St. Louis Teen Recovers from “Inoperable” Spinal Tumor at Barrow

(PHOENIX – Dec.18, 2018) – Neurosurgeons at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix have successfully removed a rare and complex spinal lesion from a 17-year-old St. Louis girl, eliminating her prognosis of becoming a permanent paraplegic. Before traveling to Arizona for complex surgery at Barrow, Ivy Goldson was told by other surgeons that her malformation – which had already ruptured and caused temporary paralysis – was too risky to remove.

After two successful surgeries and two weeks undergoing intensive inpatient neuro-rehabilitation at Barrow, Goldson is making an amazing recovery and quickly regaining movement. She recently returned home to St. Louis to enjoy the holidays with her family and finish her senior year at the John Burroughs School.

photo of dr. michael lawton's patient ivy goldson, who was treated for an arteriovenous malformation at barrow
Barrow Patient Ivy Goldson

“I’m relieved and happy the malformation is gone so I can live a full life and not have to worry about becoming paralyzed at any given moment” says Goldson, who will attend the Colorado School of Mines on an academic scholarship in the fall.

Goldson first noticed symptoms in July during a summer camp in Denver and became temporarily paralyzed. She was admitted to a Denver hospital where she was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a very rare neurological disorder that was causing abnormal tangles of arteries and veins in her spine. The malformation had hemorrhaged causing her to lose movement. Doctors had limited experience in treating the condition and suggested the AVM was inoperable.

Goldson and her family were told there was a renowned neurosurgeon at Barrow who had the most experience treating these types of lesions. After extensive research by Goldson’s parents, they determined Dr. Michael Lawton, President and CEO of Barrow, to be the best expert from whom to seek a second opinion. Barrow, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, performs more brain surgeries annually than any other hospital in the United States and is known for treating the most complex of neurological disorders.

“Barrow not only had the most experience in treating AVMs but also had the lowest surgical complication rates when compared with other top hospitals in the country,” says Rob Goldson, Ivy’s father. “We wanted to find the best medical team to treat Ivy’s disorder and determined Barrow was our best hope. We were thrilled when Dr. Lawton gave us that hope and agreed to treat Ivy.”

Goldson underwent her first surgery at Barrow on Nov. 17. After two complex operations, Dr. Lawton completely removed the AVM from her spine, eliminating her risk for paralysis and giving her a new lease on life.

Michael Lawton, President and CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute
Barrow CEO Dr. Michael Lawton

“This AVM was squarely in the middle of her spinal cord and at a high cervical level, meaning that even the slightest mistake could have left Ivy ventilator-dependent and quadriplegic, or paralyzed in both arms and both legs,” says Dr. Lawton. “This was quite a tangle of arteries and veins, requiring a second operation to find the last artery that was hiding in a corner. We are so happy with Ivy’s wonderful outcome.”

Goldson will continue to undergo neuro-rehabilitation to regain her strength and is looking forward to return to her passions of swimming, running and hiking.

“Barrow made me feel like a whole person again,” says Goldson. “It wasn’t just about treating the spinal AVM – it was more than that. They helped me to become me again. I’m very grateful and excited for my future.”

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