Dec. 22, 2003 – For restaurant owner William Spain, this year's holiday season will be an extra special one. Three months ago the 57-year-old St. Thomian suffered a seizure at his Harbor Club restaurant. "I was in the back of my restaurant making mozzarella sticks, and the next thing I remember, I was in the emergency room at the Schneider Hospital," he recalled.
While in the ER, it was learned that Spain had a large brain tumor and that surgery was necessary to remove it. Days later he became the first patient to undergo a brain tumor operation in the Virgin Islands.
"The procedure went smoothly," said neurosurgeon Dr. Phillip St. Louis, a native Trinidadian who performed the craniotomy on Spain. "I want to thank the patient for trusting me and trusting the hospital," St. Louis said. "I offered him the choice of going to the States or staying here for the procedure, and after explaining to him that we could do as good a job as anywhere else, he decided to have the operation right here at the Schneider Hospital."
Spain, who's lived on St. Thomas for 20 years, says the decision to have the surgery at Schneider Hospital was an easy one. "It was a no-brainer," he said, chuckling at the unintended pun. "They had everything that was needed; why should we go anywhere else?"
Fortunately for Spain, the tumor was nonmalignant. Following surgery, he spent three days in the hospital's intensive care unit and was discharged four days later.
The good news is that the survival rate for those with brain tumors is increasing, according to Dr. David Weisher, neurologist with Schneider Hospital. "At the post-op visit performed on Oct. 14, Mr. Spain did extremely well and had a normal neurological exam and a complete recovery," Weisher said. "Removal of this tumor almost always results in a complete cure. We expect him to do very well and live a complete, normal full life."
For Weisher, who came to St. Thomas from the Washington, D.C., area, where he served as chief of neurology at Doctors Community Hospital, the operation represents a "quantum leap in our capabilities at the Schneider Hospital."
"We now have a neurosurgeon here, Dr. St. Louis, and an excellent nursing staff, and we have the ability now to remove these tumors," Weisher said.
According to St. Louis, "Schneider Hospital has made an incredible commitment to neurosurgery. We can now perform 90 to 95 percent of all required neurosurgeries here on the island, from brain microsurgery to a vast array of spinal surgeries." Since joining the hospital staff last February, St. Louis has performed 21 operations.
As for Spain, his recovery is right on schedule. Speaking from his restaurant three days before Christmas, he said he's feeling fine but suffers from fatigue, which the doctors say is to be expected. "Hopefully, I'll be back to normal in no time., he said.
Speaking of his surgery he says, "I don't wish it on anybody, but if something like that happens, be aware that it (Schneider Hospital) is right around the corner, right here in St. Thomas, and you don't have to go to the States or Puerto Rico or anywhere else — they've got help right here."
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