Greg’s Story; Recovery from Brain Injury:
In March of 2004, Greg Minck was down in Key West on a fishing trip. One day during the trip, he had symptoms which he self diagnosed as being a migraine. His headache was so bad that he laid in bed with an icepack on the front and back of his head until he could regain enough strength to drive back home. Greg thought that loading up on Motrin would help the migraine go away, but he was still experiencing the headache hours after he took the over the counter medication. Although Greg probably should have had someone come and pick him up, he decided to make the 3 hour drive by himself back home to Naples. When he arrived home, he told his wife that something wasn’t feeling right and that he felt like he needed to go to the emergency room immediately.
While at the emergency room he underwent many tests including a spinal tap, blood work, CAT scan and MRI. The ER physician told Greg the good news was that he had viral meningitis which was treatable, but the bad news was he had a brain tumor. The brain tumor was not causing any trouble and was found by luck. A Naples neurologist suggested that Greg continue to monitor the tumor with MRI’s to see if it grows or changes- which is a typical conservative approach. However, Greg never takes the easy, conservative route and opted to consult Dr. Steven Brem at Moffitt Center who advised him to get the tumor removed before it grows. Luckily, it was a stage 1 astrocytoma and he didn’t have any deficits from the surgery. Greg resumed working fulltime within a week and spending his time coaching his daughter’s soccer team and living the American dream.
His surgery was successful although they were unable to remove the entire tumor without risk of causing damage. Since there was still part of the tumor in his brain, he was ordered to come back to the facility every 3 months for an MRI to make sure that the tumor wasn’t growing.
Fast forward 5 years- Greg started having seizures several times a day for almost a year but there was no tumor growth reflected on the MRI’s. Dr. Michael Vickers got his seizures under control. However, in March of 2010 Greg was at one of his 3 month check-ups when the MRI showed a new mass.
Greg decided to go back to surgery, this time they had to cut through some of the large nerves and cut a large blood vessel causing a stroke. The doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumor but it cost Greg the use of the left side of his body. After the last surgery, Greg was unable to sit up, use the left side of his body, or talk.
The surgeon and patient decided that the best option was to receive rehabilitation therapy, radiation treatment and chemotherapy back in Naples. Greg couldn’t start chemo and radiation until his brain surgery site healed but, he was advised to start rehabilitative therapy as soon as possible. Greg needed to get back to Naples to be close to his family and find an acute rehab facility. After Greg’s family researched potential facilities they choose NCH’s rehabilitation center based on recommendations, the programs offered and location. Not just any facility would take a patient who recently had brain surgery. He and his family felt fortunate that NCH was willing to accept him in his acute condition and will always be thankful.
At the rehabilitation hospital, Greg started receiving nursing care, medical management, speech, occupational, and physical therapy, were he established goals that his team of therapists worked on daily. “Before I knew it, I was back to walking with a cane and talking. I truly believe that the everyday, team approach helped me to reach, my personal goals and kept me motivated,” Greg has said.
Greg describes the team at The Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging & Rehabilitation
to be very supportive, motivational, and friendly. The support from the team allowed for Greg to now be able to live his life again with his wife, Linda, and children, Zac and Nikki. Although, in order to get cognitive skills back to his baseline, it was important for him to receive treatment that was repetitive. “Day in and day out I would receive the same therapy, but I would never give up and neither did the therapist,” Greg shared. He was able to work with the same therapists which helped with consistent therapy and develop close relationships. His physical therapist Colleen Murphy, even accompanied him to Relay for Life
, because she knew that he had participated for 10 years and didn’t want to miss it. The last two years at Relay, some of the nurses and therapists from Brookdale also walked with him, which was very touching. The continuous personal support from the rehab staff and his family was key to his recovery. Greg kept stressing that the inpatient and outpatient therapy teams at the NCH Healthcare System
, were excellent and extremely supportive even when the going got tough.
Greg chose Brookdale because of NCH’s good reputation as a high quality, caring facility and its location. He also was impressed with the doctors being able to work together. He also liked that he had the opportunity to work with the same group of inpatient therapists and then made an easy transition to a group of outpatient therapists who were another team, all of whom were aware of his history and progress.
After in- patient rehab and during outpatient rehab, Greg was able to start chemo and radiation treatments. Despite many advances in recent years, chemo can be an exhaustive process for anyone who undergoes this intense treatment; however, his oncologist Dr. Martin Nicolau and his staff at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute were great and treated Greg like a family member. Greg did experience some side effects when he was undergoing the treatment, including nausea and fatigue. Greg also underwent 6 weeks of radiation under the care of Dr. Chaundre Cross and his team- who were also extremely kind and helpful. The radiation zapped his energy but Greg hung in there and his therapists worked with him and around his other treatments and side effects there from.
Greg still continues to travel to Moffitt for his 3 month MRI checkups. He also continues to receive treatment and consultation from his Naples physician team of Dr. Michael Vickers, Dr. Martin Nicolau, Dr. Chaundre Cross and his family physician Dr. Gregory Leach at Advanced Medical Center to ensure he can live the best life.
Hopefully, there won’t be a need for additional surgery, chemo or radiation- but knowing he has a great team established at the NCH Healthcare System
including physicians and therapists. Greg is comforted that his team of physicians will be able to get in quick and fight if the need arises; which allows for him to keep living life to the fullest.
His physical therapist, Vince Laz, at Greentree gave him the best advice when he told him when he finished rehabilitation, that it is time to start being Greg the person, not Greg the patient. Since that time, Greg has started volunteering his time to his church, American Cancer Society and NCH. In fact, Greg impressed with Brookdale, which he now volunteers there once a week where he can see his therapist friends and inspire patients who can’t believe how far he has come when they hear his story. He’s definitely an inspiration to them and gives their families hope. His ultimate goal is to be able to work again but in the meantime, he’ll do what he can do to help people as much as he has been helped.