Monday, February 28, 2011 12:00 AM

'Phenomenal neurosurgery center close to home'

Kyle Porter figured he needed to test himself. He decided to write 15 questions for his mom to ask. The 23-year-old knew the answers to these easy questions – but would he still remember after his brain surgery? Kyle was scared. He made his mom promise to quiz him after he woke up from anesthesia.

The college student from Madera had been suffering from headaches for months – now they knew why. After trying other treatments, Kyle’s doctor ordered an MRI and found a tumor.

“It was clear what was wrong, it wasn’t like a ‘Where’s Waldo’ poster, where you had to find what was wrong,” said Kyle. “You could see an object in the center of my brain creating a fluid build-up.”

Frightened at the diagnosis, Kyle’s family didn’t know what to expect.

At left, Kyle Porter, 23, jokes around with his father Daniel Porter just before neurosurgery to remove a rare calcified brain tumor. On the right, Kyle and his mother J.P. Porter celebrate his recovery before he leaves Community Regional Medical Center.

“When he was first diagnosed with this tumor we thought, oh gosh, he’s going to have to go to Stanford or UCLA,” his mom, J.P. Porter said. “And that’s when we found out about neurosurgeon Meg Verrees and that Community Regional Medical Center had a phenomenal neurosurgery center close to home.”

The Central California Neuroscience Institute is a one-of-a-kind center that brings together clinical experts and therapists to help patients with brain tumors, like Kyle’s, as well as stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and so much more. It’s part of Community Regional’s Neuroscience center of excellence, which includes a 52-bed neuroscience unit dedicated to spine and brain patients and a combination of neurosurgical technologies and services offered only a few places in the country. The technology includes the Gen4 CyberKnife®, two 64-slice CT scanners, new neuroscience operating suite, three dimensional real-time surgical imaging equipment and faculty surgeons from UC San Francisco, one of the nation’s top medical schools.

The family was relieved to find such a high caliber physician and center right here at home.

Kyle’s surgery was scheduled about a week after he found out about the tumor. On the day of his surgery Kyle and his family were comforted by the staff.

“The morning before surgery the neurosurgical nurses spent a lot of time with us getting Kyle to be calm, getting us to be calm,” she said. “It was wonderful. They took that extra effort and explained everything to us.”

Dr. Meg Verrees said the surgery was challenging:  “We found out that Kyle’s tumor was an extremely rare tumor. We had to figure out how we were going to approach it.” There were actually two tumors – an old one that had calcified a long time ago and a new one that grew over it.

“Once we began surgery, it took 2 to 2 ½ hours and after it was done, he woke up and it was Kyle,” Dr. Verrees said. “He wanted to eat, he wanted to drink – he didn’t have a headache. What he really wanted was to not have a headache.”

After his surgery Kyle reminded his mom about his list. “Right after surgery I asked him his questions and before I could even get them out he was answering them – he wanted to know he could do it and he wanted me to know he was okay,” she said. He readily ticked off the correct answers to questions about family members’ names, childhood memories and pop culture.

Kyle’s mom said the questions were all Kyle’s idea. “He said, ‘Mom, I want you to ask me these questions right after I have the surgery. This way you’ll know where I’m at and I’ll know where I’m at.’”

Now, back at home, Kyle’s on the mend. His family is glad to have him doing so well. “We are so grateful to the folks at Community Regional,” said his mom. “We are truly blessed in this community to have this facility and what I want everyone to get from this is to know it’s there.”

This story was reported by Mary Lisa Russell. She can be reached at