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Spinal patient from Norway has successful surgery in Arizona

PHOENIX – A woman who traveled halfway across the globe to have a surgery here in Arizona is going home with a good prognosis.

Julie Stendal, 26, will soon board a plane for her home in Norway after coming to Phoenix’s Barrow Neurological Institute for treatment of a rare condition.

“She had something called an arteriovenous malformation, which is a tangle of blood vessels,” said Dr. Robert Spetzler, chairman of neurosurgery and director of Barrow Neurologicial Institute. “Hers was in the spinal cord and that’s in the neck region of the spinal cord.”

With the location of the disorder in her spinal cord, her doctors in Norway believed the malformation was impossible to remove and it would eventually paralyze her. But Stendal underwent surgery here in Arizona about two weeks ago, and Spetzler said they successfully removed all the tangled blood vessels.

“Whenever you deal with tangled blood vessels, those are really the most difficult legions we deal with as neurosurgeons,” Spetzler said. “We deal with a lot of them here with patients really coming here from around the world, so we have a vast amount of experience.”

That experience is what brought Stendal to Arizona after learning of her condition in six years ago.

“In 2008 I got my first bleeding,” Stendal said. “I got totally numb on my left side.”

A “bleeding” is a rupturing of the blood vessels and can cause serious damage.

Before that incident she had no idea she had a problem and sought help in Paris. The doctors in Paris were unable to fix her condition though, and that’s when she began searching for other solutions.

She came to the Valley in March and had surgery about two weeks ago. Spetzler was very impressed with the results and said that only two days later she was walking again.

Stendal said she has some rehabilitation to go through but is expected to fully recover.

“I think it’s going to take some time before I kind of realize it’s all gone and feel safe about it,” she said. “It’s a miracle, I never thought it’d be gone.”