It takes expertise

“As a fourth-generation organic raisin farmer, I followed in my father’s footsteps and joined the Madera, CA family owned business with the plan of inheriting it one day. It’s hard to imagine that only a couple years ago, I suffered a health scare that almost changed the course of my life forever.

Following the 2014 harvest season, I began to experience extreme back pain. Over the course of the next four months, I made multiple visits to my family physician, chiropractor and physical therapist. Nothing, including prescription drugs, would subside the pain. It was when my chiropractor requested an MRI that two cherry-sized tumors on my spinal cord were discovered. After being referred to a local hospital for a biopsy– I was turned down based on the procedure being too risky.”

Local, high-quality care

Scared, nervous and unable to find the support I needed, I took things into my own hands and sought advice from a family friend who recommended Dr. Ian Johnson, chief of neurosurgery for UCSF Fresno at Community Regional Medical Center. My family and I were relieved to find such a high-caliber physical and neuroscience center right here in the Valley. The minute I was in the hands of Dr. Johnson and the Community Regional staff, I instantly felt at ease and knew I was finally with the right surgeon who could care for my medical needs. What impressed me most about Dr. Johnson was how he thoroughly evaluated my case and networked with colleagues before determining how to treat me before diving in.

A life changing procedure

March 7th, 2014 was a day I will never forget. It was the day Dr. Johnson saved me from becoming permanently paralyzed.

Two days prior, I was admitted to Community Regional to biopsy the unknown mass on my spine. The following morning, my condition quickly worsened when I lost all feeling and movement from my chest down. The two cherry-sized tumors were cutting off the circulation to my spinal cord. Rushed into an emergency five-hour surgery, Dr. Johnson removed a large portion of my T6 vertebrae – stabilizing the spine with two titanium rods and eight screws. Based on the tumors’ location, it was determined to be an extremely rare and fast growing form of cancer.

Back at the farm

After a two-week stay at Community Regional, I still had a couple long months ahead with radiation and physical therapy. The most difficult part of my recovery was relearning how to walk again. Alongside my 1-year-old son who was learning to walk for the first time, we would push our walkers down the hallway of our home.

Today, I am healthy and back to my job as the family’s farm manager. My wife and I enjoy spending time on the farm teaching our two young boys the importance of organic farming. I have nothing but good things to say about Community Regional and all the staff. If Dr. Johnson had not acted so quickly, I would be paralyzed today. Words will never describe the amount of gratitude I will forever have for Dr. Johnson and all the folks at Community Regional.

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