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Car Accident Reveals Lemon-Sized Tumor

When Julio Molina of Little Elm, Texas, was in a serious car accident in early 2020, he felt fortunate to walk away with minor injuries and just a few scratches on his face. But while in the emergency room, a routine CT scan to check for internal injuries found something quite alarming. A large tumor was growing on Julio’s spinal cord, threatening his mobility and quality of life.

The tumor was a Schwannoma tumor and it was slowly destroying Julio’s spine. Cancerous or not, if 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 but thought he just had a pinched nerve in his back.

“Sometimes my neck and the back of my head would feel numb, and every couple of months, my hands would become numb,” said Julio. “I didn’t know it, but the tumor was putting pressure on my spinal cord.” Julio learned he would require surgery to have it removed and our own Dr. Ricky Kalra, who serves on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian in Plano, was just the neurosurgeon for the job.

Surgery in the Days of COVID-19

In the middle of a world health pandemic, the 27-year-old expectant father was understandably nervous about having surgery in the days of COVID-19. He worried about contracting the virus and bringing it home to his girlfriend and unborn baby daughter. But the seriousness of his condition, the tingling and numbness caused by the growing tumor, and the impending loss of motor function meant surgery was his best chance of feeling completely healthy again.

Dr. Kalra performed Julio’s spine surgery, a procedure that took ten hours to complete, at Texas Health Presbyterian Plano. “The tumor was wrapped around his cervical spinal cord and the vertebral artery. It was pushing on the spinal cord and compressing the nerves that go down to your hands,” said Dr. Kalra.

To stop the tumor from corroding the vertebrae in Julio’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 delicate surgery took weeks of planning.

Blessing in Disguise

Thankfully, Julio’s tumor was benign and his recovery is going well. Physical therapy is helping him to regain neck strength. He considers the accident a blessing in disguise and says he felt completely safe having surgery during the pandemic. “Knowing that the tumor is out, I can raise my daughter with the quality of life that I would like to have,” said Julio.

Julio’s story understandably attracted quite a bit of media attention. Watch Dr. Kalra interviewed in Julio’s story by clicking any of the links below.