- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 9-year-old boy from Sterling, Va., successfully underwent a biopsy yesterday on a brain tumor he called “Frank,” a nickname that his mother used to raise thousands of dollars for medical bills in an online auction of a “Frank Must Die” bumper sticker.

“It really went very well. I’m thrilled,” said Dr. Hrayr Shahinian, who performed the surgery at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Skull Base Institutes.

David Dingman-Grover went into surgery at about 10 a.m.

A little more than two hours later, David was awake and talking, Dr. Shahinian said.

“He was asking for Ben, his teddy bear, and for his mom. Those were the two things he asked for, and he got both of them.”

Dr. Shahinian said David’s oncologists must decide whether to give him one more round of chemotherapy or wait six months and do another magnetic resonance imaging scan.

“We have to sit tight and wait to see — is Frank dead?” Dr. Shahinian said.

On Tuesday, David, wearing glasses, jeans and an orange “Lilo & Stitch” T-shirt, shared smiles and kisses with his mother, but during a press conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, he said he was frightened .

“I’m scared a little,” said the boy, who was diagnosed in May 2003 with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. A grapefruit-sized tumor was impinging on his optic nerves and carotid arteries, causing blindness and headaches. He named it with Frankenstein’s monster in mind.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments shrank the tumor to the size of an apricot, restoring his vision, but there were serious side effects. For a while, he couldn’t walk or eat and had to be fed through a tube, his mother said.

Dr. Shahinian performed the biopsy using a relatively new, less- invasive procedure.

A fiber-optic tube the size of a child’s drinking straw was inserted into his nose and threaded to the tumor so cells could be removed and tested to determine whether the tumor is dead or still growing, said Dr. Shahinian, who has performed more than 2,000 of the procedures in the past decade.

The usual procedure for such tumors would involve peeling back the boy’s scalp, cutting through the bone of his skull and lifting his brain to reach the tumor, the doctor said.

But Tiffini Dingman-Grover said that method would “mutilate my child’s face.”

“It was just inhumane,” she said. “I can’t do that to my child.”

Before the press conference, David gave his doctor a T-shirt that said: “Frank Must Die.”

To raise money for the biopsy, David’s parents auctioned a bumper sticker on EBay reading “Frank Must Die.”

Then, in January, Dr. Shahinian said he would perform the surgery for free.

After the $20,000 for an anesthesiologist and other hospital fees was raised by outside donations, the $10,700 an online casino paid for the sticker was donated to a charity that helps families struggling with pediatric cancer.

Dr. Shahinian said his patient has taught him about strong character.

“I think he’s a lesson in courage, grit and character, the way he is facing his challenge, which is a massive one,” he said.

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