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Good Sam Surgeon Removes "Melon-Sized" Mass from West Babylon Man

June 29th, 2017

Ralph Bunn first knew something was wrong when he had a difficult time swallowing food.    

“Every time I put something in my mouth, I thought I was going to choke,” said Mr. Bunn. “Then I started to have trouble breathing. I didn’t know what was wrong but I thought someone would eventually find me dead on the floor.” 

To complicate matters, Mr. Bunn suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, meaning his spine is fused, forcing his head to permanently tilt forward.  Some physicians attributed the discomfort to his condition and suggested he switch to a liquid diet. Others thought it might just be allergies.   

“I was miserable but everyone told me this is what I have to live with, so what was I going to do?” recalls Mr. Bunn. 

At the same time, Mr. Bunn noticed a small bump on his neck.

Over the next 12 years, that “small bump” developed into a goiter, a result of an enlarged thyroid gland. It stretched from Mr. Bunn’s chin to his shoulder, measuring six inches long, six inches wide and three inches high, roughly the size of a cantaloupe.

The West Babylon man said the growth resulted in funny looks and whispers from strangers when he was out in public. At home, he even admitted he would cringe when he caught a glimpse of it in the mirror.

“I looked like a character from a monster movie,” said the West Babylon native. “It was like I had a softball coming out of my neck.”


Everything changed when he was introduced to Arnbjorn Toset, MD, surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center.

“I believe that Dr. Toset was an angel who was sent to save me,” said Mr. Bunn.

During their first visit, Dr. Toset identified the tumor as the reason Mr. Bunn was having difficulty eating and breathing.

“This is a man who had suffered for so long without any answers,” said Dr. Toset. “The answer was clear. It wasn’t an easy solution, but it was obvious what needed to be done.”

The issue was the size and location of the tumor, which stretched across the trachea in his throat. Due to Mr. Bunn’s condition, if his head was raised, even slightly, it could potentially snap his neck.

Dr. Toset dealt with large thyroid glands before, but never with such minimal exposure to the surface, noting “We had to pull this huge tumor through a tiny opening.”  

The high-risk surgery didn’t concern Mr. Bunn who said Dr. Toset had such a “calming way” about him that he felt comfortable during the entire process leading up to the procedure.

After a short recovery, Mr. Bunn said the pain he experienced for more than a decade was completely gone.

“I don’t have any discomfort,” said Mr. Bunn. “I’m eating better, breathing better and most importantly, I have a neck again!”

Dr. Toset also noticed an immediate change in Mr. Bunn, commenting how happy he appeared after 12 years of suffering with this complicated issue.

“Other physicians weren’t comfortable performing this procedure due to the risk associated with the size and location of the tumor,” said Dr. Toset. “This is why I trained specifically with unusual and aggressive thyroid tumors, to be able to help people like Mr. Bunn.”

For more information on the services provided at Good Samaritan, please call 631-376-4444 or visit