MAYWOOD, IL — Beth DeGeeter was understandably terrified when she learned she had a large brain tumor pressing on her brain and spinal cord.
But Loyola University Medical Center neurosurgeon Vikram Prabhu, MD, was able to put her mind at ease.
“He told me I didn’t need to worry about it. He would take care of it and everything would be fine,” Mrs. DeGeeter said. “And I believed him.”
Mrs. DeGeeter’s confidence was well placed. In a complex, staged procedure, Dr. Prabhu and his multidisciplinary team of nurses, residents, anesthesiologists and other clinicians successfully removed the tumor without damaging any surrounding brain tissue.
“I woke up and I was walking and talking and moving,” Mrs. DeGeeter said. She went home a few days after surgery on her 50th birthday and made a full recovery.
“I am exactly the same. Nothing is different from what it was before,” Mrs. DeGeeter said. “I was given another chance of life.”
Mrs. DeGeeter, who lives in Naperville, first noticed something was wrong during a golf tournament. She bent down to pick up a golf ball, and when she tried to stand up straight, she got so dizzy she had to hold on to a golf cart. “It felt like everything was moving and I was moving,” she recalled.
An MRI showed that Mrs. DeGeeter had a benign tumor, called a hemangioblastoma, that was compressing both the spine and cerebellum (the part of the brain at the back of the skull).
The neuro-oncology team at Loyola’s Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center consists of Edward Melian, MD, Kevin Barton, MD, and Dr. Prabhu. Together they treat hundreds of brain tumor patients each year. However, Mrs. DeGeeter’s tumor was a unique challenge.
“We had to come up with a very careful, methodical strategy to protect her cerebellum, brainstem and spinal cord, and to remove the tumor without inflicting injury,” Dr. Prabhu said.
Mrs. DeGeeter’s case was discussed during Loyola’s weekly Neuro-oncology Tumor Board meeting, where cancer specialists from neurosurgery, neurology, radiology and pathology review and discuss medical conditions and treatment options and develop an individualized plan of care for each patient.
Dr. Prabhu enlisted the help of one of his vascular neurosurgery colleagues to reduce the blood supply to the tumor, prior to removing it. The carefully staged operation went smoothly.
Mrs. DeGeeter spent eight days in the hospital. She said she received great care from all the nurses and doctors. “And I can’t say enough about Dr. Prabhu, and his compassion and ability,” Mrs. DeGeeter said. “He’s an amazing doctor.”
Dr. Prabhu trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is used to dealing with complex brain tumors and is very meticulous in his approach. He also values the team around him that helps make the decisions on the optimal approach.
Dr. Prabhu always tries to be aware of how vulnerable patients are when they come to the hospital.
“The hospital environment is not where they want to be or where they belong,” he said. “My bedside manner is predicated by the fact that I have a tremendous respect for the people I care for. I feel grateful they trust my judgment and place their lives in my hands. I am privileged to be able to care for them.”
Dr. Prabhu joined Loyola in 2004 and since then has worked with the same team of nurses and physicians in the neuro-oncology clinic. He is medical director and residency program director of neurological surgery and a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. He has a joint appointment in the Department of Radiation Oncology.
For nearly a decade, Dr. Prabhu has worked with advanced practice nurse Magan Nielsen, who coordinates the Neuro-Oncology Tumor Board. They employ a caring and conscientious approach to their brain tumor patients.
“Our goal is to keep a patient at the highest level of neurological functioning,” Ms. Nielsen said. “It is very rewarding to get a patient back to their life as quickly as possible."