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Sheri Skinner

Sheri Skinner

Co-owner of dental implant lab and nurse, and Gamma Knife patient

Dearborn Heights, Michigan

"When it was time for surgery, Dr. Kotecha took my hand and walked with me to the Gamma Knife room. That moment of compassion and kindness meant so much to me. MidMichigan gave me such good care."

Gamma Knife Makes Pain a Thing of the Past

When Sheri Skinner started experiencing intermittent periods of facial pain, she hoped it was a dental problem. But when her dentist told Sheri her teeth were fine, she knew the pain was a symptom of the brain tumor she’d been diagnosed with a couple of years earlier.

Sheri’s tumor was discovered in December 2004 when she had an MRI to find the cause of her migraine headaches. The MRI revealed she had trigeminal schwannoma, a type of benign brain tumor that can cause numbness, tingling or a stabbing or burning pain in the face. “The headaches were coincidental – they weren’t even related to the tumor – but the tumor was discovered in the process,” Sheri said.

Doctors gave the Dearborn Heights woman several options including watching and waiting. She underwent a second MRI in December 2005 and learned the tumor had grown, but not much. Another MRI in December 2006 showed the tumor had grown a bit more. The increase in size was thought by doctors to be minimal but Sheri became concerned. “The tumor had grown, so it was time to think about doing something,” she said.

One treatment option was traditional brain surgery, called an open craniotomy, but the list of possible complications worried Sheri. Another option was Gamma Knife technology. Gamma Knife uses computerized data from imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs or arteriograms to pinpoint problem areas within the brain and destroy them using multiple beams of gamma radiation – without cutting open the skull. This noninvasive technology is safer than open craniotomy, more precise than any other radiosurgery and offers quicker recovery.

Sheri, a nurse, became her own health advocate. “I got online and got information,” Sheri said. She saw the MidMichigan web site and called the hospital.

“Gamma Knife Coordinator Dennis Ouillette, R.N., was wonderful. I faxed the reports to him and he talked to neurosurgeon Brian Copeland, M.D. I opted to go up there and have Dr. Copeland look at my films and have him examine me. I wanted to make sure things felt right,” Sheri said. The trip to MidMichigan provided the assurance she was looking for. She had the procedure in January 2007.

“When it was time for surgery, the radiation oncologist, Dr. Kotecha, took my hand and walked with me to the Gamma Knife room. It was such a moment of kindness. I thought, ‘This is not something you do for PR. This is just the kind of doctor you are.’ That moment of compassion and kindness meant so much to me. MidMichigan gave me such good care.”

Sheri said the actual Gamma Knife surgery was painless. She was awake during all of it, though very relaxed by medication. “I brought a CD of Frank Sinatra’s music, so I could hear Frank Sinatra all the while,” Sheri said. “They filmed the whole thing and sent me a copy of the tape. I can watch it at home.”

In the recovery area, she drank tea and crackers. “Dennis spent a lot of time with me to make sure I was fine. He still contacts me just to check up.”

Before the procedure, Sheri had a metal framework, called a halo, fixed to her head with small screws. The halo keeps the patient’s head still and in just the right position for Gamma Knife surgery. “I had a little scab on the front two holes from the halo’s screws and the other two scabs were in my hair so you couldn’t see them,” Sheri said. “When I came home, the top of my head was numb for about a week. That was a strange sensation but that went away.”

Once home, she was tired for the next couple of days but soon returned to her normal schedule. The 50-year-old said she’s only had a couple of twinges of facial pain since Gamma Knife surgery. She was impressed by how smoothly the procedure went. “I saw the radiation oncologist Thursday, had the Gamma Knife surgery Friday morning, and by one in the afternoon that day I was on my way back home,” Sheri said. “This was such a smart thing to do. I’m going to go back there for my follow-up MRI.”



Is Gamma Knife Right for You?

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. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, let us review your case. Contact our Gamma Knife Coordinator for more information, or to arrange for a no-obligation review of your records and films by one of our neurosurgeons.