Dr. Abdulrauf salutes Fair Grove High School graduates Jessica O'Neal and Dalton Robinson

The SLUCare neurosurgeon credited with saving the life of a Fair Grove High School football player and correcting a congenital brain issue in his classmate delivered the commencement address at their graduation on May 8, 2014.

On Friday, September 13, 2013, high school senior Dalton Robinson was taken out of the game with a tackle. He didn't have symptoms of a concussion, and so he went back in the game, scoring the winning touchdown. After the game, however, his mother noticed one of his pupils was dilated. Doctors discovered an arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal connection between arteries and veins) and an aneurysm. Dalton and his family were referred to SLUCare neurosurgeon Saleem Abdulrauf. M.D., in St. Louis — more than 200 miles from Fair Grove, Missouri. In October, the family made the trip and Dalton received life-saving surgery, performed by Dr. Abdulrauf. Dalton made a full recovery, and he is planning to attend Ozark Technical Community College this fall on an A+ scholarship.

Dalton's classmate Jessica O'Neal, also a senior at Fair Grove, was having severe headaches. Doctors found that she had a condition called Chiari, a malformation in the cerebellum, toward the base of the brain. The family had planned to travel to Colorado to get treatment for Jessica. But then, Jessica's dad — Fair Grove football coach Jason O'Neal — was referred by Dalton's family to Dr. Abdulrauf, who agreed to take Jessica's case, saving the family a long and expensive trip out West. Dr. Abdulrauf performed surgery on Jessica to allow more space in her skull and ease her symptoms. Jessica finished her school year playing soccer, appearing in the school play and being named a valedictorian at graduation.

"I'm so proud to see Jessica and Dalton both doing well and heading off on the next stages of their lives in good health," said Dr. Abdulrauf. "I think that their stories of overcoming life's challenges offer lessons that can be valuable for all of Fair Grove's graduating seniors."

In his speech, Dr. Abdulrauf cited inspirational words from Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, and he encouraged graduates to "be the best you can be, no matter what you become in life."

Dr. Abdulrauf is chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Saint Louis University. He has developed new surgical techniques, written a neurosurgery textbook, and currently serves as president of the Walter E. Dandy Neurosurgical Society.