Press Center and News
Awards & Recognition
St. Joseph's Executive Leadership
History of St. Joseph's
St. Joseph's Mission, Vision and Values
Research and Education
Sponsorship Request Application
PHOENIX – Aug. 29, 2019 – A small business owner in Ohio is back to work just weeks after undergoing lifesaving brain surgery to remove a large malformation on his brain stem at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Ariz.
“I’m blessed to be alive and able to take care of my family,” said the patient, Aaron Edwards, 41. “I’m happy to get back to my career and do things that I love.”
In June, the husband and father of three made the cross-country journey to Phoenix to have Dr. Michael Lawton, president and CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute, remove the golf ball-sized cavernous malformation from his brain stem. Dr. Lawton is an expert in this field having performed more than 1,000 cavernous malformation procedures, including 300 in the brain stem, which is the most complicated section of the brain to operate.
“I’m delighted that Aaron is recovering well and able to return to work and his family,” said Dr. Lawton. “Our Barrow team strives to bring relief to patients with complex and high-risk diagnoses and help them return to everyday life.”
Edwards’ first symptoms included fogginess which he initially believed was a result a poor night’s sleep. That feeling continued for days which turned into weeks. Soon, Edwards started having trouble focusing at work, experiencing numbness in his sinuses near his eyebrows and a tingling sensation that continued down to his lip.
Edwards, a funeral home director, went to the doctor in his small town of Sidney, Ohio. The doctor wanted him to undergo an MRI with contrast to rule out allergies as the culprit behind his symptoms. The scans revealed a mass in Aaron’s brain stem and doctors referred him to a larger hospital in Columbus to see a neurologist. However, a trip to the big city brought more bad news to Edwards and his family.
“I was shocked when the doctor told me he couldn’t operate on the mass on my brain stem because it was in ‘prime real estate’,” said Edwards. “That’s when he told us about Dr. Lawton.”
Edwards and his family quickly got to work, researching the internationally renowned neurosurgeon. Soon after sending his scans to Barrow, Dr. Lawton determined the mass on Edwards’ brain stem was a cavernous malformation.
Cavernous malformations are clusters of small blood vessels with enlarged and irregular walls that are thinner than normal and more prone to leaking. These malformations can occur anywhere in the brain or spinal cord, and can be devastating when located in the brainstem.
“We scheduled Aaron’s procedure and booked our flights to Phoenix as soon as possible,” said Kelly Edwards, Aaron’s wife.
During the high-risk surgery, Dr. Lawton was able to completely remove the cavernous malformation from Aaron’s brain stem, giving the family man the opportunity to create new memories with his wife and children and get back to the business he runs with his brother.
“We are so thankful for Dr. Lawton and Barrow,” said Kelly Edwards. “He is a blessing and his talents are a gift from God to our family.”
About Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center
Located in the heart of Phoenix, Ariz., St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is a 586-bed, not-for-profit hospital that provides a wide range of health, social and support services with special advocacy for the poor and underserved. St. Joseph’s is a nationally recognized center for quality tertiary care, medical education and research. It includes the internationally renowned Barrow Neurological Institute, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Norton Thoracic Institute. U.S. News & World Report routinely ranks St. Joseph’s among the best hospitals in the United States for neurology and neurosurgery. For more information please visit our website at www.dignityhealth.org/stjosephs.