Teenager goes from operating table to the gridiron

After tumor removal, Webster's Matthew Cutaia is on comeback trail

October 11, 1999

A weakened Matthew Cutaia was lying in a hospital bed, unsure whether he'd ever be able to take advantage of the full football scholarship promised to him by the University of Connecticut.

That was in July. Less than two months later, the 17-year-old Webster High School student was back where he belongs - on the football field. Matthew, who doubles on defense as a free safety, is one of the area's premier wide receivers.

It wasn't long ago, though, that his football future - and his ability to walk normally - was in doubt. During the summer, he visited Children's Hospital at Strong, complaining of back pain and numbness in his legs.

"He got a MRI scan and it revealed a tumor adjacent to the spinal cord," says Seth Zeidman, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital at Strong. "It was near the middle of his back, at the bottom of his ribcage. That's a bad place to have a tumor, because that's where the spinal cord ends. Of course, the family was understandably upset."

The family's anxiety turned to relief when Zeidman successfully operated on Matthew, completely removing the tumor. Matthew then embarked on a rehabilitation program and is now back on the field making big plays.

"I'm back to 100 percent," he says. "I've played every game this year. I wanted to get the surgery done as soon as possible. I didn't want to mess up my scholarship."

Matthew's father, Christopher Cutaia, is grateful to the staff at Children's Hospital at Strong. His son received world-class medical treatment without even having to leave town.

Cutaia said Matthew was a bit hesitant when he got back on the playing field, but he's making a courageous comeback.

"The second game he was back for, he took a wicked shot in the back, which answered a lot of questions in his mind," Cutaia says. "He said 'Dad, when I took that hit, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get up and walk.' But he did."

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