Jack Deliso first noticed the pain in his back in February 2014. At first, it would come and go. But by May the pain was nearly constant.
“It was sharp, stinging, searing,” remembers Jack, now an active 9-year-old who has fallen in love with football. Before his operation in the Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI) at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) last year, he could barely run.
“It was really hard to know what was going on,” says Jack’s dad, Michael, of his son’s pain in 2014. “Sometimes he would tell us about the pain; sometimes he wouldn’t.”
An X-ray of his back had come back normal, and a doctor had recommended physical therapy.
Jack’s parents, Michael and Lisa, knew they had to take action when, during one of Jack’s physical therapy sessions, a particular stretch brought on horrible pain. They remember the therapist looking up at them and saying, “Something else is going on here.”
Another doctor’s visit, a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon and a CT scan led to results that caught everyone by surprise: a large mass of tissue at the base of Jack’s spine.
“The gravity of the situation descended on us,” Michael recalls. “As a parent, you’re responsible for someone’s future every day. This was like that times a million.”
Was the tumor cancerous? Even if it wasn’t cancerous, could it be removed without damaging the nerves that it was pushing against and that it had possibly grown around? Damaging those nerves could result in the permanent loss of bladder and bowel function and the ability to walk.
The Delisos were referred to three specialists at D-H—Eric Henderson, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in cancer at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock; David Bauer, MD, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD); and Sohail Mirza, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and medical director of the Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI).
The team inspired confidence in Jack and his family through their expertise, their willingness to consult with specialists all over the country, and their ability to communicate clearly. Yet Michael and Lisa were still unsure whether they should consider other medical centers.
“This is where the CSI really comes into play,” explains Michael.
The CSI is a revolutionary research and patient-care facility equipped with MRI and CT machines that can move in and out of its operating rooms. This allows surgeons to have a clear, 360-degree view of the region they are operating on during surgery. That ability was crucial in Jack’s situation because the surgeons—Mirza and Bauer—needed to be able to see all the nerves around Jack’s spine as they carefully removed the tumor.
“Why would we go anywhere else?” asks Michael.
Mirza and Bauer removed the tumor from Jack’s spine during a surgery in the CSI in October 2014. Within a few days Jack was up walking around. Within a couple weeks he was back to playing football with his dad.
“Now I want to be a neurosurgeon,” says Jack, “if I can’t be a football player.”