Skip to Content



Deborah Sanborn

Deborah Sanborn

Wife, Mother, Grandmother and Gamma Knife Patient

Traverse City, Michigan

“My experience was so positive. I’m really happy I was able to have the Gamma Knife rather than open brain surgery.”

Cutting Edge Brain Surgery Without a Scalpel

After three falls within one week, Deborah Sanborn thought it would be smart to see a doctor. She made the right decision; He discovered a meningioma, a tumor, in her brain.

“The first two falls could be explained,” said the 63-year-old Traverse City resident, “but the third fall, on smooth pavement in a parking lot, had no apparent cause. For that reason itself my doctor said I’d better go and have an MRI.” 

When the MRI showed evidence of a tumor, she was shocked. It had developed between the two areas of her brain that control vision and speech.

“No one in our family had ever had a brain tumor that I knew of. It was just kind of unreal,” she said. 

Then Deb’s doctor referred her to a local neurosurgeon, who gave her some good news. He said that she might be able to have treatment without open brain surgery. 

“My neurosurgeon, John Cilluffo, M.D., recommended the Gamma Knife® program at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland as a good option for me,” she said. 

With Gamma Knife surgery, Deb could avoid open brain surgery, hospitalization, general anesthesia and six or more weeks of recovery. 

Finding Answers

To find out more, she went to Midland and met with Neurosurgeon Brian Copeland, M.D., and Dennis Ouillette, R.N., Gamma Knife nurse manager. They answered all her questions and concerns and Dr. Copeland’s examination determined that Gamma Knife surgery could be used to treat Deb’s tumor.

“They were informative and patient. Everyone was professional, nice and accommodating,” Deb said. “Dr. Copeland and the staff really know what they’re doing. I also felt better just seeing the facility. It was just a very comfortable and I was impressed with it.”

She learned that Gamma Knife surgery doesn’t damage other brain tissue and has minimal risk of infection or hemorrhage. After three-dimensional computer-assisted planning precisely targets the tumor, the Gamma Knife directs 192 cobalt beams, each by a different route. Tissue along the routes is not damaged, but at the exact site of the tumor, the beams intersect to produce a high radiation dose that destroys the tumor cells. The Medical Center has the highest precision model of radiosurgery, the Gamma Knife Perfexion™.

The surgery sounded like the best solution to Deb, so her son drove her back to Midland about a week later for the surgery. The Medical Center’s Hospitality Service arranged their accommodations for the night before the morning appointment.

An Easy Process

“I was a little anxious just prior to the procedure, but it was quite an easy process,” she said. “During the treatment I was able to bring my own music. It was a CD of sounds from Sleeping Bear Dunes: bird calls, waves hitting the beach. It was very relaxing.”

Deb’s morning Gamma Knife treatment went well, and she was on her way home by mid-afternoon. She felt a little under the weather for a couple of days, but only missed one day following surgery at her job as a bookkeeper. 

“My experience was so positive,” she said. “I’m really happy I was able to have the Gamma Knife procedure rather than open brain surgery. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who’d be a candidate for it.”

Gamma Knife is a registered trademark and Perfexion is a trademark of Elekta Group.



MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland is the only provider in Michigan to offer the new Gamma Knife Perfexion model, which provides faster treatment and greater patient comfort. Gamma Knife isn’t a treatment choice for everyone, but for many it can be an excellent option. Talk to your physician to see if you are a possible candidate, or call (866) 644-2662 to review your case with one of our Gamma Knife nurses.