Sternau told Marshall to take things slow and prohibited him from ever wanting to climb Mount Everest.
But with medical and physical preparation, Marshall and a group of family members went to Kilimanjaro. He scaled the mountain and took pictures at the top, holding a sign that read, “Thank you Dr. Linda Sternau for making this possible.”
Sternau said she uses minimal invasive techniques where patients do not experience dramatic swelling, do not have to shave their head in a radical way and are able to recover quickly.
Although younger patients recover much quicker, Sternau, who conducted a successful brain surgery on a patient in her 90s, said brain surgery does not have an age limit.
In addition to the conventional brain surgery, where the patient is asleep, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is looking at alternative ways to combat neurological problems.
Among those methods is awake craniotomy surgery, where a patient is awake during surgery and able to provide the doctor with real-time results of the operation.
“I remember him behind me and I was doing a lot of praying. He would say things like ‘move your left ankle, move your left knee, give me a peace sign, squeeze your fingers’ ” said Mary Ann Kubisak, who recently went through an awake craniotomy surgery. “I remember when he said, ‘I think I’ll be able to get it out’ and when he said ‘I got it.’ That’s hard to forget.”
Kubisak, from Winter Springs, had been diagnosed with stage four Glioblastoma multiforme, a common and aggressive malignant brain tumor. Her tumor was in the front lobe of her brain and doctors told her it was inoperable.
But Dr. Ricardo Komotar, assistant professor of neurological surgery and director of surgical neurooncology at UM, told her it would be possible through an awake craniotomy.
“You use it when tumors are in a critical region of the brain, areas that control functions, language or movement,” Komotar said. “You see what’s going in real time and you see if there is a problem. The difference is the anesthesia. There is no difference for the surgeon.”
Komotar is also performing laser tumor ablations, a technique he believes will eventually become the standard in brain surgery.
The method uses a 3-millimeter laser probe into the brain. The probe reaches the tumor and delivers controlled radio-frequency energy to destroy the tumor, without harming healthy brain tissue.
“It cooks the tumor from the inside out,” Komotar said. “It is used for patients who have run out of options, deep, inoperable tumors, but it will eventually become standard.”
Although all brain surgeries are different, patients seem to have one thing in common: a new appreciation for life.
“When it was over I just started crying and I remember saying thank you to everybody,” said Kubisak, who cried as she remembered her experience. “I knew I could start looking ahead again. My life changed 100 percent. Everyday, little worries just seem to fade away. Little things don’t matter anymore.”