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New direction for MSUM grad

Rick Krauth had a mind-expanding experience when doctors at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo removed a baseball-size tumor from his brain five years ago. The 47-year-old former electronics technician says he not only has more space in his noggin now, ...

Rick Krauth had a mind-expanding experience when doctors at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo removed a baseball-size tumor from his brain five years ago.

The 47-year-old former electronics technician says he not only has more space in his noggin now, he's using it better.

Today, Krauth will graduate from Minnesota State University Moorhead, intent on pursuing a graduate degree in counseling students with disabilities.

It's been an ordeal.

Krauth's fate was very much in doubt when doctors discovered the brain tumor after he passed out at work, a few days after a preliminary diagnosis suggested he might have Parkinson's disease, a degenerative and incurable neurological disorder.

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"For about eight years I'd been experiencing increasingly more painful headaches," said Krauth. "I thought it was from job stress."

He just wouldn't see a doctor, said his daughter, Heidi Krauth, who teaches kindergarten at Park Christian School in Moorhead.

"He'd been getting terrible headaches and tremors in his hands," she said. "He was very stubborn, but the family ganged up on him and finally convinced him to see a doctor."

A CT scan revealed that Krauth had a very large tumor near the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord.

MeritCare neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Koski, now retired, thought the operation would take about eight hours."

But like predicting the weather, he said, things aren't always what they seem.

Concerned that the tumor may have been wrapped around arteries that supply the brain, and any injury would have resulted in a stroke, Koski said the operation was akin to driving in a blinding snowstorm.

Finally, 27 hours later, they wheeled him out and we all cried, Heidi said.

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Krauth, divorced with three grown children and a teenager at home, spent two months in physical therapy following the operation. He made a nearly complete recovery, but ultimately lost mobility in his right hand and his ability to perform complex mathematical calculations.

"My career as an electrical technician was essentially over because I lost the dexterity in my right hand," he said. "Of course, I happened to be right-handed."

Encouraged by a vocational rehabilitation counselor, he decided to pursue a business administration degree at MSUM.

He learned to write with his left hand, but dealing with his mathematical disability was more difficult.

"I wanted to major in business administration because I've been in business management for most of my career," said Krauth, who was general manager of United Music in Fargo for 20 years and owned his own roller skating rink in Bemidji, Minn., for three years.

But the business administration degree required classes in statistics, calculus, algebra and business mathematics.

"I just couldn't do it," he said. "I can add, subtract and multiply, but not much beyond that."

Krauth, a 1973 graduate of Moorhead High School who earned a two-year electronic technician's degree at Northwest Technical College, took advantage of tutors at MSUM.

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"I struggled through two math courses, and I took an accounting class twice, without any success," he said.

Meanwhile, he took a part-time student worker position in MSUM's Disabilities Services office. He discovered he had both a knack and an interest in working with students with disabilities.

"I eventually came to grips with my mathematical deficit and decided to change career paths," he said. "I learned that disabled students need a tremendous amount of help, and I found the work very satisfying."

Greg Toutges, coordinator of disability services at MSUM, wishes he could keep Krauth as a full-time employee.

"He really relates well to people," Toutges said. "He'll make a great counselor."

After graduating with a degree in university studies, Krauth plans to spend the summer studying for his graduate school entrance exam -- and catching up on his fishing.

"I haven't had a break from school, including summers, since I started four years ago," he said.

Krauth, who considered himself fairly religious before his ordeal, now is a fervent Christian.

"What happened to me I consider a miracle," he said.

Tornell is director of the news bureau at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

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