Updated: Tuesday, 09 Mar 2010, 12:29 PM EST
Published : Monday, 08 Mar 2010, 4:13 PM EST
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A Fort Wayne man made history when doctors opened his brain and removed a tumor all without damaging his sight.
In fact, he was awake for the whole procedure.
A farmer at heart, Jeff Bulmahn loves to work on his 3200 acres in Jay and Blackford counties.
But, last spring Bulmahn noticed something was wrong with his vision.
“My vision was getting blurry at times and neck would get real stiff,” said Bulmahn.
Check ups didn't help. Finally he ended up at an emergency room.
Bulmahn said, “They saw a shadow in the CAT scan.”
That shadow turned out to be a brain tumor
Bulmahn was referred to a neurosurgeon at Methodist Hospital. His meeting with Dr. Cohen-Gadol was an honest appraisal. Jeff's tumor was buried deep in his brain. Dr. Cohen-Gadol made no promises.
“He said well, what I've been taught or according to what we've been taught, I'm not supposed to do this surgery,” said Bulmahn.
Not supposed to because, the tumor was located in a part of Bulmahn's brain that also controls sight. There was a chance Dr. Cohen-Gadol would get the tumor, but in the process cause Bulmahn to go blind.
“This was the first attempt in surgery to map human vision and at the same time, remove the tumor,” said Dr. Cohen-Gadol.
Bulmahn decided to be that first person for this kind of brain mapping. So in an operating room this past September and wide awake, Bulmahn stared at a chart while Dr. Cohen-Gadol exposed his brain probing for the edges of the tumor, going just far enough to get the mass, and not damage his sight. Dr. Cohen-Gadol also talked with Buhlman throughout the procedure.
“During the surgery I was sitting about in the same position that I am now, they had my head in a restraint and uh, had me looking at a poster board which they got the idea I believe from doctors in New England on how to gauge my vision during the surgery to see how much of it I would lose,” said Bulmahn.
“We use electrical activity to activate those parts of the brain around the tumor, map out what those other activities did to his vision while he was awake and talking to me,” said Dr. Cohen-Gadol.
Dr. Cohen-Gadol was able to get 95% of the tumor in an operation that lasted close to five hours.
Bulmahn has also undergone radiation.
For now he is healthy and he still has his vision.
The scar is the only reminder that Bulmahn and his doctor took an incredible risk.
“Just don't ever give up hope. Because there's always somebody out there willing to help you. You just got to find em,” said Bulmahn.