Juan Sanchez is a restaurant manager who works long, busy hours. In late 2019, while at work, Sanchez began to experience weakness, tingling and numbness in his left foot. He initially put off seeing his primary care physician, but as the symptoms began spreading to his left arm and hand, Sanchez made the choice to seek medical care at UF Health.
Sanchez met with Jeremy Coleman, MD, medical director at UF Health Family Medicine – Wildlight, who ordered an MRI of his neck. While waiting for the results of the MRI, Sanchez returned to work.
Hours later, Sanchez missed a follow-up call from Coleman. Due to the urgency of the situation, a nurse called Sanchez’s girlfriend, Stephanni Marin, who was listed as his emergency contact.
“The nurse told her to get ahold of me right away and let me know I shouldn’t look up or down or lift anything heavy for a long period of time,” Sanchez said. “I was carrying two large buckets of ice in the restaurant when Stephanni told me.”
The MRI revealed a dark spot on Sanchez’s neck, which Coleman suspected was the cause of Sanchez’s weakness on his left side. Coleman referred Sanchez to Kourosh Tavanaiepour, DO, medical director at the UF Health Comprehensive Spine Center – North.
Additional scans clearly disclosed the presence of a tumor between the C6 and C7 vertebrae, which was blocking the flow of spinal fluid from his brain to his spine.
The highly trained physicians, nurses and clinical specialists at the UF Health Comprehensive Spine Center – North work together to give each patient individualized attention before, during and after surgery. Although Sanchez’s case was rare and complicated, the spine center’s multidisciplinary team was prepared to identify and remove the tumor.
“When I left the office, I was full of emotions,” Sanchez said. “I was scared, but I knew I would be OK because Dr. Tavanaiepour was very calm and confident they could help me.”
Although Sanchez’s symptoms were relatively mild at the time, it was imperative to schedule his surgery as soon as possible. Not only was the tumor growing at an unknown rate, but Tavanaiepour’s team did not know if the mass was cancerous. These variables could complicate treatment options and recovery, making it necessary to get a sample immediately.
“If Mr. Sanchez continued to get weaker, we may not have been able to get him back to 100%. We wanted to bite the problem before the problem bit us,” Tavanaiepour said.