The Joy of a Brain Tumor
My story begins back in April 2008, I was walking into the grocery store when I lost almost all of the feeling in my left foot. At first thinking it had just fallen asleep, I did everything I could to ‘wake’ it up. After reaching no aid, I called my GP who had me tested for multiple issues. After all of the tests had been returned, I was diagnosed with mono. He prescribed a slew of medications including a steroid and told me to come back in 2 weeks to check the status of things. During those two weeks, my left side became more and more weak. At the follow-up visit, my wife shared her concern with the degradation of my condition, and thought it might have been a mini-stroke causing this issue. My doctor made a call that afternoon and was able to arrange a CT scan for that afternoon. I proceeded directly to the hospital, did not pass go, nor did I collect the $200! Following the scan, I was told to wait until they released me. Looking back, they saw something that the tech did not like and had the scan read immediately. A short while later, we were still in the waiting room, my doctor called and asked to speak to my wife. With her back to me, I could not see any indication of what was being said to her. After a short conversation, she handed me the phone and said the doctor wanted to talk to me now. The only thing I recall from that conversation was being told they found a mass on my brain and that I needed to be admitted immediately, after that it became like Charlie Brown’s teacher – Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.
Shortly after I was admitted, we received a call from my brother-in-law, a flight nurse for UW Hospital in Madison, who told her to get me out of that hospital and into a facility more specialized in this type of thing. Through the grace of God, he was able to get me admitted to the UW, sight unseen by any of their staff. When we were granted the permission to transfer hospitals, they told me they would not allow us to drive ourselves, and it was too far to go by ground ambulance, so they were going to transfer me by Lifeline Medical helicopter. Upon the completion of the transfer, my brother-in-law met with the transport crew to learn what he could from them. I received my surgery the very next day in a 6.5 hour operation to remove the Meningioma that had formed on the right front of my brain. After being released 7 days after surgery, we came home. That was a Wednesday. On Saturday night, my brother-in-law called to check on how I was doing. Later that night, while on duty with MedFlight, they received a call to do a transport near Lacrosse, WI. A flight that they never returned back to base from. He was killed instantly when their aircraft went down in the bluffs surrounding the airport.
A week after his funeral, I was now diagnosed with a severe form of MRSA and had to be readmitted to the hospital to have it removed.
2008 was the most deadly year in Air Medical history with 8 crashes claiming 24 lives. By now you are probably wondering where the joy is, so here it comes. In early 2009, a Facebook group was formed to honor the lives of those individuals that never returned home from their last flight. I joined that group for my experience of having been a patient on-board and suffering the loss of a family member when one went down. We have since gone on to hold multiple honoree services and land that will someday hold the Air Medical Memorial near Denver, CO. The joy comes from being blessed to share my story of survival with other survivors of crashes. We all find that common peace and joy of being around each other and some lifetime friends have been made as the result.
I am a little over 7 years of surviving this curse and was able to pass on my experience with a friend this past fall when he fell victim to a cancerous brain tumor. While I didn’t have quite the same pull that brother-in-law did, it was through my recommendation that he saw the same surgeon that cured me. He has just past his 10 month ‘anniversary’ of his surgery.
This past year, I was able to see our twin daughters graduate High School and move on to College and our eldest daughter graduate with honors from her MBA program. Life just seems to have much greater meaning now, flowers smell better, the sun shines brighter, birds sing happier sounds now than what they did 7 years ago. I find joy in some of the simple things that seemed so mundane just a few years ago. So while we had to suffer a great deal of tragedy 7 years ago, the joy that I am able to experience now seems to have grown by astronomical bounds, all because I was given the joy of a brain tumor.
So while things may seam bleak at the beginning, this curse can actually become a thing of joy once you pass the other side of healing.