Having a neurosurgeon on staff means rare and more complicated surgical cases can be performed at Kishwaukee Community Hospital. Such was the case when a patient was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor located at the end of the spine.
Neurosurgeon Martin Gryfinski, DeKalb Clinic, said the tumor, which was benign, was the size of a golf ball and was negatively impacting the nerves that serve the lower extremities, bladder, and bowel. The patient, Jim Baenziger, 57, of Kingston, had hernia surgery in 2012, and when he returned to work at the Hampshire body shop where he paints cars, he began experiencing foot pain, under his toes and on the right side of his foot. The pain was annoying enough to make him seek out care from a podiatrist, but the pain didn’t go away, so eventually he saw a physiatrist who performed a nerve test, which determined that there was an abnormality in his lower spine, between L5 and S1. A subsequent MRI revealed a mass on his spine, which was confirmed by a second MRI using a dye.
“I was referred to Dr. Gryfinski at DeKalb Clinic. “What a guy,” Jim said. “He made me feel real comfortable and confident in him.” The mass would have to be surgically removed, and a risk associated with surgery was permanent nerve damage. But Jim felt confident after talking with Dr. Gryfinski about the upcoming surgery and when Jim’s friends found out that he was seeing Dr. Gryfinski for the condition, they remarked how lucky the community is to have him practicing here.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a tumor,” said Dr. Gryfinski who has been practicing neurosurgery for more than 20 years. Dr. Krishna Reddy, Medical Director of Pathology and Clinical Lab at Kish Hospital, studied the tumor in the lab and remarked that he had never seen such a tumor in his career. He said, “In my 36 years of pathology practice, this is the first time a neurosurgical lesion has been removed at our hospital. I am very pleased that Dr. Gryfinski was able to remove it with such an excellent outcome.”
“He told me it would need to come out right away because the longer it was there the more damage it could do to the nerves,” said Jim. Though he never felt much pain from the mass in his back, just a little twinge now and then, nothing excruciating, he now understands why, in addition to his foot pain, he kept having a sensation on his left thigh that felt like his cell phone was vibrating in his pocket.
Dr. Gryfinski performed the nearly three-hour surgery January 28 at Kishwaukee Community Hospital. “Fortunately, it was not cancerous and he was able to get it out without causing nerve damage,” Jim said. “Dr. Gryfinski was awesome, and the nurses were awesome. They helped me keep a positive attitude and I feel that was important for me to get through this.” Jim was very impressed by the care he received from the nurses, CNAs, and physicians who cared for him at the hospital and throughout the diagnostic and treatment process. He was especially impressed when Dr. Gryfinski called him at home one evening to check on him. “We’re both hockey fans, so he knew I would be home watching the game too,” Jim said.
Jim is on the road to recovery and has begun physical therapy to strengthen his spine and anticipates returning to work soon.