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Lenox Hill Surgeons Save Two Young Professionals from Paralysis Thanks to Spine Tumor Removal Surgery


Two young professionals in Manhattan – Ariel Mikit, 24, a chef and Katya Valevich, 30, an art advisor and real estate agent – were each diagnosed with a complex spinal tumor that could have caused severe paralysis had they not had their tumors removed – threatening their busy careers.

This past May, their tumors were removed at Lenox Hill Hospital by a multidisciplinary team of neurosurgical and spine surgeons including John Boockvar, MD, neurosurgeon and the hospital's vice chair, department of neurosurgery; Mitchell Levine, MD, spine surgeon and the hospital's director of spine surgery; and, Jonathan Oren, MD, spine surgeon.

"Both Mr. Mikit and Ms.Valevich had tumors that were basically crushing their spinal cord," said Dr. Boockvar. "In both cases, we used minimally invasive surgical approaches to open the lining of the spinal cord and entirely remove both tumors using microsurgical techniques. Careful attention to a water tight closure of the spinal canal ensured no post operative spinal fluid leaks, infection or neurological worsening."

Several months ago, Mr. Mikit experienced numbness in his right leg and left arm and collapsed while at work. That evening, he went to a hospital in Brooklyn and underwent a computed axial tomography (CAT) scan, but it didn't reveal any abnormalities. Believed to have been muscle spasms, Mr. Mikit was referred to an orthopedic physician who ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The MRI revealed a large, kiwi-sized cervical spinal tumor, which was located between the spine's vertebrae, causing numbness and limited function of extremities.

If the tumor had gone unnoticed and left untreated, Mr. Mikit was told he could have been a quadriplegic. He immediately researched online and came across Dr. Boockvar's name, known for having performed surgeries with similar complex cases.

On May 1st, Mr. Mikit had a consultation with Dr. Boockvar. Upon reviewing the MRI and CAT scans, Dr. Boockvar explained how he, along with the hospital's spine surgery team, would be able to remove the spinal tumor in a two-part surgery which was performed this past month. The first part of surgery was done by Drs. Boockvar and Levine and involved the removal of the tumor that was located on the spinal cord and the second part of surgery done by Drs. Boockvar and Oren involved more tumor removal and a posterior fusion of the vertebrae, which provided Mr. Mikit with the necessary stability and proper cervical spine alignment. Both of the surgeries were a success in the removal of the tumor and preserving nerve function.

For Ms. Valevich, her first symptom occurred in 2012 when she experienced numbness in her left leg. She had an MRI, which revealed a walnut-sized thoracic spinal tumor that was compressing her spinal cord, which caused discomforting symptoms. However, she was nervous about having spinal tumor removal surgery. Years passed and it wasn't until August 2016, when she was in yoga class, couldn't balance and realized that this was the turning point for her to seek a surgeon who could remove the tumor. A family friend recommended she see Dr. Boockvar and upon meeting him this past May, she immediately felt confident in his expertise. Ms. Valevich's surgery was performed by Dr. Boockvar and Dr. Oren.

Both Mr. Mikit and Ms.Valevich will be able to resume their professional careers and are thankful to the neurosurgical and spine surgery team for giving them a chance to have their lives back.

For more information about Lenox Hill's department of neurosurgery, click here or call 212-434-3900.

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About Lenox Hill Hospital
Lenox Hill Hospital, a member of Northwell Health, is a 652-bed, fully accredited, acute care hospital located on Manhattan's Upper East Side with a national reputation for outstanding patient care and innovative medical and surgical treatments. US News & World Report has ranked the hospital among the nation's top 50 in Cardiology and Heart Surgery and among the top 10 hospitals in the state of New York with a total of 11 "high performing" designations for its clinical performance in Cancer, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology and Urology. For more information, go to

Michelle Pipia-Stiles
631-708-9255/[email protected]

Barbara Osborn
212-434-2400/[email protected]

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