Only on 12: School superintendent's doctor proclaims him 'lucky' after being 'near death's door'

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Richmond County School Superintendent Frank Roberson cleared his doctor to speak exclusively to News 12 for the first time about his life-saving surgery.

It has been about 10 months since Dr. Roberson temporarily left the job for emergency brain surgery.

He is still going through outpatient therapy, but Roberson is back on the job for several hours a week.

"I think part of it is luck," said Dr. Cargill Alleyne, chief of Neurosurgery at Georgia Health Sciences University. "Unfortunately, some patients don't make it despite our best efforts."

Roberson was born with AVM, or tangled blood vessels in the brain that began to bleed. Dr. Alleyne was able to zoom right in on the problem thanks to new technology.

"We're actually the first in the South to achieve this technology with this particular machine," Alleyne said.

It magnifies the blood vessels and rotates the image so Dr. Alleyne can move in and seal the bleed with a special glue.

"We don't even now how we managed in the old days with the old machine," Alleyne said. "It's like having a big screen TV and being able to examine every single detail."

The $4 million suite includes a privacy glass and mood lighting for patients.

"The patient can choose what type of lighting they would actually prefer," Alleyne said.

The lighting provides a small comfort for the patient. Alleyne admits the pressure is intense treating the school superintendent.

"There is a little extra pressure," Alleyne said. "But we feel pressure for any patient. Because behind that patient is always a grandmother, a father, a mother, a daughter."

"I can't explain as a parent how it makes you feel," said Cristy Coretti. "When you come so close to losing [your daughter]"

Cristy fought back tears as her 16-year-old daughter, Meighan, sat down with us after her own trip to this suite for a similar surgery back in August.

"I'm feeling good," Meighan said. "Of course, I don't feel the same that I used to, but I'm getting through it."

Cristy feels lucky to have had the life-saving technology so close to home.

"I do feel like she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the doctors and the equipment that we do have here," Cristy said.

Dr. Alleyne said it is rewarding to see both his patients doing so well.

"It is very rewarding to see patients come near death's door and we help to bring them back to a meaningful life," Alleyne said.

The superintendent will report to work for several hours each week for now. He is still undergoing some targeted treatments, but Alleyne says the superintendent could very well make a 100 percent recovery.

"The potential is certainly there," Alleyne said. "But it is probably too early to tell if it is going to make a 100 percent recovery. We never have a crystal ball. We cant predict the future, but it is very gratifying to see the rapidity with which he has recovered so far."


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