Scrubbing in for a day of brain surgery

October 4, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Newcastle resident Max Kosobutsky was among those invited by the Swedish Neuroscience Institute to become brain surgeons for a day Aug. 24.

The event, hosted by the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment, was held at Swedish’s Cherry Hill campus in Seattle.

The purpose of the event was to give participants a look into the work being done to cure brain cancer and raise awareness of one of the most malignant cancers in the world, which affects more than 22,000 people in the United States.

By Greg Farrar
Max Kosobutsky (right), of Newcastle, a Bellevue College student, is guided by Medtronic clinical specialist Lisa Echandia as he inserts a stealth navigation pointer into a plastic head model, which combined with a magnetic field emitter, shows the structure of a brain.

The 20-year-old Newcastle resident had the chance to closely examine a human brain, experiment with surgical devices and learn about brain surgery from Dr. Greg Foltz, a neurosurgeon at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.

Kosobutsky, a student at Bellevue College, said he hopes to enter the medical field in the future, which is why he jumped at the chance to become a brain surgeon for a day.

“I’m an aspiring nursing student and I’m very interested to get as much experience and different viewpoints from other people about the field itself so that I get an idea of what I’m going into,” he said. “So, I can definitely relate it to my career interests. I didn’t think twice about signing up for it.”

The day began with a presentation from Foltz, who showed the group a video of a brain surgery he performed just days before.

Next, participants, dressed in scrubs and gloves, had the opportunity to work with instruments like the ones Foltz used in his surgery.

As Kosobutsky entered the room with all of the tools, he stood in amazement at the technology that surrounded him.

From using a drill to remove a bone flap from a plastic skull, to dissolving the inner part of an orange with a tool that does the same to tumors, he said he appreciated working with the high-tech tools and learning the intricacies of brain surgery.

Using the tools was particularly helpful for Kosobutsky, who wants to become a perioperative nurse, also known as a surgeon’s assistant. It will take about six years of schooling, but he said he is determined to make it through, and opportunities like this will only help.

“I thought it was a lot of fun getting to play with all of the tools,” he said. “With my plan to become a perioperative nurse, they basically assist surgeons by using tools and preparing all of the instruments for the surgical room. So, it was great to get some hands-on experience.”

After the hands-on skills session, the participants went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment and its research lab. The event ended with a question-and-answer session with a brain cancer survivor and Foltz.

In his presentation, Foltz said brain cancer is highly aggressive and incurable, with a survival rate of only one or two years. He added that, during surgery, he can effectively remove a brain tumor 85 percent of the time. So, one of the keys to curing the disease, he said, is to prevent reoccurrence of the tumor.

The goal of the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment is to provide brain tumor patients with a multidisciplinary team of doctors whose entire focus is to treat both benign and malignant brain tumors.

“We set up this center with the idea that we were going to optimize each patient’s chances of survival,” Foltz said.

Kosobutsky said he was thankful for the opportunity to attend the event and knows it will help him as he works toward a medical degree.

“It definitely taught me a lot and it will keep me educated about advancements in surgical technology,” he said. “You’ve got to know what’s going on in the world and I feel like Brain Surgeon for a Day definitely gave me a little taste for what’s happening regarding brain cancer.”

Almost 100 people entered for a chance to participate in the event. Due to space limitations, 25 people were randomly chosen to attend. Attendees ranged in age from 15 to 74.

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