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When I went to his office the first time...I felt like family had come out to wrap their arms around me.  They told me they were praying for me.  I just felt so taken care of by the staff at the Spine Institute of Louisiana and my surgeon Dr. Andrew Utter."  These are the words of Judy McMaster as she recounts a brain tumor diagnosis and surgery less than a year ago. 

It all began on August 23, 2011 as Judy began to experience a severe headache.  "I never have headaches, so this was very unusual.  The headaches started at 2:00 a.m., so I couldn't sleep and then began taking over the counter pain killers every two hours for the next six hours with no relief.   I couldn't keep my eyes open and every movement hurt.  At 8:00 a.m. I told my husband to take me to the emergency room."

Her first encounter with a diagnosis was discouraging.  "The ER doctor took a CAT scan and told me I had a brain tumor that appeared to be malignant."   A subsequent MRI ordered by another physician proved more promising.  "They said it looks like there's a 99-percent chance that the tumor is benign.  We were ecstatic." 

Dr. Andrew Utter was the Neurosurgeon on call and was consulted to evaluate and treat Judy's condition.  Judy would later learn that Dr. Utter is a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon and spine surgeon at the Spine Institute of Louisiana specializing in a number of procedures, including brain tumor surgery – with a background which includes eight years of experience at the Mayo Clinic and a Spine Fellowship from the Cleveland Clinic.

Early on the evening of August 23rd Dr. Utter visited Judy in the hospital.  "I can't say enough about his bedside manner and how well he communicated with me and my family.  My daughter was taking notes and he took the time to explain everything as long as it took to explain.  He said the tumor appeared to be non-malignant and that there was a 92-percent chance it was benign.   He also informed me that he thought the tumor had been growing for two to five years and was the size of a golf ball!"

Judy was pleased and comforted that Dr. Utter believed there was no urgency for surgery.  So, she and family were able to attend the LSU-Oregon game at the Dallas Cowboys stadium and attend Kairos Prison Ministry Weekend before her September 14, 2011 surgery.  In the days leading up to surgery, Judy was put on anti-seizure medication, so she could not drive; and she was prescribed steroids to reduce swelling of the brain.  She also visited Dr. Utter once a week before the surgery.  "He explained everything about the tumor.  Looking at the CAT scan and MRI he explained how there was a major artery in the brain that was attached to the tumor.  He told me, 'We're going to get it.  We're going to take care of it.'  He's factual, but he doesn't scare the patient."

Judy says the six hour surgery went well and there was no malignancy.  "Dr. Utter said the lab showed the tumor was 100-percent benign."  And, her recovery has been swift.  "I was in ICU on Wednesday, in my room Thursday, and went home on Friday.  So, I only spent two nights in the hospital after a six-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor."

Judy has been doing well in the months following surgery.  "After the tumor was out, I felt so much better.  I have more energy now."

Her condition continues to be monitored by Dr. Utter at the Spine Institute of Louisiana.  "I look forward to my visits up there, and I usually don't go to the doctor.  The first time I met him I told my family I felt 100-percent confident in Dr. Utter.  When he walked out of the room that first night I said, 'He's it.  He's number 1."

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