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A Long, Interesting Journey: Agnes Seals establishes life-changing bond with SBL Bonutti Clinic doctor

November 7, 2018 12:25 p.m.

When Agnes Seals first entered the Bonutti Clinic in Effingham 25 years ago, she had nearly given up hope of ever walking again.

“I had been in a wheelchair for two years because of a knee injury, and I had gone to seven doctors who all refused treatment for this reason or that,” she said. “It was a very depressing time in my life. I was always very active and very social, and the situation just brought my life to a halt.” Agnes was just 56 years old at the time.

The Hoopeston woman was referred to Orthopedic Surgeon Timothy Gray, MD, who she credits with changing her life. “He was the only doctor who was willing to help me,” Agnes said, holding back tears. “When he told me he would do my surgery, I lost control of myself and hugged him and cried.” 

Agnes recalls that before Dr. Gray performed her knee replacement surgery in 1993, she was in so much pain that she was unable to stand. “I only wish I would have found him sooner,” she said. Recovering was not easy after being wheelchair-bound, but Agnes learned to walk again and she resumed her active life.

“It was great to be able to get around and go to church again,” Agnes said, acknowledging that she struggled with balance issues that required routine checks though the years. Those check-ups meant that Agnes had to make periodic four-hour round-trip treks from Hoopeston to Effingham to see Dr. Gray, but she is very grateful that she did.

Agnes said Dr. Gray saved her life a second time-- a day in early 2001 when she went to his office for a routine knee check.

“He immediately noticed that I’d lost a lot of weight and he asked, ‘What’s going on?’” she recalled. “I told him I was having terrible headaches and muscle spasms down the back of my neck and across my shoulders.” Dr. Gray ordered an MRI that day. When a second MRI was ordered to get closer images of the spine, Agnes received the devastating news.

“Dr. Gray told me I had a brain tumor,” she said. “It was like I had been slapped in the face and punched in the gut, and I couldn’t do anything but lay my head down on his desk and cry. Dr. Gray came over and put his forehead down on my head, and he let me cry.” 

Agnes will never forget the way that Dr. Gray took charge of the situation. Not only did he ease her fears but he directed her care by referring Agnes to a renowned neurosurgeon for intervention. “Dr. Gray was so kind and he gave me his private phone number and told me to call him anytime I needed him,” she said.

In April 2001, Agnes had surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor that wrapped under her chin, around her esophagus and down her spine. “It was very traumatic,” she said. The tumor wasn’t cancerous, but it required years of therapy and doctor visits for Agnes to fully recover. Doctors are monitoring a small tumor that was discovered a year later through regular MRIs.

“I’m grateful that Dr. Gray prolonged my care because I’m not sure the brain tumor would have been found otherwise,” Agnes said. “I think the tumor may have been causing some of my balance issues.”  

“I’ve been through a lot in my life,” Agnes said. “I’ve been told I’m a very strong woman and I just do the very best that I can.” For years, she cared for her ailing husband while battling her own health concerns. He passed away in late July.

Now 83, Agnes has fun taking day trips and searching for antiques with her friend and caregiver, Deb Drollinger. Agnes also loves to crochet, paint and sew doll clothes. 

Agnes still visits Dr. Gray for her knees and other health concerns. “He’s just a wonderful person, man and doctor. Dr. Gray is just awesome in my eyes and I would recommend him to anyone,” Agnes said. “He not only saved my life once, but he saved my life twice. He’s my knight in shining armor.”

“Agnes and I have traveled together a long and interesting journey,” Dr. Gray said. “I began seeing her my first year in practice and here we are still together 25 years later! She’s a special lady. I always look forward to her visits.”

Dr. Gray attended University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and then University of Illinois College of Medicine Chicago Campus.

To make an appointment with Dr. Gray, call the SBL Bonutti Clinic at 217 342-3400.

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