Brain surgery restores sight

John Fairchild was preparing his wife to carry on without him. He was losing his eye sight, having severe mini strokes and debilitating headaches. Minimally invasive brain surgery saved his life.

John was told by a doctor in Edmonton in 2011 that he had a tumour in his pituitary gland. However, the operation to remove the tumour was risky, so the doctor advised him to wait until the procedure had been improved.

Five years later, John and his wife Suzanne had moved to Ottawa, and he was having regular transient ischemic attacks, a mini stroke caused by a temporary lack of blood flow to part of his brain.  During these mini strokes, his vision was reduced to seeing through a small hole, and his memory and speech were impaired.  The 71-year-old was recommended to see Neurosurgeon Dr. Fahad AlKherayf at The Ottawa Hospital. Dr. AlKherayf recommended John undergo the newly available minimally invasive brain surgery. With this technique, his tumour, which was benign, would be removed through his nostrils instead of the traditional more radical and risky surgery, which required opening up his skull to access it.

“It is a new field in neurosurgery,” said Dr. AlKherayf, who has advanced minimally invasive brain surgery techniques in the last three years, and operated on 80 patients.  “There are no incisions in the skull, no cut in the skin. Everything is done through the nose.” 

This operation is safer with surgery time greatly reduced. It means patients not only spend less time in the operating room, but they go home sooner.  They experience less complications and better recovery.

“I believed there was some risk of being blind or dead after the operation, as it was so new,” said John. “I spent two months before the operation, training to carry on being blind. I taught my wife how to use the snow blower and handle the finances. But, when I opened my eyes in the recovery room, I could see a clock on the wall, and I could see the time! I wasn’t blind.”

The Ottawa Hospital is a North American leader in this procedure. 

“We have been asked for consultations internationally,” said Dr. Fahad Alkherayf.  “It’s a very exciting technique that has definitely improved patient care during these surgeries.”

In the year since the operation, John has resumed his active life.

“Thanks to The Ottawa Hospital’s virtuoso surgery team, I am again now in vital good health – curling, skiing, golfing -- with excellent vision and no headaches. I am extremely grateful for the extraordinary care I received in the hospital, and wonderful after-care.” 

Donate Now