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Brain Tumor Survivor, 16, Keeps His Humor

kratzke1-300x300Kyle Kratzke likes jokes.

So do we all, of course, but generally not on his level. Kyle, 16, has made stand-up comedy something of a hobbyhorse, to the delight of his family and friends. As seen in this Youtube video, Kyle turns to the power of jokes to lighten the lives of those around him — and he is not afraid to use the darkest moments of his young life for material.

Kyle is a brain tumor survivor.

When Kyle was 5, he began experiencing headaches and nausea that his pediatrician could not explain, despite repeated visits. Eventually, Kyle was referred to another hospital, where his mom, Lisa Kratzke, received one of the worst pieces of news a mom can get: her son had a brain tumor.

It turned out Kyle’s tumor was of a rare type known as a “craniopharyngioma,” one that many neurosurgeons have little experience with. In fact, the neurosurgeon at the other hospital urged Lisa to find a more experienced surgeon as soon as possible, and she immediately began her research. As Lisa emphasized, finding an experienced provider is of paramount importance when dealing with such a condition.

“It is so important, the doctor that you choose… because the outcome of what’s going to happen to your child is all dependent on the way that the surgeon does the surgery,” Lisa Kratzke says. “I have learned that everything is the surgeon, the surgeon, the surgeon.”

The location of the tumor, as well as Kyle’s tender age, made cutting it out challenging. Dr. Neil Feldstein and his team of nurses and staffers at New York Presbyterian outlined a careful plan with Kyle and Lisa, combining surgery with radiation to maximize benefits while minimizing damage to healthy brain tissue. As he explained to Lisa, he emphasized preserving living tissue to give her back “the same child.”

“We picked Dr. Feldstein and he was wonderful with coordinating the date and the time and how we would transfer Kyle from Stony Brook Hospital to Columbia, because he had to be transferred by ambulance,” Lisa says.

After an operation by Dr. Feldstein, followed by radiation handled by a team of radiation oncologists, Kyle has now been tumor-free for most of his young life. Lisa credits Dr. Feldstein’s supportive nature for helping guide Kyle and his family through the experience.

“I had a lot of questions, but when you’re getting an answer from the neurosurgeon at Columbia Presbyterian… That’s all you need to put your fears at ease and to make that day go a little smoother,” Lisa says.

Brain tumors are no laughing matter, but don’t tell that to Kyle.

“I usually do standup now,” says Kyle. “My dad gave me a few jokes and comedy has definitely become a really big part of my life.”

While local neurosurgeons on Long Island now handle Kyle’s follow-ups, he and his family remain grateful to Dr. Feldstein and the team with Columbia Neurosurgery.

“My advice to kids who are having problems like this,” Kyle continues, “the one thing you got to know, you have to deal with all of these head things and you’re vomiting and you feel horrible. Then you hear you have to get an operation and you’re so scared, but the advice is you just have to get it done and then it’s all over. You stay in the hospital for a few days, but then you’re back to your old self. You do what you got to do.”

If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you do have options. You should always consult with the most experienced neurosurgeon available before making any decisions, and the doctors of Columbia Neurosurgery’s Pediatric Neurosurgery Center are proud to offer some of the most elite neurosurgeons in the business for those facing Kyle’s challenge.

To visit the Pediatric Neurosurgery Center, go here.

For more on craniopharyngiomas, go here.

For more on Dr. Feldstein, go here.

patient journey

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