Patients Stories

Wedding checklist: Surgery

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August 27, 2013 at 5:49am facebook
Army Veteran William Young and his fiance, Julie, have known each other since the age of 18. "We met before I joined the military. She was my sister's best friend, so we always were in each other's lives in some way, knew what the other was doing," said Young. Two decades later, the timing was finally right. They had been engaged for five years and made plans to get married on July 4, 2013.

The couple was shopping for wedding rings on March 13, 2013 when Young received a call from VA's Castle Point Campus that he needed to come to the urgent care clinic for a follow-up test.

"I knew then something was probably wrong," said Young. He had been experiencing moments when his vision was abnormal in that he would see an aura followed by intense migraine headaches. "I blew these things off," he said. But, as the migraines came more frequently, the Port Jervis, NY resident consulted with his doctor at the Hudson Valley VAMC. The neurologist had ordered a CT scan on March 12th, and it had revealed bleeding in the back of his brain, in the area that controls vision. Young went back to the doctor, who ordered an MRI and called Dr. Uzma Samadani, Chief of Neurosurgery for the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System.

"When I saw the films, my first thought was that we needed to find the source of bleeding and make absolutely sure it was not a life-threatening problem," said Dr. Samadani. “We did an angiogram, which showed that there were no abnormal blood vessels. We then let the blood clear, so we could see the anatomy better, and a repeat MRI revealed a brain tumor the size of a plum, arising next to the largest blood vessel in the back of the skull, nestled up against the part of his brain controlling vision. It looked as if he had bled into the tumor, probably several times over the years, which meant it would likely have a very rich blood supply, making it challenging to remove."

Young saw the ophthalmologist, who confirmed that he had a blind spot caused by the bleeding tumor."She said I could leave it in or she could take it out. I said, take it out because I didn’t want things to get worse"

"When I talked to Mr. Young and his fiance in our clinic on May 15th, they told me they were scheduled to get married on July 4th. I was not sure he would recover from the surgery that quickly, so I asked him if he'd rather wait. He had been living with headaches and vision problems for over a year and did not want to feel as if he were in constant jeopardy of re-bleeding with the slightest exertion. He promised me he would heal quickly. He was very determined."

"I wanted the wedding to be just the way we planned," said Young. "I said I need to get healed by July 4. Nothing's going to stop me."

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So on his fiance's birthday, June 4th, Young had the tumor removed from his brain by Dr. Samadani and her neurosurgical team in a four hour operation that risked damage to the largest draining blood vessel of the brain, and the area around it that controls vision. The growth was benign, and the operation, aided by the Stealth frameless stereotactic navigation system and neuromonitoring, was successful. A postoperative MRI revealed a complete removal of the tumor and preservation of the blood vessel.

Young was discharged home from the hospital three days after the operation. He returned to Port Jervis with Julie, who had never left his side during the days leading up to the procedure. He still has some problems with his lower peripheral vision. "It hinders me a little," he noted, explaining how it impacts him as a carpenter who specializes in remodeling kitchens and bathrooms.

One month after the surgery, right on schedule, the childhood sweethearts married on their favorite beach in Surfside, South Carolina in the company of their friends and family.

"I was relieved to see him at his postoperative visit doing extremely well and certainly ready to travel, dance, and even drink just a bit of champagne," said Dr. Samadani. "When I told him he could raise a toast to his new wife and celebrate in all possible ways, the happiness in their faces was what makes practicing neurosurgery the best job in the world."