When Alex Rodriguez was 8 years old, he began experiencing numbness in his right hand, particularly when trying to grip a pencil. Alex’s mother, Lisi Guerrier, first assumed that her budding student was simply trying to dodge his homework. She was completely unprepared for a Broward neurologist’s diagnosis: Alex had a tumor in the left lobe of his brain, perilously close to the area that controlled his motor movement.
For several years, doctors in Hollywood near the family’s home monitored the benign tumor. They recommended against surgical removal due to concerns that the procedure would impair Alex’s motor ability. So the family waited. Alex, a straight A student, was put on medication to control seizures associated with the tumor.
Having heard about the world-renowned team at Nicklaus Children's Brain Institute, Ms. Guerrier brought Alex to see neurosurgeon Dr. David Sandberg in July 2006. “He was the first doctor we’d spoken to who was confident he could
remove the tumor without impacting Alex’s motor skills,” she said. “He assured us he would not do anything that would leave Alex in a worse situation. But he felt surgery would make it possible for him to live a completely normal life. “Without the procedure, it was unlikely that Alex would ever be able to drive a car because he was prone to break-through seizures even while on his medication.”
To set the stage for surgery, Dr. Sandberg first worked with Dr. Trevor Resnick, Director of the Division of Neurology at the Brain Institute, to pinpoint the precise location of the tumor and the seizure activity. Then, in December 2006, Dr. Sandberg removed the tumor using intraoperative motor mapping technology developed by the Nicklaus Children's Brain Institute. The technology supports the surgical team in ensuring that all tissue necessary to preserve motor skills is left intact.
When school resumed in January 2007, Alex was back in the classroom. Today, at 13, he is completely seizure-free with no motor impairment. The Indian Ridge Middle School seventh grader continues to rack up mostly straight A report cards and plays trumpet in band.
As for Dr. Sandberg, he is the family’s hero. “He is the most amazing, gentle person,” said Ms. Guerrier. “ Throughout the entire process he was so caring and thoughtful. We are so fortunate that Alex was in his care.”
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