Laurenz first experienced some balance problems and hearing loss back in 1996. He went to a general practitioner (GP) who thought he might have had a buildup of wax. Then, after a few more weeks, he went to a GP again who thought it might be a virus. Over that Christmas, his mother made him make a New Year’s resolution and encouraged him to consult an ENT specialist who confirmed Laurenz was losing his hearing and asked him to come back in a week’s time for an MRI.
Just before his 22nd birthday, Laurenz was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a type of non-cancerous brain tumor also known as a vestibular schwannoma. The tumor was large, nearly the size of a golf ball located between the brain and the inner ear. Unfortunately, it was growing for a number of years. The good news was it was benign and that it was all self-contained. Laurenz met Mr. Daniel Rawluk, neurosurgeon on a Friday who said: “We’re operating on Monday morning to remove all of the tumor.” On the Monday morning, Laurenz went for a 14-hour operation, then went from intensive care to a high dependency unit to a ward. About a month later, he was discharged from hospital. A few months after the operation, his neuro surgeon discovered that he was leaking CSF, a cerebrospinal fluid. Laurenz had to go back again to the hospital, but before undergoing a second operation, the clinical team wanted him to get as well as he could for the next operation. He was recovering at home for almost six months. When Laurenz woke up from the second operation early summer, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He was very weak after the second operation, but as the operation wasn’t successful, he needed a third one. The clinical team left it for a few weeks. The second and third operations were only to repair the wall of the brain. They were nothing to do with the tumor. The tumor was successfully removed after the first operation. The third operation proved successful and Laurenz went back to work in the Autumn of 1997.
Five years later in 2002, he got an all-clear. As part of the routine, Laurenz was asked to go back in 5 years again for an MRI. At that time in 2007, unfortunately, the tumor was found to be recurring. The tumor was very small, and it certainly wasn’t life threatening. It could be left for a number of years without any treatment, but it would eventually become threatening. The procedure at the time, Mr. Rawluk suggested, was observation, which he did for the next couple of years. At that time, Mr. Rawluk mentioned a treatment that was available in the US called “stereotactic radiosurgery”, a non-invasive surgery option known as the CyberKnife® System. Laurenz was very, very, interested in something like this as he wanted to avoid open surgery. He would have gone to the US, to Munich or London if it would have been necessary. So, he googled it.
So in early 2013, Mr. Rawluk felt that the tumor was now of a size that it was the optimum for treatment. It just happened that it coincided with the installation of the CyberKnife System at the Hermitage Clinic, the first in Ireland. Laurenz confidently underwent CyberKnife treatment, he happened to be the first. For his treatment, Laurenz was brought in the radiation oncology department for a couple of preparation steps: he had his mask done for him and had to have some up-to-date MRIs. He looked at YouTube videos to understand the procedure and he was shown the machine as well before the treatment. It was debated as to whether he would have one or two treatments. In the end, they said one. The procedure was prepared by the neurosurgeon who marked out the volume he wanted to treat and the areas that he wanted to miss. Then the physicist worked out how to treat it and prepared the plan. The robot, therefore, is ultimately programmed to match up with what has been planned. Laurenz only had one treatment of 45 minutes, this was in November 2013. He chose to keep his eyes closed and said a few prayers. It was his own way of dealing with these things and kept him nice and relaxed.
After the procedure, he got up and went back out to the waiting area where his parents and his wife were waiting. They sat there for a few minutes and then they were invited to go home, so he and his family went for lunch. The doctors put him on a medication, which was basically ibuprofen. He took it because he was told to but felt he really didn’t need it. No side effects. No pain. No recovery time. He never got a headache.
Laurenz goes back to Mr. Rawluk nearly on an annual basis since. It was okay for 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately, there are signs of the tumor recurring again. Again, it’s not an issue. It’s not a problem in that what’s there now is very, very, small. It’s not causing him any symptoms and he will remain under observation, and he may have to have a CyberKnife treatment at some point in the future.
Laurenz today thanks Mr. Rawluk, Dr Clare Faul, Gillian Moore and all the team at the Hermitage for their professional and caring approach which makes the experience far easier for the patient. Laurenz makes a point of calling into the radiotherapy department each time he goes back for appointments. Laurenz feels that for what they do day in and day out, they don’t get enough thanks.
Laurenz is living life to the full, Laurenz has completed a Ph.D. in education, and has worked with street children in Romania. In addition to being dedicated to getting people back to work, he also runs marathons, coaches athletics with Moycarkey Coolcroo AC, and coaches juvenile hurling and football with Moycarkey Borris GAA club. But, most importantly, Laurenz is devoted to his lovely family.
As of the creation of this patient profile, Laurenz found his CyberKnife treatment to be successful.