Peru teen gets life-saving surgery in Seattle

Peru teen gets life-saving surgery in Seattle »Play Video
SEATTLE - A teenager from Peru needs a life saving surgery that he can't get in his native country.

He can get it here in Seattle, so a non-profit group called Healing the Children brought him here.

Cristian Choccata arrived in Seattle on Wednesday, after more than a dozen hours on planes from Lima.

He's 18, yet small for his age because a tumor the size of a small orange is growing on his pituitary gland, stunting his growth and robbing him of his vision.

Less than 48 hours after landing however, he's in surgery.

The tumor in Cristian's brain would kill him, if not removed. His surgery took place in a state-of-the-art operating room, complete with computers, cameras, large TV monitors, microscopes and a team of professionals to bring it all together.

It even has a portable MRI scanner - one of only about three dozen in the country.

Dr. Marc Mayberg is the neurosurgeon who removed Cristian’s tumor, entirely through his nose.

"Sometimes (the tumor) is a little more difficult to remove if it's fibrous and tough. Today, it was soft and it came out quite easily," Dr. Mayberg said.

Mayberg uses the portable MRI scanner to see deep into the patient's brain during surgery.

"It was very helpful to have the scan during the operation because I was able to see where the remaining tumor was and to get out a little more than I would have otherwise," he said.

The PoleStar MRI includes an entire navigation system. A large microscope and probes use a GPS-like guidance system that shows Dr. Mayberg everything he's doing.

"The scan showed that all of the pressure is removed from his optic nerves, which really was the main objective here," Mayberg said.

That pressure on Cristian's optic nerves had drastically reduced his peripheral vision.

Before the surgery, Dr. Mayberg said Cristian could only see a narrow field right in front of him, but just a matter of hours after the surgery, Cristian can already see much more than he did before surgery.

Cristian's treatment continues with precision radiology, later this month, using the CyberKnife.
Cristian will spend at least 24 hours in the hospital and then be discharged.

He’s staying with a host family in Everett, until doctors clear him to go back home to his family in Peru. His parents, four sisters and a brother, are all waiting for his safe return.

This is the first time Cristian’s ever been away from his family.