A Patient’s Perspective: Stefano Kaslowski

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By Stefano Kaslowski

Mountain climbing is a hobby I inherited first from my Grandmother Cici and later from my mother — they both grew up in Torino near the Alps. I was born in Italy but live now in Istanbul, in Turkey, and I have been trekking and climbing around the world for years. Last year, I was excited to be working on a plan to climb Mount Elbrus in Russia, 18,871 feet, the highest mountain on the European continent.

I knew I had a herniated disc, so when I developed numbness in my right toe I assumed that was the cause. I went to see my physiotherapist here in Istanbul, and I had an MRI that showed a Schwannoma tumor at the root of the S1 nerve on my lower spine.  One of the first things I did after I was diagnosed was to call my expedition leader asking for the Mount Elbrus climb to be put on hold.

I visited a few neurosurgeons, both here in Istanbul and in the United States, and got different opinions about my case. When I saw Dr. Roger Härtl, he told me that my real question was not if to have surgery, but rather when to have it. He told me that sooner or later I would need to have the tumor removed to avoid complications in my right leg. Knowing my active lifestyle, the conversation with Dr. Härtl prompted me to decide in favor of surgery as soon as possible.

I had the surgery exactly one month after I noticed the first symptoms.  Everything had been well explained to me, and the process was very organized. Dr. Roger Härtl was very clear, focused, and confident, and I was very calm. Everyone on the team at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center was outstanding and extremely caring and welcoming. I was sure I was being treated by the best of the best.

Dr. Roger Härtl’s operation was so minimally invasive that I was able to regain my physical strength extremely fast. I basically had minor discomfort for less than three weeks after surgery, and I now have full function of my right leg and am feeling physically as strong as before.

Best of all, less than two months after the surgery I completed my climb of Mount Elbrus!

Making that decision to have the surgery sooner rather than later allowed me to carry on with my normal life as if nothing had ever happened. It is such a relief knowing I am over the problem and able to resume all my normal activities.

I can’t think of any better doctor then Dr. Roger Härtl or any better place than NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for treatment. (By the way, the rooms looking on the river on the 11th floor are outstanding!)