Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

After a car accident led to the discovery of a brain tumor, Steve Stark underwent surgery at RUSH — with excellent results
Steve Stark (left) smiles with his daughter and wife.

It was an ordinary day in March when Toni Stark received a phone call from her husband, Steve, that no one wants to get: He’d been in an accident.

Steve, of Arlington Heights, had just dropped off their daughter at volleyball practice when someone T-boned him, totaling his car and leaving him with a concussion and hearing issue. Toni rushed to the hospital to be by his side and sought solace from a close friend, who insisted she press for an MRI to confirm there wasn't any further damage.

The bad news, however, kept coming. While doctors didn’t see any further damage from the accident, they found a sizeable brain tumor that needed to be surgically removed. Steve was referred to another hospital before opting to get a second opinion from RUSH University Medical Center.

The decision to seek care at RUSH was easy. Toni had attended a luncheon in 2022 hosted by The Woman’s Board of RUSH University Medical Center at a table sponsored by her employer, Illinois Tool Works. She recalled Dr. Omar Lateef, president and CEO of RUSH, noting that RUSH is a national leader in providing care and advancing research that protects, preserves and restores brain health.

“I kept telling Steve that I wanted one more opinion,” Toni said. “I just had a gut feeling about RUSH. I called, and we were able to get an appointment the very next day with Dr. Byrne. The care Steve received when we switched to RUSH was night and day. Everything, including the amazing nursing care provided by Margaret Yesko, NP, was exceptional. RUSH is like a well-oiled machine.”

Richard Byrne, MD, a renowned neurosurgeon at RUSH, instantly put Toni and Steve at ease. He explained that he had operated on more than a thousand brain tumors, including those that were on a vein like Steve’s.

“Donor-supported research and technology are helpful in cases like Steve’s and so many others,” Dr. Byrne said. “RUSH’s latest brain tumor research project involves installing new MRI technology called magnetic resonance elastography, which will allow us to know ahead of time what tools will be most effective to use in surgery based on how firm and stuck to critical structures a tumor is. We hope to one day better understand why people get brain tumors and learn new and improved ways to treat them.”

Steve’s surgery was scheduled for the following week, and the outcome was a success.

“Dr. Byrne contacted me immediately after surgery and said that all indications pointed to it not being a cancerous tumor,” Toni said. “Those were the first words he said to me. I was so grateful.”

Steve was up and walking the same day as his surgery and was able to come home two days earlier than expected, where he continued his recovery. Further tests confirmed his tumor was noncancerous, and Steve was completely cleared to continue with full activity by May.

“They really did a fantastic job — not only with the technical part of the operation but also by treating us so well,” Steve said. “We hadn’t been to RUSH before this happened. While I certainly don’t want to repeat an operation like that, as far as alternatives, I can’t imagine anything going better elsewhere. I don’t know that you could find a better facility and staff. The level of care was superb, and everyone treated us so wonderfully from start to finish.”

Steve was happy to be able to take part in a charity golf outing after returning home.

“I didn’t play great, but it takes a while,” he said. “What mattered was that I was finally getting back into the swing of things, thanks to RUSH.”

Related Stories