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Awake, happy, healthy

An operation rid Paul Trexler of a brain tumor. Two days later, he is ready to leave the hospital.

By MAUREEN BYRNE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001


An operation rid Paul Trexler of a brain tumor. Two days later, he is ready to leave the hospital.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Seventeen hours after having a tumor removed from his brain, Paul Trexler was making jokes in his hospital bed.

"Are you sure you had brain surgery yesterday?" asked Maria Dambeck, a nurse who assisted in Trexler's operation on Wednesday at Bayfront Medical Center.

"You would think he had surgery on his toe," chuckled his stepdaughter, Robin Riedinger of Largo.

But there he was, pieces of gauze covering the right side of his head. Talking. Laughing. Eating.

Machines monitored his heart and blood pressure. Vital functions were strong. Memory was fine. Coordination was good.

In fact, Dambeck said, Trexler was doing so well that he was scheduled to be discharged today.

Trexler and his family found that hard to fathom on Thursday. Just a day earlier, a surgeon had cut inside Trexler's brain.

"I feel pretty good," he said Thursday morning while resting in the hospital's Neuro Intensive Care Unit. "My head hurts a little bit."

But now the pain is from a 4-inch incision on his skull. It's not like one of those nasty headaches he had been having since November.

Trexler found out Thursday what was causing the headaches, the fatigue, the ringing in his ears. During a three-hour surgery, neurosurgeon Dr. Casey Gaines removed an arterio-venous-malformation, a mass of malformed blood vessels, from the right temporal lobe of Trexler's brain.

A pathologist's quick test of tissue during the operation showed benign cells, but a more thorough report will be ready today. In most instances, the readings are the same.

"I'm just happy it's gone," said Trexler, a machinist who makes parts for the motorcycle and boating industry. "I'm relieved it's out of there."

Trexler, 54, said he was scared of the unknown, but that he felt confident the tumor was benign. He said a chance meeting with a golfer last Sunday was a sign he would be all right. On the fourth hole, out of the blue, the golfer told him a surgeon had removed a tumor from his brain years ago. It was benign, and he had been fine ever since.

Doctors also told Trexler his tumor appeared to be benign. But CAT and MRI scans are never a guarantee.

Trexler said he never asked, "Why me?" Sure, he was frightened. Who wouldn't be after hearing that diagnosis?

"But just do what you have to do," he said. "Don't be afraid of it. Live life to the fullest. Now I go on."

Life will be slow for Trexler for a while. He will need to take it easy for three weeks. No work at the Clearwater machine shop. And the Seminole City Council member may miss a meeting or two.

His wife, Sue, will have to do the driving for up to two weeks. He will have to take anti-seizure medicine until the swelling in his brain subsides. He will get another CAT scan in two months. And then another one a year later.

"Then he's clear," Dambeck said.

Trexler said the experience reinforced his belief in enjoying life each day.

"And show people you care," he said. "Love your loved ones."

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