up an appointment for Porter and made travel arrangements for him and his family.

The Porters arrived at the Midwest Regional Medical Center in Zion, Ill., halfway between Chicago, Ill. and Milwaukee, Wis. on Jan. 10. At the time Porter had to use his left arm to lift his right leg and arm onto the wheelchair. Twelve days later Dr. Alzate performed the first of two surgeries on Porter with a new minimally invasive procedure. He was among the first patients in the country to have the Six Pillar Approach to remove a brain tumor from deep within the subcortical region of the brain. In that location, it was typical for tumors to be considered untreatable.

"The main goal of the procedure is to not incur any more injury," said Dr. Juan Alzate, a neurosurgeon at CTCA at the Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Illinois. "What is most important as an outcome is to improve the patient's quality of life."

During the procedure, Alzate cut a 4-5 cm incision, then accessed the brain through an opening drilled in the bone the size of a dime. He then utilized an MRI for brain mapping using different colors to show where the functional areas of the brain were located, GPS navigation technology, and a tool or tube called BrainPath to safely move through the natural folds and delicate fibers of the brain to reach the tumor.

The tool displaces tissue rather than cutting it, which lowers the risk of damage to healthy brain tissue as well as the risk of complications from surgery, according to CTCA. Once in place, BrainPath creates a clear passageway for surgeons to maintain access to the tumor. They then remove the tumor with a NICO Myriad device, smaller than a pen according to Alzate, that cuts and suctions out the tissue.

The surgical procedure took two to three hours, Alzate said. After the surgery, the brain closed itself, he explained, the dura was sutured, and a titanium plate closed the bone.

Midwestern Regional Medical Center is one of 11 hospitals in the nation to offer the Six Pillar Approach, which the center staff says extends life expectancy for some patients and can minimize side effects that brain tumors commonly cause, including loss of speech, sight and mobility. The procedure was pioneered in Canada by Dr. Amin Kassam who trained Alzate. Joseph Mark, is chief technology officer and inventor at the company NICO, which holds the trade mark for Myriad and BrainPath. All three men visited Porter after his surgery.

When he arrived at the center, Porter had three tumors in his brain. One tumor, which affected control of his right side, and a second tumor were removed during the two surgeries. The third tumor, which affected his vision and was originally slated for surgery, shrank with follow-up radiation treatments.

"I had a fast growing cancer, and it was a rare form of cancer," Porter said Tuesday. "I was told that gall bladder cancer is rare in men in the United States.

"I haven't had any pain since the first day I walked into the center. They gave me something, and all they use are natural substances. After the first surgery the nurses came in and asked me if I needed something for the pain. I told them the only discomfort I had was where the sutures were. After the second surgery, I was up walking the next day."

Since the surgeries, Porter has had 14 radiation treatments and 12 chemotherapy treatments at MRMC. He was self employed when he became ill, but due to side effects of weakness from the treatments, he hasn't gone back to work yet, but now he has hope.

"They keep me informed at the center," he said. "I have a team of doctors that takes care of any changes that I need. I've met several other people at the center from Ohio, and people from Hawaii, the Carolinas and other states. One woman had been there six years ago and was cancer free. I just hear story after story. I'm so thankful I went there. I'm doing much better than the alternative I was given in January."

"When we went to the center, everything was taken care of," said Nadine. "We had a place to stay, and they took us to the center. Everyone was so nice and everything was so well organized. It's just a wonderful place. They doctor the person as a whole, not just the cancer."

"There's just a presence when you walk through the door," Porter said. "The good Lord has his hand on that place. Everyone who works there has a pleasant attitude, even the janitors. They teach you that your attitude and knowing you will get better is half of it."

The Porters were also thankful to the people of Adams County and surrounding areas who attended a recent benefit that raised $24,000 to help them through this difficult year.

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