A dog walk and run through the woods in Maple Plain on Sunday to raise money for brain and spinal cord injury research at Hennepin Healthcare brought together supporters and patients. Patients like Alyssa Pfannenstein, who participated in a trial at Hennepin Healthcare after the accident that injured her. It's been one year since Alyssa and her boyfriend, Justin Janssen, climbed into their hammock in a Bemidji park to watch her daughter, Abiliene, play. They didn't realize the tree they tied it to was rotted on the inside. It snapped and landed on Alyssa, breaking her neck.
"I instantly knew I couldn't feel my legs," Alyssa said in October 2017 when we first met her at a Twin Cities hospital. By then she could feel her legs, but she couldn't move them. Since then, she has made lot of progress. She can stand with the help of Justin, who's been with her every step. And with the help of her rehab specialists, she now can put one foot in front of the other and walk up to 200 feet, once a week "I was so shocked and amazed," Alyssa said. She has been positive from the beginning, and that hasn't changed.
"I am surprised but that the same time I always believed I would be. From day one, I just knew I was going to get better, I was going to be able to walk again," Alyssa said. And at this event, as she sees so many others like her who've overcome so much, she's perhaps more optimistic than ever. "I plan to get completely better. I would love to make a full recovery and I think it's possible," Alyssa said.
Her patient, Tommy Alexander Baijnath, is one of those proud young Army soldiers who started experiencing terrible headaches and was suddenly losing an alarming amount of weight. Medevaced to Landstuhl, Germany, and was diagnosed with brain tumor. The tumor was removed and a piece of his skull was replaced with methacrylate cement.
Two years later, Baijnath had to face the fact that his symptoms were back with the regrowth of the tumor, Baijnath was scheduled for surgery with Dr. Samandani. The walnut-sized tumor had grown back and was invading the sagittal sinus – one of the largest draining veins of the brain.
Baijnath’s surgery was helped by the use of two new technologies – one for image guidance during removal of the tumor, and the other relying on a computer generated reconstruction of the skull. StealthStation7's visualization technology helps Dr. Samadani by giving her information about the location of the tumor via 3-D pictures of it inside the brain as she operates. Once Dr. Samadani was confident that the tumor tissue was removed, a further step in the operation involved the placement of a custom-made skull plate attached with screws to “patch” the skull that had become distorted as a result of the earlier operation. And, Baijnath was smiling preparing to return home a few days after this complex, successfull surgery.