Wednesday, March 30, 2011 2:00 AM

Brain surgery gives time to teacher, novelist, opera composer

High school teacher, novelist and opera composer Jonathan Rainbow experienced something that hadn’t been a part of his busy life before—headaches.

“I don’t get headaches. That’s not something that happens to me very often. It was different. It was not a “headache, headache,” Rainbow said. “It was a little more severe and I thought well, something’s going on here.”

When his headaches didn’t stop, Jonathan was taken to the emergency department in Visalia, then transferred to specialists at Community Regional Medical Center, who were able to diagnose a brain tumor and then offer him choices for treatment that ultimately gave him and his family a precious gift.

Community Regional has a Neuroscience center of excellence, which includes a 52-bed neuroscience unit dedicated to spine and brain patients and a combination of neurosurgical technologies and services offered only a few places in the country. The technology includes the Gen4 CyberKnife®, two 64-slice CT scanners, new neuroscience operating suite, three dimensional real-time surgical imaging equipment and faculty surgeons from UC San Francisco, one of the nation’s top medical schools.

The CT scan from Visalia had showed a dark mass in Rainbow’s brain, but the visual wasn’t quite clear enough. Using MRI technology at Community Regional, neurosurgeon Meg Verrees could see the dark mass was of great concern so she decided a biopsy would help diagnose Rainbow’s problem.

“The result was that I had large tumor in my brain. It wasn’t going anywhere,” Rainbow said.  “There were things they could do to reduce its size, but there was no fix for it. So it was a terminal diagnosis.”

Dr. Verrees was undeterred by the terminal diagnosis and gave the Rainbow family some options: “We wanted to think at what point are we offering him a benefit? A:  We want you to enjoy life. B: We want you to stay you. We don’t want you to be changed. We want you to be you and we want you to enjoy life and those are the two important things that I wanted to give to him. And that was important to him."

Rainbow said although he was urged to go elsewhere he knew Fresno as where he would stay for care.

“We have a really, really good doctor. We have a really, really top notch surgeon and that’s it. I’m not going anywhere else.”

Neurosurgeons use state-of-art imaging technology at Community Regional Medical Center.
Together, Dr. Verrees, Rainbow and his family decided they wanted to remove the tumor. With his family by his side, he underwent brain surgery at Community Regional. The surgery was a success for Jon – over the next months he would be able to enjoy his family and all the activities that made his life special.

“She took a personal interest in us and I don’t expect her to take a personal interest in every single patient,” Rainbow said. “So when I did my opera a while later and the opera was down in Visalia, Dr. Verrees came with one of her staff to listen to my opera.”

“He took a tremendous amount of joy in that. Being able to give him the opportunity months and months after surgery, to have him be able to enjoy the screening of that and being at the opening of his opera was really neat,” Dr. Verrees said.

Jon knew his diagnosis was terminal and he wanted the months following the surgery to be the best he could have. He was so grateful to his family and his physician for their love and care.

*On June 8, 2010, Jonathan Rainbow lost his battle with brain cancer. His family considered their extra year with him a gift.

Mary Lisa Russell and Millie Tang reported this story. They can be reached at mrussell@communitymedical.org or mtang@communitymedical.org.