NEW HYDE PARK, NY… Fifteen-year-old Blakely Murphy of St. James, LI, is healthy and happy, living pain free and enjoying the great passion of her life -- playing volleyball with her friends -- just two months after surgery to remove a brain tumor that previously would have been inoperable.
Steven Schneider, MD, Co-Chief, Pediatric Neurosurgery at Cohen, performed his second surgery in April on the teenager, this time using a new, minimally invasive technology called NICO BrainPath® to remove a tumor that was buried in the area of her brain controlling movement and language skills. The new device, developed in Indianapolis, is integrated with other advanced technology in brain navigation, brain mapping, tumor removal, optics and resection to create the Six Pillar approach. And now Blakely is better than ever.
Dr. Schneider is the first surgeon in New York and among the first in the U.S. trained to remove cancerous and non-cancerous, deep-seated brain tumors, cysts and hemorrhages using this new technology. Currently, there are only 14 sites in the country where the Six Pillar approach is used. Cohen is the only children’s hospital in the US offering this groundbreaking surgical approach to its patients.
During a press conference held at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Dr. Schneider explained how the Six Pillar approach offered a more positive outcome to patients living with deep-seated brain tumors. Traditionally, he noted, surgery to remove brain tumors is minimally invasive only when the tumor is close to the skull. Because Blakely’s tumor was deeper in the brain, Dr. Schneider urged Blakely and her family to consider Brainpath®, a new option that offers less risk of affecting speech, memory, vision and other function areas. Also, the new procedure lessens the risk of blood clots, seizures, infection and dramatically reduces recovery time, pain medication and the length of hospital stay for recovery.
“This is absolutely the new gold standard of treatment,” said Dr. Schneider. “Thanks to this new technology, we are able to enter deeper areas of the brain without cutting into delicate tissue. NICO enables surgeons to create an opening into the brain no larger than a dime. I believe the Six Pillar Approach is the final frontier in getting to the under-surface of the brain.”
Blakely’s mother, Dawn, outlined her daughter’s four-year experience with brain surgery.
“Blakely was diagnosed with a non-malignant brain tumor in 2009 after suffering multiple seizures,” she said. “Dr. Schneider performed the first surgery and continued to follow Blakely regularly every few months. In April, nearly four years to the day after her first operation, Blakely became ill with a virus and began to seize. Scans determined that the affected cavity was again filled with tumor, and Dr. Schneider recommended immediate surgery. We had to tell Blakely that she was facing another surgery, but this time she would be able to use new technology that would make her recovery easier.”
For her part, Blakely remembered being awake during the surgery, a common practice to allow vital communication between patient and surgeon.
“I remember sensing some activity, but I wasn’t afraid, “she said. “But, when I started to be aware of the drilling, I asked for more morphine. Through it all, I felt very confident. I had faith in my doctor and the new technology.”
Blakely said she felt more confident going into the second surgery because of Dr. Schneider’s explanation of the Six Pillar technology.
“I’m here today to urge other young people to face their fears and take advantage of new technology if it’s available,” she said. “If I can do it, everyone can do it. We shouldn’t have to live our lives in fear.”
Surgery lasted for 10 ½ hours, and Blakely was able to return home in less than 24 hours. In fact, three days after surgery, she accompanied her volleyball team to its regional tournament. She hopes to graduate college and become a psychologist….and an even better volleyball player.
As a souvenir of her experience at Cohen, Dr. Schneider presented Blakely with a volleyball that had been signed by every member of the surgical team. While posing for photographs with her family, Blakely examined her trophy and said, “There are no words to express my gratitude. I’ve never felt better.”
To see Blakely tell her story, click here: www.northshorelij.com/hospitals/video-library