Determined Patients Inspire Neurosurgeon at Rush

Every day clinicians and patients at Rush face moments of great challenge and great inspiration. During this time of giving thanks, they’re sharing what they are thankful for and how their experiences at Rush have inspired them. 

John O'Toole, MD, Rush University Medical Center

By John O’Toole, MD, MS

Two patients who inspired me recently were both diagnosed with intramedullary ependymoma, a benign tumor that grows in the spinal cord. Although the tumors are not life-threatening, patients face significant neurological disabilities because the tumor grows within the spinal cord itself. The definitive treatment is surgical resection.The amazing thing about this job is that we are with people in their most desperate moments. Seeing the strength my patients have when grappling with incredibly tough, life-altering experiences makes me think harder about how I face challenges in my own life.

These two patients were in the prime of their lives. Then all of a sudden they got this life-altering diagnosis. Once they both got over the initial shock, they embraced the course ahead of them. Their first thoughts were, “What do I have to do to get better?” Not all patients have that kind of attitude.

They had to fight through months and months of therapy and rehab. But every time they came to see me for follow-up, they had incredibly positive attitudes. They were both looking to the future and determined to get better and stronger. And they each have made incredible recoveries.

These two people have inspired me to work harder for them. They’ve inspired me to research new ways to study and treat these tumors differently. If they are going to work that hard to get better, we need to do everything we can to get them there.

John O’Toole, MD, MS, is a neurosurgeon at Rush University Medical Center. He specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, spinal oncology, complex spinal reconstruction, spinal arthroplasty and spinal radiosurgery. 

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4 thoughts on “Determined Patients Inspire Neurosurgeon at Rush

  1. Your patients are BLESSED to have such a committed and compassionate physician. Your genuine care, and excellence, will certainly help in their recovery. Thank you Dr. O’Toole for this inspiring article.

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