PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- After doctors in Europe said a Romanian teen's spinal lesion couldn't be removed because it would be too risky, surgeons at Barrow Neurological Institute successfully performed procedure and prevented the boy from becoming a quadriplegic.
Stefan Pascu was like any other kid growing up in Romania, until the discovery of the lesion changed his life forever.
"Winter 2016, like February. It was just a sudden sharp pain in the left arm and in the upper back area," Pascu said.
He was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, on his spine. According to Barrow Neurological Institute, an AVM is an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins with high blood flow.
And while Pascu had procedures done in the years that followed which temporarily relieved his condition, none solved the problem.
"In October 2020 another episode. This one the most catastrophic, which also led me to a coma for a couple of days," Pascu said.
Something needed to be done. Unless the AVM was removed it would continue to rupture and cause neurological damage, potentially leaving Pascu a quadriplegic.
"So we need to remove it permanently," Pascu said. But doctors in Europe said the procedure was too risky, and no one would do it.
"[We] looked for a solution everywhere in the world," said Stefan's mother Marlena Pascu. "Because it's a catastrophic disease." They found their solution in Phoenix at the Barrow Neurological Institute.
"We spent hours and hours disentangling his spinal cord from this arteriovenous malformation," said Dr. Michael Lawton, President and CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute.
It was a technical procedure where one wrong move could paralyze Pascu.
"It's always a little bit humbling or a little bit concerning when others say there's no hope and this is inoperable," Dr. Lawton said. "But that's what we do here at Barrow. We take on those hopeless cases."
Since the surgeries, Pascu went through physical therapy and things are looking good. He's even been inspired to study computer science and robotics after his experience.
"Because they have these recovery robots in the rehabilitation center. It's just really cool so maybe in the future I can design something to help people like me recover," Pascu said.
And Pascu says he's learned a powerful lesson.
"Mostly patience," Pascu said. "To stay patient, to stay positive, and stay hopeful."