“I put my life in their hands and they gave me a life to live.”

Lee and his his girlfriend, Lacey, at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center.

Lee and his girlfriend, Lacey, at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.

There’s something happening at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center that is transforming lives in Milwaukee and across the country. Lee, 44-years-old, is one person whose life was changed after meeting with a team of skilled brain and neck surgeons, as well as the compassionate radiation and medical oncology team at the Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute.

There was an itchy, irritated spot on Lee’s chest that wouldn’t go away. A visit to his local dermatologist in Little Rock, Ark. determined that it was melanoma. The cancerous area was removed not once, twice but five times! On the fifth time, lymph nodes were also removed. A full body scan indicated that there was a spot in his brain. After treatments were completed, Lee was informed that he was cancer free.

A month later, Lee developed stomach issues. After a series of tests he learned that there were 20 tumors in his small intestine, two in his brain and a couple in his left lung. After two years of removing tumors, cancer treatments and a clinical trial, Lee decided that it was time for a second opinion.

In February 2014, Lee met in Milwaukee with Amin Kassam, MD, George C. Bobustuc, MD, and Kenneth T. Bastin, MD, who would perform his surgery. Dr. Kassam and team were able to extract the tumor from Lee’s brain – a tumor that previous physicians told him would be too risky to approach. Lee spent four days in the hospital recovering from the six-hour brain surgery that was performed by removing and reworking his eye socket.

After three weeks, he received the go ahead to return home. “The doctors at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center cared about what was happening to me and how I was doing. Dr. Bobustuc actually called me to make sure that I made it home alright. That’s never happened to me before,” Lee said. “I was losing vision in my right eye and couldn’t walk because the pressure in my brain was so bad prior to the surgery. A day after the surgery, I could walk again.”

Dr. Amin Kassam and other surgeons with the  Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute were featured in a recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Amin Kassam, MD

“When Lee arrived at Aurora St. Luke’s, he couldn’t walk and was having difficulty talking. He was walking and talking with his family the next day. The research performed at the Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute is immensely necessary. We invest in tomorrow’s care because we truly want to change the way we care for conditions and diseases. Our research interests are in cell re-engineering. Our researchers are taking a cell and building a virus that can re-engineer itself into a healthy, non-cancerous cell. Essentially, we want to cure cancer,” Dr. Kassam said.

The research focuses on how changes at the cellular level can possibly predict therapeutics for each individual person. Dr. Kassam continued, “It’s important to treat the person and not just the cancer because the cancer will usually come back.”

Lee knows that all too well as his health care journey continues. The tumors in his lungs and small intestine are shrinking. And he’s on a new, more intense treatment for the cancer in his neck. His belief in his doctors is unwavering, “I put my life in their hands and they responded by giving me a life to live. I arrived at Aurora St. Luke’s unable to walk and half blind. I walked out myself again,” Lee said.

Are you interested in learning more about the Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute? Click here to watch a news video about the opening. You can make a difference by making a donation through Aurora Health Care Foundation to support the Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute at Give.Aurora.org. Your gifts further medical advancements and give people like Lee hope for a cure. 

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