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Brain surgery gives Conway woman her life back


Brain surgery gives Conway woman her life back

Health Elizabeth Hurtekant playing pickleball

Conway resident Elizabeth Hurtekant, 77, is thankful to have her quality of life restored following treatment at Tidelands Health.

Elizabeth Hurtekant had no idea the confusion, balance problems and incontinence that haunted her for years could be treated with a minimally invasive surgical procedure.

“I had a hard time thinking, and sometimes I was really tired,” says the Conway resident, 77. “I just didn’t know what was going on with my body. We knew something was wrong.”

Hurtekant and her husband, Kerry, enjoy traveling the country in their RV. However, after several falls and doctor appointments in Maine, Hurtekant’s condition remained undiagnosed, and she was left with more questions than answers.

After relocating to Conway in April 2023, she finally got an answer from Tidelands Health neurologist Dr. Michael McCaffrey, who diagnosed her with fluid on the brain and referred her for treatment to Tidelands Health neurosurgeon Dr. Oluwaseun Omofoye.

Elizabeth Hurtekant playing pickleball

Drs. Omofoye and McCaffery are part of the advanced neurosciences program at Tidelands Health, our region’s largest health care provider.

“When I saw Elizabeth, she had all of the classic symptoms of idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus,” says Dr. Omofoye. “Hydrocephalus, the buildup of spinal fluid in the brain, is very common in older patients and can manifest without a specific cause, as in Elizabeth’s case. It can also be caused from a traumatic brain injury or brain bleed.”

Hurtekant’s condition, confirmed by CAT scan and MRI, was unrelated to an injury but was characterized by enlarged ventricles in her brain — a hallmark of hydrocephalus.

Aside from the ventricle enlargement, Hurtekant had trouble walking, cognitive impairment and frequent urination.

Often mistaken for dementia or early-stage Alzheimer’s, untreated hydrocephalus can lead to severe disability.

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Typically, the brain produces about 20 cubic centimeters of spinal fluid per hour. This fluid cushions the brain and aids in eliminating waste products. If the brain is unable to reabsorb the fluid, as in Hurtekant’s case, it backs up and can begin to cause neurological problems.

“When they told me I had fluid on the brain, I just started crying,” Hurtekant says. “It was scary. But we prayed about it, and I felt at peace. Dr. Omofoye was very kind, patient and compassionate. And I felt like I was in good hands.”

Following an evaluation that involved temporarily draining the fluid, she underwent a successful, minimally invasive surgical procedure to implant a permanent shunt in her brain – a device that alleviates fluid buildup.

The shunt, inserted beneath the skin and into the brain’s fluid space, diverts excess fluid to the abdomen through a tube that runs from the brain into the abdomen, effectively relieving pressure. A programmable device allows for adjustments as needed.

“Elizabeth responded remarkably well to treatment,” Dr. Omofoye says. “She’s still doing great, and her prognosis is good.”

Recovery wasn’t without its challenges, but Hurtekant persevered to reclaim what the condition had stolen.

“I had lost muscle tone, but with exercise and determination, I got back my strength,” she says. “Thanks to the surgery, my thinking is back, my bladder function is restored, and I’m even back to playing pickleball. I have so much joy. I’ll be forever grateful to Dr. McCaffery and Dr. Omofoye for giving me my life back.”

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