St. Vincent Health Care began using new neurotechnology to improve mapping of the brain in September, and the change couldn't have happened at a better time for Fran Fleckenstein.
There was no way the 75-year-old Fleckenstein could have prepared for her medical diagnosis last fall. When she was seeing a doctor for a different medical problem, a CAT scan revealed that she had four brain aneurysms.
"I was absolutely terrified," Fleckenstein said on Monday morning. "It actually scared me to death because I've known people that have died because of brain aneurysms."
For Fleckenstein, the diagnosis was life-changing. At her age, she worried there wouldn't be many options.
"At my age, I was just grateful that my life mattered to Dr. Khan," Fleckenstein said.
Fleckenstein's received her diagnosis after new technology at St. Vincent's had arrived that perfectly fit with her ideal procedure.
"After visiting with Dr. Khan, I felt more reassured," Fleckenstein said. "He told me the risks, but he also told me that if I was his mother, he would tell me to go ahead with this procedure."
Fleckenstein's doctor, Riz Khan, said that he was confident in the operation, and once he saw the scan, he knew it was the right option for his patient.
"When I saw the aneurysms, I saw the noninvasive imaging and I knew she needed treatment and repair," Khan said. "I was confident in our technology and ability to have the surgery done at St. Vincent's."
The new technology helps doctors perform noninvasive surgeries and also allows for 3D imaging of the brain. Before it arrived at St. V's, Fleckenstein would've been sent to Salt Lake City or Denver for this type of procedure, especially given her age.
"I think it's game-changing and life-changing for the greater Montana community," Khan said. "To be able to achieve tertiary level care here at St. V's is a landmark for this community."
Fleckenstein was the first patient to take advantage of the new equipment at St. V's. On Monday, she was able to walk back into her operating room for an emotional visit with Khan.
"I'm so glad that I am able to walk in here and view the room when I'm fully conscious," Fleckenstein said. "I guess I owe my life to him and this hospital."
And Khan said that Fleckenstein's story is exactly what motivated him to become a surgeon.
"You cannot not get emotional because we are invested in our patients' care," Khan said. "The look on the patient's face makes it all worthwhile and keeps us going."
And Fleckenstein couldn't be more grateful.
"He wanted to take care of the problem that I had, and I really respect him for that," Fleckenstein said. "He's my hero."