Complex Spine Surgery Helps Anthony Get Back in the WaterYou won’t find Anthony Marshall just sitting around. A 29-year-old local police officer, volunteer firefighter, and avid outdoorsman, he’s always on the go. He rarely got sick, so he didn’t slow down for sometimes-constant neck and shoulder pain.
In the spring of 2021, however, the discomfort turned into something more concerning.
“I started having tingling, like pins and needles, in my hands and feet. They felt cold. I could be holding a pen, and it would suddenly drop. Everything felt heavy,” said Anthony. “I knew something was wrong. I wanted to get it checked out.”
Anthony went to the emergency room at Virtua Voorhees Hospital. A follow-up appointment and an MRI led him to the Penn Medicine Virtua Health Neurosciences Program, a leading provider of advanced neurologic and spinal care in South Jersey.
“When you hear a story that ‘my hands and feet are clumsy,’ you think the spinal cord is compressed,” said Penn Medicine neurosurgeon Patrick Connolly, MD. “We found a 2-by-2.5- centimeter tumor compressing the spinal cord into a thin crescent.”
Anthony grew up wanting to be a police officer, firefighter, or EMT to help the community. He started his department’s K-9 program, and feared his unsteady hands and feet would not let him continue.
He was on a fall a kayaking trip on the Mullica River when he received a message to call Dr. Connolly’s office.
“I was in the middle of the woods with no reception. I walked around to try to get cell service to call back,” he said. “I was shook up, but we had to keep kayaking. My arms were numb, and then we had to drag our kayaks a mile to the vehicle access where we could get picked up.”
Anthony learned that a tumor was located on the right side of his neck and shoulder, near the top of the spine and arteries that feed the brain.
“The tumor originated from a nerve that comes off the side of the spinal cord. The challenge was it had a knuckle that extended into the dura, the sac surrounding the spinal cord, and across the entire spinal canal to the left side,” said Penn Medicine neurosurgeon Kyle Mueller, MD. “You can’t pull the tumor out because the knuckle will hit the spinal cord.”
On Oct. 28, 2021, Drs. Connolly and Mueller used specialized imaging and tools to delicately remove the tumor during a six-hour operation at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
Anthony spent three days in the hospital before returning home.
“All of my symptoms went away. I woke up from the surgery with zero symptoms,” said Anthony.
Dr. Connolly will meet with Anthony regularly for the next five years to make sure the tumor doesn’t return.
“The location of the tumor added a level of complexity, and we’re glad Anthony had a successful outcome,” said Dr. Connolly.
Anthony returned to work in March. Now focused on his health, he’s eager to go kayaking again.
“Now I have a primary care doctor and have all my appointments for checkups and blood work,” he said. “You don’t need to be older to have issues.”
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Updated August 5, 2022