Bernie McGuckin was one of the first patients to undergo neurosurgery at Lifehouse after the department was established in 2016, thanks to donations from our generous supporters. The 60-year-old from Sydney gained his understanding of anatomy by working as a PE teacher for 25 years. When he retired, he and his wife bought into two hospitality businesses which, in his words, crashed and burned as a result of the global financial crisis.
In addition to this challenge, Bernie was also coping with cancer. In 1997 a fibrous sarcoma was discovered in Bernie’s head which was surgically removed. However, the cancer had metastasised to his left lung, meaning another surgical procedure to remove it. Late in 2014, the cancer returned, this time in his skull. Three surgeons worked on Bernie for 14 hours but they were not able to remove all of the cancer.
After radiation therapy Bernie had an MRI every three months. However in March 2016 the scans showed the tumour was growing again. Moreover it was exerting pressure on the brain and Bernie was having seizures which were weakening his left side. Because of the risks involved, Lifehouse neurosurgeon, Dr Brindha Shivalingham, suggested that they delay the surgery as long as possible, until he had almost no use left of his arm and leg on that side.
In early February 2017 the operation took place and a six centimetre tumour was removed. Bernie says: “Brindha told me that there were three possible outcomes of the operation, I would feel the same, I would be worse or I would be better. She didn’t pull any punches or give me false hope. She told me that she was expecting either of the first two outcomes. But I’m better.”
Bernie can lift his left leg and squeeze it downwards. He will live in a nursing home while he undergoes rehabilitation. He says: “I’m arriving in a wheel chair but I will be leaving with a walking stick.”
Bernie has high praise for Dr Shivalingham. “She places huge importance on quantity of life and quality of life. She pushes for “the two Q’s” though she will never promise either of them. She would constantly warn me about the dangers of the treatment and ask me time and time again if I was truly certain of my decision. In the end my wife and I were glad we opted for surgery.”