Arnold and Nancy Allen with Dr. Francel
Dr. Francel saved my husband's life when his other doctors said his condition was terminal and totally inoperable. He completely removed a large tumor, a chondroid chordoma which is very rare, from the center of my husband's brain in the cavernous sinus in 1999. That area of the brain has been well know for being very difficult to reach surgically and in the not too distant past, totally inaccessible. To make the situation even more dangerous, my husband's tumor was wrapped around the carotid artery, the main artery of the brain. One slip of the scalpel likely would have been fatal.
I was really impressed with the thoroughness of Dr. Francel to ensure as good and safe an outcome as possible. He had Arnold get a long, complete angiogram of the brain before the surgery and he used the 3-D image guidance system computer during the surgery so he could see at all times where he was in is head in relation to the tumor and other structures. Prior to the surgery he practiced with the 3-D computer as he planned the surgery. One other thing he requested and we got was a high resolution MRI so he could see the tumor and the brain better than with a regular MRI.
Granted, it was a risky surgery, but my husband had a 100% chance of death without it, so it was actually an easy decision--at least for me. Arnold had to think and pray about it some, just to be sure and at peace with the idea. The surgery was a complete success. I thought I would never hear those amazing words, "I got all the tumor out!" What joy I felt in my heart at that time! Arnold had no ill effects from the surgery and no recurrence of the tumor. He had an extremely fast recovery with a minimal amount of pain in his head. In less than 2 weeks he was out playing tennis and running and doing many other things with a ball cap covering his 14 inch stapled incision. Soon after that he was back to work full time. I think Dr. Francel was even a little amazed like the rest of us he recovered so quickly and well.
In comparison, another neurosurgeon attempted to remove my husband's tumor in January of 1992 but it was a dismal failure and caused severe damage to my husband's third cranial nerve to his right eye which he still suffers from today. He frequently has pain in his eye and sees double all the time. He has had 7 eye and eyelid surgeries trying to improve on the problem, but since the real problem is in the brain, they were of little help. One did raise his droopy eyelid, but that caused other problems--extremely dry eye and chronic infections from the implant. He finally had to have the implant removed. Luckily, he was able to keep his eyelid open after that. His pupil in his eye can't contract and his eye can't move. His nose on the right side runs more than it should. He has had a lot of pain in his neck. He has no depth perception and has trouble recognizing where things are in space (more severe than just depth perception) and visualizing in his head spatial relationships. If he reaches for something it is usually in the wrong place. He has almost no sense of smell.
Also, my husband was in excruciating pain for weeks following the first brain surgery, laid in the bed nearly all the time, and lost a lot of weight. He was taking a lot of strong pain medicine that didn't seem to help much. He had to learn to drive the car and play tennis again with his visual handicaps. All those problems were in stark contrast to Dr. Francel's successful surgery.
I would like to speak here of skill, training, ethics, and character because I believe his first neurosurgeon was probably like some other physicians out there today. First off, the other doctor in 1991 and 1992 didn't give us any inkling of the dangers of his surgery in January of 1992 or tell us there was a certainty he couldn't remove all the tumor. Maybe he didn't even know it. Dr. Francel had told us that only one doctor in the world could have removed Arnold tumor at that time and it was Dr. Vinko Dolenc that trained Dr. Francel. I was in total shock when he came out afterwards and told me he couldn't get all the tumor out. That had never crossed my mind.
But the worst was, he looked me and my husband right in our eyes and lied to us later in 1999. He told us he or no other doctor could possibly remove hardly any of that tumor if he had another surgery. The damning thing was he knew of Dr. Francel's work (they went to meetings together regularly), but he was content to let my husband die rather than tell us about it. He didn't even have to recommend him, just tell us that he had heard of the work Dr. Francel was doing in cavernous sinus surgery in case we might want to check it out. He was too proud to admit his failure and tell us someone else could probably do better. My husband would be dead thanks to that man except by the grace of God we heard about Dr. Francel. Also, my husband and I thank God the first surgeon didn't kill him or do more harm than he did. He just didn't have the training and skill to get the job done. He didn't have the character to admit his lack of training and skill, and he was unethical. Even though that doctor has passed away, I still get angry thinking about him. I don't forgive him for his actions.
Back to Dr. Francel: He was kind and thoughtful enough to work us into his busy schedule and see us after all his patients that day we went to see him. Even though he had to be tired after such a long day, he spent at least an hour and a half talking to us explaining all kinds of things and showing us drawings, a model of a skull, a video, and explaining Arnold's MRI's and showing us surgical books of the proposed surgery written by the man who taught him how to remove cavernous sinus tumors--Dr. Vinko Dolenc, a world renowned pioneer of the surgery. He told us that at the time of Arnold's last surgery only one man in the world could have removed his tumor completely--Dr. Dolenc. That was a shock.
Also, Dr. Francel very clearly showed us how our radiologist had read the size of his tumor wrong and compared it incorrectly with a previous one, so our radiologist said the tumor hadn't grown, but we could see very clearly on the MRI's with a ruler that he had measured it wrong and it was 2 cm. larger in one dimension than reported. That explained why my husband was getting worse and experiencing incapacitating headaches for days at a time. He was in big trouble. We realized Dr. Francel was our only hope. Arnold was running out of time.
Then our insurance company tried to block us from using Dr. Francel for the surgery because he was "out of network." In our minds though, there was no way that was going to happen. We wouldn't budge an inch, and asked Dr. Francel to do the surgery anyway. We never considered letting any other surgeon touch Arnold's head. We had been down that other road before with disastrous results.
From my observations, Dr. Francel is a great family man and he is one of the most inspiring, dynamic Christians I have ever met. I believe him to be a man of fine character and ethics. He has had outstanding training. He is very intelligent. I think he is also one of the most caring individuals around. He appears to have a close relationship with the Lord. He used to pray with patients and their families when they wanted him to. He definitely didn't force that on anyone, of course. I love the way Dr. Francel gives God the credit for his success. One time I told him, "You and God work beautifully together." He looked at me very intently, smiled, and said, "I am His hands." When I have complimented him on his successes with surgeries in the past, he would very modestly say, "God did most of it."
I have never in the 18 years I have known Dr. Francel thought him to be arrogant man with a big ego. One patient told me she thought he was an excellent surgeon but arrogant. She and I had a discussion about that. I tried to explain to her that Dr. Francel was a very devoted Christian and always gave God the credit for his successes. Not only that, there is a world of difference between being self confident due to a person's vast knowledge and training and their trust in the Lord versus arrogance. Arrogance is self pride. I hope I convinced the lady. I realized I knew the thinking and beliefs of Dr. Francel much better than she did.
We have always really admired Dr. and Mrs. Francel's parenting skills. Their children are just amazing scholastically and appear to have excellent character. Since the children were tiny they have all had responsibilities in the family or chores as we call them. No one was getting a free ride. Also, the Francel's always took them to Sunday School and church and they are still active in church.
The Francels taught Sunday School for children for many years and Mrs. Francel was church choir director and financial secretary. She is now Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce in Piedmont, OK. She was head of the PTA for several years at the Piedmont School District. Mrs. Francel is always taking a keen interest in the education of their children and others. She is well educated with an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Dr. Francel was active in scouting activities when the children were younger. He is very involved in church work, especially now that he is a minister. They have taken the children to other countries to let them know how others in the world live. Their oldest son Leif did missionary work in Africa and Bolivia and delayed his college education for a year. He is a remarkable young man. I feel all that speaks so well of the Francels' good judgment and character.
One thing I really like about Dr. Francel is that he never takes the easy path. He always takes the road less traveled--the challenging route. Here are some good examples. He excelled in high school and as a result was able to get into Harvard. He completed his B.S. degree from there in only three years and graduated Magna cum Laude. Then he attended Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. He could have completed his M.D. in 4 years, but he wanted to receive his Ph.D. also from the Department of Pharmacological/Physiological Sciences, so it took him 7 years.
Then he selected Neurosurgery for his residency and chosen field. This was the longest program and one of the most difficult. He could have stopped there, but he decided to take a year of study in Pediatric Neurosurgery also because of his compassion for children. He also spent a year of training in England. See his Biography for more.
He could have remained at his position with the OU Health Sciences/OU Medical Center. But after 8-1/2 years he has decided to start his own independent practice as of January 7, 2005. He is a man who loves challenges and faces them with faith rather than fear.
Dr. Francel decided to become a doctor when he was in high school back in Toledo, Ohio. He got permission to accompany his family physician some in his practice so he could observe what being a physician was all about. Since that time, he has spent his entire adult life either training to help people or actually doing just that.
No person has ever touched our lives and blessed us like Dr. Francel. As much as I am grateful for him saving my husband from what would have been certain death, I feel I am equally blessed just to have gotten acquainted with such a fine Christian man who has who has taught me much about faith. There is no person I admire more. Every day my husband and I thank God for him! Without Dr. Francel's surgery, my husband would have died about 18 years ago.
Dr. Francel is now retired from medical practice and is a minister, finishing seminary St. Paul School of Theology in Oklahoma City in two short years taking a compact schedule of classes. He now has a Master's in Divinity degree. He is also very active serving the Lord in his church--Resurrection Lutheran Church in Yukon, OK as Assistant Minister to Pastor Mark Borseth and he is enjoying spending quality time with his family. He is also Co-Director of the Piedmont Park Project. He does other volunteer projects in the community.
My thoughts regarding Dr. Francel embarking on his new career in the ministry are this. I am not surprised that God has called him to this new work. I knew he would be an outstanding minister as he has inspired me more in the faith than anyone else ever has. He is such a caring person, and he is an outstanding speaker. He spent many years helping heal people's physical bodies and now it seems appropriate that he minister to their spirits as well, which, after all last an eternity, not just a few years. Our thoughts and prayers are with him in ambitious endeavors. We are so proud of him. To learn much more on this topic in an in depth discussion, click on the blue box below to read more. The change from neurosurgeon to minister was anything but simple and easy. At times it was even heartbreaking, but being the remarkable and capable person he is, he achieved it with the Lord's help, inspiration, and guidance. Great job Dr. Francel!!! We are so proud of you!!!
News Flash - Arnold is still tumor free!
Thank you Dr. Francel for 18 great years August 17, 2017!!!!
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