A Frisco man is back on his feet after a car accident revealed a lemon-sized tumor in his spine.
On April 16, 2020, 27-year-old Julio Molina was in car accident, which resulted in minor injuries, including scratches on his face.
To make sure he didn’t have internal injuries, Molina went to the ER at Texas Health Hospital Frisco.
X-ray images revealed a possibly cancerous tumor growing on his spine, threatening his mobility and quality of life.
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“He had a large Schwannoma tumor destroying his spine,” said Ricky Kalra, M.D., a neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano and chair of the hospital’s surgery department.
Cancerous or not, whether left untreated, it could lead to breathing and muscle problems, even paralysis of the face.
For more than two years, Molina unknowingly experienced one of those symptoms.
“At the time, I just thought I had a pinched nerve in my back,” Molina said.
“Sometimes my neck and the back of my head would feel numb, and every couple of months my hands would become numb. I didn’t know it, but the tumor was putting pressure on my spinal cord.”
"It terrified me. The thing that scared me the most was probably how my mom and family would take it. I did try to keep it to myself. I did tell a few select people," said Molina.
That select few included Molina's girlfriend, who told him just a few weeks later, she was expecting their first child.
"As soon as I heard that, all my other thoughts went out the window. I wasn't scared. I wasn't worried. I knew that this was my reason to fight," said Molina.
Molina underwent an intricate, almost 10-hour spine procedure performed at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano to remove the tumor.
To stop the tumor from corroding the vertebrae in Molina’s spine, Dr. Kalra performed a laminectomy, in which he removed the corroded vertebrae. He then performed a spinal fusion to permanently connect several vertebrae in Molina’s spine.
The surgery took weeks of planning.
"If you get into the right hands and they are comfortable doing the surgery, you will come out on the other side just fine. It’s the planning part. It’s the other stuff that happens before the surgery that you have to discuss ahead,' said Kalra.
After the tumor was removed, a pathology report determined the tumor was non-cancerous, and Molina now has six screws and two rods securely holding his spine in place.
He's now in rehabilitation to gain neck strength and may one day tell her daughter about the car crash that saved his livelihood.
"Knowing that the tumor is out, I can raise my daughter with the quality of life that I would like to have."