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Virtual reality? TEDxManhattanBeach speaker gets a life-saving dose

Northeast Ohio

Virtual reality isn't just for catching Pokémon; it can save your life.

In December 2014, Lucas Deines’ life changed dramatically: He learned he had a brain tumor and sought the best medical advice. But, he didn't realize, his doctors would be using medical advancements beyond his imagination. 

“In the 90s or even 10 years ago, people were looking at virtual reality with the preconception of ‘that’s only for gaming or entertainment,'” Deines said. “But at the end of the day, look what it did for me and what it’s going to be able to do for so many other people.”

After learning about his brain tumor, Deines, who lives in Redondo Beach with his wife and two kids, weighed his options and looked for the best neurosurgeons in the area. He was told he couldn’t get a consultation with the chief surgeon at UCLA for two months. Deines couldn’t accept this.

“Sometimes, you’re dealt a hand that might not be ideal, and you don’t have to accept that hand. You can take it head on and try to control your outcomes,” Deines said.

That’s just what he did.

Through leveraging his network, the chief neurosurgeon at UCLA, Dr. Neil Martin, operated on Deines in February 2015.

Deines, regional vice president of BI WORLDWIDE, will be sharing his experience, as he and 14 other speakers enlighten the audience at this year's TEDxManhattanBeach. The virtual reality technology, Surgical Theater, that helped save his life will also be on display at the conference.

Using Surgical Theater, Martin was able to look at an ultra-realistic 3-D virtual replica of a Deines' brain when prepping for surgery.

Surgeons initially told Deines only 80 percent of his benign tumor could be removed. However, Martin was able to remove nearly 100 percent of Deines' tumor with the help of virtual reality.

“If you juxtapose the MRI 2-D scans, that’s what a surgeon normally has to look at, to these 3-D models, they're just so interactive,” Deines said. “My surgeon was able to fully visualize the surgery before he even walked into the operating room.”

Deines' advice to others going through a similar situation is to “listen to your body and don’t Google it! That just takes you down a pretty scary path,” Deines laughed.

“When it comes down to it, it is about leveraging your resources and leveraging your networks in order to get the answers you need. To get the expertise that you need to the level that you need it,” Deines added.

Through this experience, Deines now has a new outlook on technology, as well as life.

“This experience certainly gave me perspective and reminded me what is important in life,” Deines said. “It also made me a little bit more appreciative of the everyday moments.”

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