WEST ISLIP, Long Island (WABC) -- A woman from Chile is thanking doctors at Catholic Health Services' Stroke and Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island at Good Samaritan Hospital for helping to treat a five-inch long benign tumor in a blood vessel in her neck -- and for doing it for free.
"How can we say thanks? You know, it's like impossible," said Rocio Blaitt, patient Jessica Gonzalez's daughter.
Blaitt said doctors in Chile told her mother they would have to do a risky, invasive surgery to remove the tumor or she would have to undergo 35 sessions of radiation with a long list of side effects.
Blaitt and her family members heard about Dr. Kimon Bekelis who heads up the Stroke and Brain Aneurysm Center. He performs a non-invasive radiosurgery procedure with no serious side effects.
Bekelis and Good Samaritan Hospital were willing to perform the procedure for free.
"This is actually an extremely rare tumor, and I don't think that she would have been able to get this type of treatment in her home country," Bekelis said.
Gonzalez received the one-hour treatment on November 12. Her original appointment was in March, but had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
"We just wait with faith," Blaitt said.
The hope is that throughout the next three years the tumor will dissipate or disappear altogether.
Bekelis will continue to monitor Gonzalez's progress in Chile.
"We will do MRIs there, which she will then send us the disk, and we would be able to review it and kind of monitor the tumor and its direction," he said.
Bekelis said if Gonzalez needs another radiosurgery treatment, they will bring her back.
Gonzalez said she is already feeling better after having the procedure and she described Bekelis and the entire team at Good Samaritan Hospital as angels.
"Despite the fact that people were wearing masks, you could see in their eyes, these were good people," she said in Spanish.
Bekelis is hoping to help more people, like Gonzalez, through a new program he is spearheading.
"Good Sam is surrounded by a large Spanish community and, you know, we often take care of these patients, but we thought that if we created a program where we offer these services for free to folks that really need them and cannot get them in their home countries from South America that would be a way to really give back to the community that supports the hospital," he said.
Bekelis said they hope to enroll at least two patients in the program every year.
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