Tom's Story

Tom's Story

For several months now I have debated about putting my story on the website. On November 1st, 2010 I had a 48mm Non-Malignant Meningioma Brain Tumour removed from just above my right ear. Although at the time it was terrifying, when I look back at my “journey”, it truly pales in comparison to so many that I have read about … My journey today (October 5th,2011) is all but over-and all is great – but for so, so many the journey is only beginning.

I decided to share my story so that it might help someone else as well to push for an MRI to get an accurate diagnosis. That’s where my story begins..

In December 2009 I was at my son’s Christmas concert. The gym was full of people as usual. Just before the concert began I told my wife that I was beginning to feel dizzy. I heard this weird distorted echoey sound and thought I was going to faint. I blacked out, 911 was called and I was helped outside to the fresh air where I regained consciousness. I was taken to the hospital where I was observed for several hours.

My vitals were all normal and later sent home. I met with my family GP who said she would set up some appointments for me at London Health Science Centre. Once again, following several tests everything was normal. I met with the Neurologist and he said that I probably fainted being in a warm gym with lots of people. I mentioned to my neurologist that 25 years ago I spent 5 years in the Military and fainted a few times on the parade square from the heat and having to stand in one spot for so long. I mentioned that this felt completely different. “Sometimes we just don’t know why people black out”, he said. Just prior to leaving his office I asked him, “I am just wondering because I don’t know much about it. But what are the chances that it’s a brain tumour?” He said, “That’s not likely”. Fair enough…these folks are the experts.

Fast forward 6 months later. I was preparing for an annual fishing trip and was towing my boat back to town after some service work was completed. I began to feel dizzy again. I heard that same weird echoey sound. I was going to pull over but looked in my side view mirror and there was a vehicle right behind me. “I’ll turn off at the next sideroad” I thought. That’s the last thing I remember.

I blacked out again. I was completely unconscious behind the wheel. I crossed in between two oncoming vehicles and ended up in the ditch on the far side of the road. I crashed through a fence and a sign saying “Danger Deep Water” . I missed hitting a tree by 7 feet. I was up to the running boards in swamp! When I regained consciousness, I remember awakening to a windshield full of branches and bushes. I’ve never been so scared in my life.

The OPP and paramedics were called. The police officer asked if I was OK and if I had been drinking…which I hadn’t. I told him that I don’t know what happened.
I was charged with “Failing to remain within the marked lines of the Highway”.
At this point I should mention that I am a Pilot as well. I fly a Cessna 172.
Two nights prior to this, I was up flying with my 12 year old son!!! It would have been fatal for us both…and I will never forget that for as long as I live.Obviously the outcome could have been much, much worse. I definitely believe in Guardian Angels.
I was taken again to the local ER and all vitals were normal again. I was sent home.

I met with my doctor and she said we will get to the bottom of this and recommended I stop driving (and flying)immediately…which I did. I met with the neurologist once again and he said that he will set up an MRI. He told me that he is bound by law to inform the Ministry of Transportation and that I will receive a letter of suspension.

The MRI was completed a couple of weeks later. A week after that, I received the worst news I have ever heard in my 47 years. The following is our conversation…”Is your wife with you?” “No” I answered. “You will want to take some notes. We found out what is causing you to black out. You’re not fainting. You are having seizures. They are being caused by a relatively small,benign brain tumour called a Meningioma that can easily be removed with surgery.” I was by myself on the kitchen floor,crying . “I am going to have an operation on my brain???!!! ”

Everyone reading this, I am sure, has gone through the same discussion with a
doctor. And it is a conversation we will all remember for the rest of our days. It is absolutely terrifying. Especially when I saw the MRI image of my own brain. There is a mass 2 inches around (roughly the size of a kiwi) growing on my brain. It’s one thing seeing it in a book or on TV…but when it’s your own, it sure is devastating.

The view from Tom's plane

My surgery was Nov.1st 2010 (approx. 4months after the diagnosis). The anticipation of the surgery was rough. The 8 hour surgery could not have gone better. I was out of the hospital in 2 days. I was back to work in 2 weeks. Everything is great. I received my driver’s license back. My pilot’s license will take a while. But that’s no sweat in light of what could have happened. Oh and the Judge threw out the charge due to a “Medical Condition”. My follow-up MRI was all good.

My story has a happy ending. That is essentially why I hesitated writing about it initially. Compared to all the stories I have read about people’s long battles and weeks and months spent in hospitals…my surgery and recovery was simple. The fantastic Neurosurgeon told me with his hand on my shoulder..”We do them all the time”. But I thought I would share my story to help someone where they missed a diagnosis.

The lesson is to advocate for your own health. Push for an MRI. We have the best medical people in the world.But they are not perfect. Get to the bottom of what’s wrong when you are not feeling right. I am truly Blessed and lucky to be able to share my experience with people in the hopes that someone will find out what is wrong with them before it is too late.

Thank you
“Imagine a Cure”
Tom Hartai
South Huron-Heading For Hope, London Spring Sprint, April 2011

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