Wilmington woman on road to recovery after surgery to remove brain tumor

Sobocinski was home from the hospital just a few days after surgery. Even she cannot believe how quickly she has recovered.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 5:47 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington resident Joanne Sobocinski started to feel dizzy and uneasy last November. Given her symptoms, she thought she might have vertigo.

“But the symptoms started getting worse,” Sobocinski said. “And they really weren’t lining up with what vertigo was. So, I made an appointment with my [general practitioner] and she did a CAT scan right in the office, which was great because I got an immediate answer, which wasn’t the answer I thought it was going to be.”

That answer was a hemangioblastoma, a benign tumor near the back of her brain. She then went to Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center and met with Dr. Jeff Beecher. After deciding to have the tumor removed at that location, Sobocinski was scheduled for surgery that same week.

“It’s a tumor that requires a special subset of skills to take out,” Beecher said. “It’s a skull-based type tumor, typically, as was in her case. And using the robotic arm of the 3D exoscope, [we] did her surgery and it went very streamlined.”

The surgical process is one Beecher hopes will be made even easier for future patients with the technology available at the new Neurosciences Institute in New Hanover County.

“Before, the patient would have to have a procedure after surgery to confirm that surgery was successful. And almost all the time, that’s what it showed,” said Beecher. “But there were a few cases where you may have to go adjust something. and now you can know, right at the end of surgery, we’re done and we’re happy and less procedures, less risk, more streamlined care.”

Sobocinski was home from the hospital just a few days after surgery. Even she cannot believe how quickly she has recovered.

“People asked me, you know, how I’m feeling,” said Sobocinski. “And my answer has always been, ‘I feel better than I should be feeling.’ You know what I mean? Like, I feel like if someone told me I just had brain surgery and had a craniotomy where they take out part of your skull and put it back in, I would have thought I would have been, just, out for the count.”

Her road to recovery is one Beecher hopes can become more common as patients recovering from strokes and other brain and nerve injuries come to the new facility.

“Certainly heartwarming whenever you have a patient bounce back as fast as she did,” said Beecher. “That’s why you get into this.”

The Novant Health Neurosciences Institute - New Hanover is an extension of the surgical pavilion at NHRMC and opened to patients on Wednesday.