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Woman comes back after wide-awake brain surgery

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 10, 2012 at 4:51 am •  Published: December 10, 2012

"There is also a third area between those two called a pre-motor area," Elisevich said. "It has to do with integration of movement."

If the tumor continued to grow, it could further affect Bonnema's control of her hand, arm and the right side of her face, Elisevich said.

The other tumor was in the left temporal lobe, an area that he said "is notorious in humans for being vulnerable to the condition of epilepsy."

Bonnema opted to have both tumors removed. During the operation, she was aroused from sedation so her language and motor skills could be assessed. The surgeon needed to know which areas to avoid as the tumors were removed.

"We asked Kim to move her right hand and wrist, to show a smile and close her eyes," Elisevich said.

A speech pathologist listened for any unusual features in her speech.

During the operation, the surgeon also removed scar tissue caused by blood seeping from the lesion in the temporal lobe - the one that caused the epilepsy.

"We had to peel the scar away from the nerves that go to the eyes and move the eyes about," Elisevich said.

Although Bonnema remembers being awake during surgery, she said she was not aware of what the surgeon was doing. Elisevich gave several reports during the six-hour operation to Bonnema's husband, Brent, and her children, Brandon, 20 and Brittany, 18.

After the surgery, Bonnema's speech was garbled at first, and she was unable to open her right eye for three months. With time and rehabilitation therapy, she regained her ability to speak clearly and her eye function returned.

"The brain doesn't particularly like me, nor does it like any surgeon," explained Elisevich. "Any slight perturbation of the cortex, the gray mantle of the brain, or the white matter underneath it kind of leaves their footprint there for a time. The white matter in particular has to recover from that."

Elisevich said he will monitor Bonnema's other lesions. If she continues to be seizure-free for a period of time, she may be able to reduce and eventually stop taking her epilepsy medication.

"That's great," Bonnema said. "I'll have more energy."

In the meantime, she has returned to her job at Clark Home. She is again taking two-mile walks at lunch time, and her kids are expecting her water-ski again.

"It's amazing," she said. "It really is."