Cancer survivor to share story at Dixie Regional Medical Center grand opening

KC Heaton shares his story at Canyon Media, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — KC Heaton was living a normal life. He was working as a critical care technician at Dixie Regional Medical Center and spending time with his wife, Kayla Heaton, and their baby girl Paige, when out of nowhere, a visit to the emergency room turned his life upside down. 

KC Heaton shares his story at Canyon Media, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

KC first learned he had a spot on his brain in 2009. After being referred to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for a series of MRIs, he was told that the quarter-sized spot was nothing to worry about. Since it hadn’t grown, they thought it was most likely something he was born with.

“I thought, okay, cool, if they aren’t worried about it I’m not worried about it. But I should have worried about it.”

One night, KC was lying in bed when he experienced a grand mal seizure. Kayla drove him to the emergency room where they were referred to Jotham Manwaring, the neurosurgeon who was on call that night.

“Dr. Manwaring, he’s a good doctor. I’d recommend him to family and friends,” KC said.

After an MRI, they discovered that the once small spot had grown to the size of a tennis ball, and Manwaring diagnosed KC with a grade II astrocytoma brain tumor, which required surgery to remove.  

They scheduled the surgery for Nov. 16, 2017. KC said he was nervous for the operation but he was more scared for what would happen after the surgery. No one could say for sure what the outcome would be or if he would ever walk or talk again.

“They were going into my brain, the brain is everything, it runs your whole body.”

Kayla was also concerned about the outcome. Luckily, she said, they both have  very supportive family members who were there for them throughout the process.

“I was extremely nervous. I wasn’t necessarily nervous about the surgery itself, because I had full confidence in our surgeon and I knew he was in the best hands that he could possibly be in. I was more nervous as to what the outcome would be.”

The surgery to remove a brain tumor requires careful planning by a team of doctors and nurses. It is an extremely invasive surgery, involving the removal of part of the skull, and then making an incision in the dura, a protective layer around the brain, before carefully cutting out the tumor.

Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, July 18, 2018 | File photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

“For me that moment is kind of the moment of truth,” Manwaring said in an Intermountain Healthcare video. “You have this individual on the table, you’ve taken the skull away and then you have this one last layer to open up. And underneath you have this person’s brain, you know, this thing that drives who they are and what they do.”

KC’s surgery went well overall. During the surgery he suffered a stroke that set him back a bit during the recovery process. He doesn’t remember much from his time in the hospital. He remembers going into surgery, and going to his five-day acute rehabilitation afterwards, but nothing in between.

During the recovery he had good days and bad. Kayla would drive him to occupational, speech and physical therapy two to three times per week, plus his other appointments.

The stroke that he suffered mid-surgery caused him to lose some mobility in his hand and affected his speech for a while after surgery.

“It’s been a long road to recovery. Things were kind of rough at first, but now I would say I’m back at 100 percent.”

KC Heaton will be sharing his story and cutting the ribbon at the “growing together” grand opening of the Dixie Regional Medical Center expansion Sept. 12 featuring The Piano Guys.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • youcandoit August 10, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    I always look at the positive side thank goodness St George finally has neurosurgeons. My son was in a near fatal car accident in 09′ he didn’t get the care he needed back then st george didn’t have the Doctors he needed. He still has complications from the accident he has seizures poor balance short term memory no problem solving abilities. I understand about Dr’s saying not to worry about cysts or tumors. In 07′ Dr found my spine has tarlov cysts they don’t know much about them, they don’t know they become symptomatic and erode nerves and bone in your spine. The positive side there is a Dr. in Dallas he came up with a procedure to keep these monsters at bay. Now I need the neurosurgeons here to get on board and learn the procedure so I don’t have to travel so far. The Dr in Dallas will teach any neurosurgeon. I still need 2 more surgeries they can’t rid then at once, due to I’ll die on the table. They grow from spine fluid leaks. Now I have permanent nerve damage in my hips and thighs. I’m still hopful

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