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  • Myrtle Beach woman grateful after surgery to remove large brain tumor

    Oct. 25, 2023
    Contact: Dawn Bryant
    Tidelands Health
    (843) 652-1636

    News for Immediate Release:

    Myrtle Beach woman grateful after surgery to remove large brain tumor
    Nicole Kovalcik of Myrtle Beach knew something was wrong when she fell down while walking her dog, Ryder, with friends.
    “I face-planted,” Kovalcik, 52, writes on her blog. “I mean, I didn’t even put my hands out to protect myself — I just took a digger.”
    As her friends urged her to get up, Kovalcik discovered she couldn’t get back to her feet without help. In the weeks that followed, she and her husband, Ken, noticed changes in her personality and behavior she couldn’t control.
    After seeking care from neurologist Dr. Scott Callaghan, a member of the advanced neurosciences program at Tidelands Health, Kovalcik learned the cause of her symptoms.
    An MRI revealed a tumor the size of an egg was pressing on her brain. The tumor was a meningioma that had developed from the membrane that separates the halves of the brain.
    “I was shocked as it was completely unexpected,” Kovalcik says.
    Meningiomas are slow-growing tumors that can go undetected until they start interfering with bodily functions. Kovalcik’s tumor was benign but the pressure it put on the surrounding brain tissue was causing her symptoms, in part by causing cerebrospinal fluid to back up in her brain.
    Without surgery, Kovalcik would likely have experienced worsening balance problems and difficulty walking, says Tidelands Health neurosurgeon Dr. Oluwaseun Omofoye.
    “If it had continued to get bigger, she could have become wheelchair dependent, really aggressive or confused and she could experience seizures,” Dr. Omofoye says.
    Delicate procedure
    The day of her surgery, Kovalcik woke up at 4:30 a.m. for the ride to the hospital with Ken.
    “We both went in with a positive attitude,” Kovalcik says. “I knew I was in good hands and confident I would make it through.”
    Led by Dr. Omofoye, the surgical team at Tidelands Health, the region’s largest care provider, found that Kovalcik’s tumor had developed around important blood vessels running through her brain. The successful 16-hour procedure to remove the growth required delicate, careful work.
    “The most important part was taking out the tumor without damaging those blood vessels,” Dr. Omofoye says.
    'In great hands'
    Four days after surgery, Kovalcik was discharged from Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital to inpatient rehabilitation to continue her recovery. Seven days later, she earned the green wristband that meant she could go home.
    Discharge also meant her merchant marine husband could go back to sea, leaving her on her own. But by that time, Kovalcik was able to return to her pre-surgery activities, including spending time with Ryder.
    Kovalcik says the experience reminded her to trust her instincts.
    “I’ve always been one to go with my gut,” she says. “I know I was in great hands with Dr. Omofoye. I never had a doubt in my mind.”
    For Dr. Omofoye, Kovalcik’s experience is a good reminder to pay attention to your body – just like she did.
    “Have an annual checkup,” he says. “And seek care any time you feel anything abnormal.”
    About Tidelands Health
    Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider and MUSC Health affiliate, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 60 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners work side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.