It’s not often that a patient is so grateful to those who helped him recover that he dedicates a book to them. But that is what Rick Franzo of Paradise Valley, PA, has done. He recently published “How Horseshoes Saved My Life: A Tale of Two Brain Tumors,” and dedicated the book to the health-care workers who saved his life and helped him recover, including the staff at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation at Pocono Medical Center .
The East Stroudsburg University bookstore supervisor first realized something was wrong at a family barbecue during a game of horseshoes when his throws became erratic and his body grew weaker with each toss. He quickly made an appointment with a doctor and was referred to a neurologist, who diagnosed him with a softball-sized meningioma that had probably been growing for many years. The neurologist told him that if the tumor hadn’t been discovered at that point, he probably would have died within a few weeks.
After the 10.5-hour surgery to remove the tumor unexpectedly left him paralyzed from the waist down, Franzo was transferred to Good Shepherd Rehabilitation at Pocono Medical Center, where he spent six weeks undergoing physical and occupational therapy to regain function in his legs and arms as well as recover his cognitive skills.
In his book Franzo discusses his time at Good Shepherd:
It was so important that the staff at Good Shepherd made me a large part of my own therapy and recovery. I was always part of the discussion of what was going on with my daily therapy and how it impacted the goals that I, and they, set for my progress. I felt a bit more in control of my destiny.
Franzo progressed rapidly at Good Shepherd and was able to leave the facility using just a walker for assistance. He continued his recovery in outpatient therapy and today walks without any mobility aids.
About nine months after his surgery, Franzo had a follow-up MRI that revealed another brain tumor. Luckily, that tumor is stable and he has not had to undergo additional surgery.
It has been several years since his diagnosis and recovery, but the impact of his surgery, subsequent paralysis and recovery had such a profound impact on his life that he needed to chronicle his experience by writing a book.
“I felt that writing the book would help others in similar situations,” says Franzo. “If what happened to me could be turned into a positive, I was all for it. It was also very therapeutic to write down my thoughts, observations and feelings.”
Franzo is very involved with brain tumor education and patient support. He counsels other people with brain tumors, hosts a radio show aired on WESS called “Catch the Brain Wave” on brain tumors and brain cancers and does public speaking to raise awareness about brain tumors and funds for research. Franzo formed an online support group using Facebook called “Brain Tumor Talk,” which has more than 2,000 members from around the world. He is in the process of starting a brain tumor support group for people living in the Poconos, northern New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley.